THE CASK WHISPERER
Blog by Nigel Walsh
The Gowanus Brewery Crawl … Finally
Anybody who has ever been suckered into a pub crawl with me knows that it probably means “all crawl and no pub”.
Not the case with this one kiddos.
Well, not after we manage to get to our destination area in the first place.
Freezing rain they promised us for the weekend, so I was very happy to see a dry, mild, and dreary day outside on Saturday.
Ideal conditions for a wee stroll, “pub-crawling weather” we call it back in Strood (disclaimer: we call it that for freezing rain as well… and anything else that the gods choose to throw at us).
So, how to get there?
Once more to the trusty Astoria Line Ferry, this time getting off at Brooklyn Navy Yard, and hiking up and over Fort Greene to the Atlantic Avenue Terminal, and the dodgy borderlands between Park Slope and Gowanus, or as most folks call it 4th Avenue.
Pulling into the ferry terminal I couldn’t help but notice a familiar shape on the adjacent pier, familiar but strange … Concorde, what is that doing there?
Google maps calls it two miles, but then again Google maps cannot figure out how to walk through a building to get out of Navy Yard in the first place, but it is close enough and it is a very pleasant walk once you get uphill to Fort Greene Park.
In order to get to Gowanus around opening time I took an early ferry, so unfortunately, I had to bypass Transmitter Brewing on this jaunt; not open when I passed through.
Once we get to Gowanus the rest is a doddle, we just have to decide the order in which to visit the four breweries in the 4-block area.
But then, Wild East has a handpump, so …
Wild East Brewing
Of course, this was always going to be my first stop, and I was stood outside as the shutters rose, tapping my feet in anticipation; I haven’t done that in a while … how embarrassing …
I was rewarded with a lovely cool chewy pint of their Standard Deviation stout, sparkled to perfection, and a quiet spot to sit and enjoy it.
Just like that other place over in Long Island City (cough … Fifth Hammer!) I always have trouble getting out of Wild East once I am seated, and this time was no different.
While chatting with brewer Brett Taylor about all things cask, and petting his delightful coonhound Sally, I was also eying up the rest of the beer menu and noticing that they happened to have three West Coast IPAs currently on draft (Puck Drop, Punk Lullaby and Attitude Dancing); I wasn’t going to pass those up.
And then I looked at the lukrs and the poster on the wall tempting me to go for a nice refreshing glass of foam; another crawl was in danger of being self-sabotaged.
But I showed great restraint, and wandered out in search of the next brewery, but not before promising to return later… mmm, foam …
You wouldn’t know it from the modest street entrance, but this is a very dramatic-looking venue.
A massive high ceiling in the main bar area, which was sparsely populated, with just a single group of suspected brewers enjoying what appeared to be a bottle-share.
Off to one side was a smaller narrow lounge space giving off almost patio-like vibes, with several couples enjoying the coziness and privacy.
And then there was the party noise.
I couldn’t tell where it was coming from, but eventually figured out that there must be a substantial mezzanine space, located over the hideaway lounge and overlooking the main tap room area.
It sounded like there was a lot of folks at the party, but it may have just been due to the acoustics of the overall space.
So, a very interesting place with three very different and distinct gathering areas.
I parked myself downstairs in the main taproom, close to the bathrooms (I have to at my age), after grabbing myself a glass of the Luna ESB; beautiful glassware, they must have a lot that walk.
And I sipped, slowly; with a full pint and three samples in already and two more places to hit, I was in no rush.
A brewery tour guide with four customers came in and occupied the high table next to me just before I left, so I figured I would be neighborly and point them all at the cask and the West Coast IPAs in Wild East.
The customers were very appreciative, but I detected a little side-eye from the tour guide; encroachment maybe?
And with that parting shot, I reluctantly but honestly returned my glass back to the bar and set off across the road.
Strong Rope Gowanus
You wouldn’t know it from the modest street entrance, but this is a very modest cozy-looking venue.
