Blog by Nigel Walsh


Dispatches from the Tropics

Dispatch 1:  The Silver Meteor

Monday, February 5th: [Day 1]

We had set out from New York’s Pennsylvania Station at 3:15pm yesterday afternoon aboard the Amtrak Silver Meteor train to Miami Fl, and by the time we reached Charleston SC at 6:00am we were already over an hour late; it seems that they were not able to find any engineers at D.C. to swap out the electric engine for diesels and we spent a good hour there with the bathrooms locked, the air conditioning off, and no power in the car, until they were able to track them down. The overnight ride had been at the typical Amtrak level of comfort but the seat next to me was free most of the way, allowing me to twist myself into all sorts of shapes and stretch out in various directions in a vaguely successful attempt to grab sleep in at least one-hour intervals. Thankfully, the café car opened promptly at six, so I was inspired to stumble one car back to grab myself a couple of coffees and a breakfast sandwich. I returned to find that several folks had boarded in Charleston and that I now had a travelling companion. And what a delightful travelling companion she was; an elderly woman originally from Venezuela who was barely able to speak a word of English, which coupled with my total lack of understanding spoken Spanish, made for interesting conversation. But converse we did, on and off for the next thirteen hours in both Angish and Spinglish, with some sharing of family and critter photos from our phones whenever the conversation dried up. The length of Florida flew by and by 6:15pm we were pulling into my destination of Deerfield Beach, just thirty minutes later than scheduled. My wife arrived to pick me up and take me to our lodgings after a short wait; she had come down ten days earlier, and I was very happy to see her. I was good for nothing in the evening, just a cleanup, quick snack and off to catch up on missed sleep.

Dispatch 2: Boardwalk and Blogs

Tuesday, February 6th: [Day 2]

My wife had been complaining about the lousy cold and wet weather for the past week, but I woke up to a clear sky and a cool (for Florida) dry day. It was nice enough that we were able to get in an early morning walk along the Deerfield Beach boardwalk, doubling back to the apartment on the inland side of the barrier island along the intra-coastal waterway. The boardwalk side was certainly brisk, but the surf was really spectacular and some of the braver souls were already out surfing, windsurfing and kitesurfing. There wasn’t a lot of sunbathing going on though, or a lot of sun to actually bathe in, and most of the folks that we passed on our stroll were bundled up looking quite grouchy. I loved it; I haven’t had the opportunity to get much walking done over the past couple of months in the frozen wastes of NYC and was really happy to be stretching my legs again. I returned to read the sad news about The Grand Delancey, it will be sorely missed and not just by the cask faithful. I sincerely hope that they are not gone for too long, and that they return to a more receptive location and greater glory, and that they bring their handpumps back with them. My wife and in-laws had errands to run for the rest of the day, so I settled myself at the laptop enjoying the view over the pier and beach and worked on last week’s blog post.

Dispatch 3: Wetlands and Cask Ale (Yay!)

Wednesday, February 7th: [Day 3]

It is really starting to warm up now, it looks like I brought the sunshine down with me from up north. We started the day with another stroll on the boardwalk and back streets, extending the walk back along the canal to bring the total distance up to over three miles this time. We sat out on the balcony for a while watching the pelicans soaring past the building; they were not here when I last visited in the summer, so I was very happy to see them back for this trip. We then paid a visit to my wife’s father, spending a couple of hours with him before heading north to Delray Beach; we would be spending more time with him later in the week. At Delray Beach we visited one of our favorite places in South Florida, and not just because it is free admission; the Wakodahatchee Wetlands are essentially treated wastewater ponds that are “refreshed” by the Palm Beach County Water Utilities Department and have been returned to nature and become a naturalized habitat used by animals such as alligators, turtles and racoons, and hundreds of species of migratory birds, storks, herons, anhinga, ibises, spoonbills and various ducks and waders. It covers some 50 acres and has an accessible boardwalk that crosses the ponds and loops around the various nesting trees. We spent a little under an hour there this time before heading back towards the oceanside at Lake Worth, where I knew that I would be able to get my hands on some decent cask ale at Mathews Brewing Company. Mathews Brewing is the only cask ale producer in South Florida but makes up for the lack of other venues; they have always produced English style ales served on cask since they opened six years ago and have four installed handpumps of which at least two are likely to be dispensing on any random visit. They had two on for our visit, their ESB and the Dark Mild, which I had separately before talking them into pouring me a Narfa Narf; all three pints were excellent, as was their award-winning White Goblin Belgian Wit, and the casks that I had tried there on my last visit years ago. No vacation day out with my missus is complete without a shopping stop, so we swung by the Boca Raton Trader Joes on the way home to pick up needed supplies (Chocolate Babka) for the weekend.

