THE CASK WHISPERER
Blog by Nigel Walsh
Yes folks, it is time once more for the caskiest event in NYC…
… the 8th Annual Caskiversary at Strong Rope Brewing, was held at their Red Hook Brewery and tap room this past Saturday.
I came so close to missing it this year, but luck prevailed when a planned trip to Florida was deferred for a couple of weeks, so fortune smiled once more on the righteous.
This was the sixth time that I have attended a Caskiversary event at Strong Rope; the first two for me were held at their original Gowanus location in 2018 and 2019 and all of the subsequent events have been held at their Red Hook brewery/taproom.
Which happens to be the most dramatic of all the brewery venues in the city; located at the end of a historic warehouse building at the very edge of New York harbor itself, with amazing views out over the bay to Staten Island, New Jersey, and the Statue of Liberty.
Even the walk to the location from the nearby ferry terminal is fascinating, with the streets turning from asphalt to cobblestone as you approach what seems to be the end of the world, with nothing but the cold grey-green water stretching out in front and hundreds of years of NYC waterfront history stretching out behind you with each block that you navigate.
You leave all that history behind once you enter the brewery itself.
It is a large modern space, both the brewing area and the taproom, individually and combined, with some outside seating on the wharf for those that can tolerate the searing sun and the “ocean” spray.
Despite being quite difficult to get to unless you have your own wheels or enjoy using car services, it has always been very busy whenever I have visited, maybe not at 12pm when I usually get there at opening time, but certainly by mid-afternoon when I reluctantly drag myself away again.
It is a destination.
I arrived by ferry as I always do, but even that, my favorite method of transportation in the city, is more difficult than usual for me, requiring me to set off 90 minutes before my desired arrival time so that I would have time to change ferries at Pier 11/Wall Street with a typical 20-minute “layover” at the South Street Seaport; if I was feeling more energetic, I would have (and have on several occasions) taken the Astoria ferry to Brooklyn Navy Yard and hiked in through downtown Brooklyn.
Other than the ferry, anywhere in Red Hook is difficult to get to directly via public transportation; with no subways in the area, the only other reasonable option is taking the B57 or B61 NYC bus to IKEA and hobbling over the cobbles for about ten blocks.
One of these days I will be venturing out on that B57 bus; by my reckoning, I should be able to take that bus almost door-to-door from KCBC in Bushwick to Strong Rope while coming perilously close to both Transmitter and Other Half enroute. Hey MTA, how about a hop-on hop-off service?
Anyway, enough wittering, let us get to the main event.
I turned up at 12pm on the dot as they were still putting the finishing touches on the cask gantry, so I had time to scope out the space and take a few pictures to make my kids envious.
I checked out the list of casks, 17 in all, and opted for the unlimited ticket as it would give me chance to set my own pace in terms of serve size, which I could customize as the event unfolded. It was a good plan as I ended up staying much longer than my customary three hours and was able to enjoy a very leisurely extended session.
No real plan on selecting the order in which I would consume the beers, but with three strong (11% plus) beers in the list, I figured I would start out with the most challenging members of the set, the 13% barleywine from Torch & Crown and the 11.7% barleywine from Strong Rope itself … both small (ish) pours thanks to the unlimited ticket.
I was thinking of going for the trifecta with the 11.7% imperial pastry (smores) stout from Strong Rope but thought better of it when I realized that I was already hopping around with a silly grin on my face, consigning the Smoryteller to the dessert beer timeslot and bringing myself back to earth with a Strong Rope Olmstead.
What a revelation the Olmstead was!
Crisp, cool, and nicely hoppy with an almost luminous pale yellow-gold tone and frothy white head; initially simple and clean, its solid body (a favorite Strong Rope characteristic for me) and soft mouthfeel made it the perfect antidote to the heavy stuff.
This turned out to be my favorite beer of the session, and I returned several times during the long afternoon to replenish my glass … pure nectar.
By now the place was starting to fill up with brewery representatives and likeminded cask enthusiasts, and I drifted into an easy unhurried and very pleasant session, eventually sampling all beers on offer, even the pastry stout.
When not actively searching out my next beer, I spent much of the time socializing with all the good folks who were involved in its production, and finally met and spent time chatting with Ian Hatton of Old Glenham who in my opinion brews the best English style beers that I have tasted in my forty-plus years in the U.S.