This has always been one of my favorite places, it is such a friendly and chill spot.
I attended the 3rd and 4th Caskiversaries here in 2018/19 and also used to visit post-Covid whenever they had a custom pin on the bar, hanging out in the outside shanty patio, chatting with their neighbors, and greeting all passing dogs, especially when my missus came along with me.
I try to drop in whenever I am in the area just because I really like the place.
No cask (one of these days maybe) but two excellent beers nevertheless; Penny, a gently smoked lager and Road to Deliration, essentially a red mild at 3.5%, both of which would be awesome on cask.
The tour group came in while I was sitting with my second beer, and we exchanged nods, waves and grunts; no unsolicited advice from me this time but I did make sure that I picked up a card from the guide before we all went our separate ways; you never know…
I had made tentative arrangements to meet up with the JWF guvnor Jason Hicks as he was going to be somewhere in the area on Saturday, and he finally caught up with me here.
We would head off to the final brewery together, a whole four blocks away.
This place is nuts!
Only my second visit to the main Threes brewery location, and on both occasions, it has been insanely busy.
A narrow boisterous place with a long bar on the right, in front of the brewing hardware, and several tables (and booths?) running along the left side of the space, all busy with noisy happy groups of punters; there were more folks standing around in the in-between spaces and we joined them until a wee gap opened up at the near end of the bar.
I believe there is a garden space out back, but never actually managed to get that far.
We just stopped for the one beer here and I didn’t look beyond the Out of Focus ESB that they had on; 4.7% of Fuggly deliciousness.
I have had several of their traditional English style beers on cask but not this one yet, and they are really showing a fine touch when brewing these gems; hoping to see this on a handpump somewhere soon.
Folks, Caskiversary is coming up, as is NYC Beer Week.
And with that, I had successfully completed my objectives for the day; all four Gowanus breweries visited, but I was not quite done yet …
Closing the Loop and then Getting the Hell out of Brooklyn
Yep, I dragged Jason back in to Wild East for a quick finisher; the lure of the lukr was just too great.
It was bustling now, busy enough that we had to sit/stand at the only available spot left open at the bar.
A mliko pour of the Patience & Fortitude was just the right amount of beer to be finishing off a brewery crawl.
Just the right amount that I could still find my way across the avenue to the nearby R train stop for the long trip home.
Alas, Concorde was still being repaired.
This upcoming Saturday, February 3rd is time for the return of the wonderful one-stop NYC brewery cask crawl that is Strong Rope’s Annual Caskiversary, to be held at their Red Hook location.
For a while it was looking that I would be missing it this year, but a planned trip to Florida was put back a couple of weeks, so once again I get to indulge but I have to be restrained a little, as I have a long, long rail journey to the sun coming up on Sunday …
… almost as long as that R train trip.
Scorecard w/e 01/30/24
In the past week, The Cask Whisperer has enjoyed the following casks:
- Old Glenham Weavers Pale Ale @ Jones Wood Foundry
- Old Glenham Loom Cornish Ale @ Jones Wood Foundry
- Strong Rope Storyteller Imperial Stout @ Jones Wood Foundry
- Wild East Standard Deviation Stout @ Wild East Brewing
Upcoming Cask Festivals
2/3/2024: Strong Rope 8th Caskiversary
3/30/2024: Cask.On at Cask & Vine, Derry NH
4/10/2024 – 4/13/2024 (5 sessions): 25th Annual New England Real Ale Exhibition (NERAX)
11/8/2024: Two Roads Cask Fest
11/9/2024: 20th Annual Blue Point Cask Ale Festival
NYC Cask Venues
Known Operational/Active Beer Engines
- Jones Wood Foundry (x2)
- Fifth Hammer
- Wild East
- The Shakespeare (x3)
- The Grand Delancey (x2)
- Cask Bar & Kitchen
- Drop-off Service
- Spuyten Duyvil
Occasional Pins (worth a follow on Instagram)
- Strong Rope