Dispatch 4: A Challenging Day and Wakeup Call

Thursday, February 8th: [Day 4]

This was a tough day. I woke up in the morning with a severe case of vertigo, struggling to get upright and out of bed and severely unbalanced when trying to walk. No nausea and no dizziness, just a disconnect between the top half of my body and the bottom half. When walking, it was like my knees and ankles were on springs and nobody thought to install shock absorbers, my brain was a fraction of a second behind my body. Not a good feeling. I knew what the problem was almost immediately. Shortly after boarding the train in NYC, I realized that I had left my medications behind, specifically my blood pressure meds. I have missed the occasional day before with my meds with no adverse effects, so I thought I could wing it for a week. Bad move. I checked the pressure, and it was barely below the level where they tell you to head to the emergency room. Luckily this was South Florida, and I was surrounded by folks who have similar medication needs, so we were able to scrounge up the medications that I needed. The other issue was my diet; I had been here just three days and had managed to include either Canadian bacon or pastrami in all of my meals so far. Another bad move. To make it all worse, I was supposed to be attending a birthday meal at the local Brazilian steakhouse in the evening. I bailed out. Smart move.

Dispatch 5: Recovery, Fish Shack, and Local Beer

Friday, February 9th: [Day 5]

Not 100% but after a day of fruit and yogurt and medication and multiple blood pressure tests, I was feeling a little better. I was still a little wobbly so no stair climbing for me and no early morning walk along the boardwalk either, but we did get out and run some car-related errands in the morning, and I did manage to tick off another one of my goals for the trip, lunch in the Fish Shack at Pompano Beach. Probably my favorite restaurant in South Florida, cracked conch and shrimp and scallop fritters with a fine selection of hot sauces to dip them in. Key lime pie was none too shabby either. On the way back to the apartment we stopped by the Cove Brewery, which only opened last July, just a week after my last trip down south. I had been looking forward to stopping by despite the lack of cask, as it was within walking distance from home base, and it did not disappoint. Bright and airy, dog and kid friendly, with friendly bar staff and excellent beers. I started with a sampler of helles, hazy IPA, schwarzbier and pineapple wheat, went back for an Arnold Palmer inspired sour ale which was mighty refreshing, and finished with their Czech pilsner courtesy of their brewer Manny, who spent a lot of time chatting with my missus and myself about all things boat and beer. Curiously, after walking back to the car I realized that I was no longer wobbly. Proving once again that beer cures everything.

Dispatch 6: The Memorial Service

Saturday, February 10th: [Day 6]

Together with the missed birthday party, this was the primary purpose of the visit. We lost my mother-in-law a year ago and as is custom, the family held a memorial service and luncheon in her honor on the anniversary of her passing. We spent the remainder of the day with my father-in-law before I returned to the apartment in the evening.

Dispatch 7: Super Sunday

Sunday, February 11th: [Day 7]

Pretty much back to full health and ready to get outside and walk again. Before heading out, I laid out this post to figure out how many photos I was going to need, and then took an extended stroll alongside the intra-coastal waterway to grab some (hopefully) interesting shots. No problems with the walk at all, thankfully. Funny thing though, I somehow ended up outside the Cove Brewery again, and just as they were about to open for the day. Cove Brewery round two: a strawberry sour which was very fruit forward (Catherina sour maybe?) and really delicious, the session IPA which was essentially a West Coast IPA with a nice solid backbone like an APA, a small pour of the coconut stout, which was quite potent but dangerously drinkable, and again finishing with the Czech pilsner which I really like. Again, there was a very friendly welcome. This is a good addition to Deerfield Beach and South Florida as a whole. Back home to help prep food for a Superbowl party; I got to dismantle the whitefish because everyone else was scared of its little beady eyes and tiny sharp teeth. The Superbowl; a strange variant of rugby where the players are dressed as crash-test dummies, the refs don’t seem to notice all the illegal forward passes, and every play ends in a scrum. The less said about that the better. Sending this off before the game has even started, but I am quite sure that Taylor Swift will win.

Dispatch 8: Heading Home to the Frozen Wastes

Monday, February 12th: [Day 8/9]

The third reason for this trip was to confiscate my father-in-law’s car and bring it back to NYC with us; 99 years old and he was using it to do an occasional beer run. Oy, what a hero.

So tomorrow we will be setting off early for Sanford FL, to put the car and ourselves on the Amtrack Auto-train and head back up to Virginia and beyond…

… I hear that snow is expected.

Scorecard w/e 02/13/24

In the past week, The Cask Whisperer has enjoyed the following casks:

  • Mathews ESB @ Mathews Brewing Company, Lake Worth FL
  • Mathews English Dark Mild @ Mathews Brewing Company, Lake Worth FL
  • Mathews Narfa Narf (ESB and Dark Mild) @ Mathews Brewing Company, Lake Worth FL

Upcoming Cask Festivals

3/24/24: An Afternoon of Casks at Nod Hill Brewing, Ridgefield CT

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) for one more week only (sigh)
  • Cask Bar & Kitchen
  • Drop-off Service
  • Spuyten Duyvil

Occasional Pins (worth a follow on Instagram)

  • Strong Rope
  • KCBC
  • Torst

Leave a Reply

Sign Up For News

    Sign Up For News