I also got to chew the fat with Fifth Hammer’s Chris Cuzme and our hosts Jason and Christina, while hanging out with Jessica and Jason from Jones Wood.
The rest of the taproom was beginning to fill up with the regular weekend punters and their kids and dogs, all intermingling with the cask nuts until it was difficult to see where one group ended and another began … joyful chaos.
And then the Homebrewsicians started to saunter in and set up the stage for two sets of musical insanity with some beer recipes and brewing technical support thrown in for good measure.
I have seen these guys play three times now and their schtick never gets old for me… very talented, very original, and very entertaining.
Tell us more about the beer!
Well, if you insist.
I am not going to describe each beer that I tried but suffice to say there were no duds in my humble opinion.
There was a real variety of styles, ranging from lagers to ales with a couple of Belgians thrown in the mix as well.
My favorite was the aforementioned Olmstead, but to round out my top five, in no particular order:
- Old Glenham Loom Cornish Ale – I have been drinking this on and off in JWF over the past few weeks and never get tired of it. It is probably my favorite Old Glenham brew to date and that is a tough call. Pale gold with almost no head on this occasion. Beautifully balanced and such an easy beer to drink. The absolute definition of a session ale.
- KCBC Ruby Reaper – A German rotbier, a beer style that I actually haven’t experienced before (yeah, I know, that is what my missus said too). A beautiful deep amber with a foamy short-lasting white head and assertively malty yet gently hoppy nose and taste. Redder and crisper than a festbier and surprisingly refreshing. I also got a sneak preview of the upcoming can art, and it is awesome folks.
- Finback Dot. Dot. Dot. – A pilsner with a generous dry-hopping of NZ hops. Very similar in appearance to the Olmstead with a glowing yellow hue and frothy white head which gave the best legs in the glass afterwards. Also similar in taste and texture, both hoppy and crisp and super refreshing. Fruitier than the Olmstead but with a slightly thinner body.
- Endless Life Mirrors of Apprehension – I like a good Belgian table beer and this was a good Belgian table beer. It was the palest colored beer of the lot, looking almost harmless with its very pale (insipid?) gold body and thin yet frothy white head. But looks can fool, and this one really packed a tasty yeasty punch, and at just 4% it was very sessionable.
Eventually, the call of my cats started to get to me and I began scanning the horizon for a suitable ferry home.
They were going to get a late meal and I just knew that the vengeful little blighters would have something planned for my return.
Thankfully, I timed the return ferries perfectly and was able to get back relatively quickly and satisfy their needs without getting my lungs ripped out in the process.
It will be a good six weeks before the next round of scheduled cask events occurs, but we have NYC Beer Week coming up at the end of the month, and I will be actively searching out more cask drinking opportunities to share; I am seriously thinking about attending the opening event this year, whether there be cask or not.
Just for grins…
Scorecard w/e 02/06/24
In the past week, The Cask Whisperer has enjoyed the following casks:
- Old Glenham Winders ESB @ Jones Wood Foundry
- Old Glenham Loom Cornish Ale @ Jones Wood Foundry
And has sampled the following casks at the 8th Annual Strong Rope Caskiversary @ Strong Rope taproom in Red Hook:
- Endless Life Brewing – Mirrors of Apprehension Table Beer
- Fifth Hammer Brewing – Richard Neverdick Dark Mild
- Finback Brewery – Dot. Dot. Dot. Pils
- Greenpoint Beer and Ale – What the Hell is a Crumpet Dry-hopped English IPA
- Gun Hill Brewing – Pitcher Perfect American Pils
- KCBC – Ruby Reaper German Rotbier
- Kills Boro – Caskboy Take Me Away Kellerbiew Krausened with Zwickel
- Old Glenham Brewery – Loom Cornish Ale
- Strong Rope Brewing – Barrel-aged Tavern Ale ESB
- Strong Rope Brewing – Olmstead Cold IPA
- Strong Rope Brewing – Smoryteller Imperial Stout
- Strong Rope Brewing – Thomas the Stumbling Buffalo
- Threes Brewing – Here Ya Go Hoppy Pale Ale
- Torch & Crown – Barrel-aged King Elizabeth Barleywine
- Transmitter Brewing – A2 Belgian Dubbel
- Wagner Valley Brewing Company – Lighthouse Helles with Earl Grey and Sumac
- Wild East Brewing – Moderance ESB Conditioned with Brett
Upcoming Cask Festivals
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