Blog by Nigel Walsh


Caskalot! A Potted History

I was right in the middle of my decade living in DC in 2014, when my son alerted me to a cask festival that was happening back home in NYC.

It was at a place that I had never heard of before, 508 Gastro Brewery, but I knew where it was located immediately, having spent many a happy hour hanging out in the Ear Inn just around the corner when I worked downtown and in Jersey City.

After reading the write up about the event (Brew York Beer Calendar I think), I immediately sorted out the ticketing, rescheduled my bi-weekly weekend bus trip back home and arranged to meet my son outside the event… I walked straight there from the Megabus stop in midtown. Thankfully, my darling wife was understanding.

We joined the beer line and found ourselves standing right behind Alex Hall, who at that point I had not actually met before, but recognized him immediately.

We chatted all things cask as the line slowly wound past the assembled pins and firkins and when we got to the end of the line, Alex introduced us to Chris Cuzme, the owner/brewer at 508; even then, known to most folks as just Cuzme, he was as enthusiastic and colorful as I expected, wearing a t-shirt labelled CUZME just in case anybody had trouble picking him out of the crowd.

Going through my little black cask book, there was an interesting and very representative collection of breweries present at the event; with the likes of City Island Beer Company, Bronx Brewing, Rockaway Brewing, Wandering Star, Schmaltz, Kelso, Sixpoint, Chelsea Brewing and Brooklyn Brewery, with newcomers Big Alice and Finback.

My favorite beer (?) was one of my favorite styles, a Graf (or Graff if you insist) which is essentially a cider/ale blend; this one was called Alcoholiday and was a collaboration between 508 and Big Alice, coming in at 8.8% and still worth a second go around at the end.

It was a great event but all too soon I had to return to the grind in DC and lost touch with the ongoing brewing scene in NYC, returning only when a cask event turned up on the calendar on a weekend; it was at one of those events hosted by Alex at d.b.a. (RIP) in Williamsburg that I had my only other 508 brewery cask, also in 2014.

I returned to NYC full time in 2019, Covid happened, 508 morphed into Fifth Hammer, and in 2020 a long-awaited Caskalot! version 2 (for me at least) occurred.

Of course I had to attend.

The cast of breweries at this event again reflected the times, with the likes of Keg & Lantern, Finback, Interboro, Randolph Beer, Strong Rope, Five Boroughs, Big Alice, Coney Island, Flagship, Gun Hill, Singlecut, KCBC, Fifth Hammer themselves, and introducing Wild East who came with a farmhouse/wild ale named Epicycles; this was before they began their own cask program, focusing on well-made traditional English style ales.

This all came in the in-between times when Covid hadn’t quite locked us all in our own homes; at the time it felt like it was almost a last hurrah.

The event was also when Fifth Hammer introduced their handpump to the world, populating it with the awesome Fugget Nuggle; I spread my visit over a two-day session with pints of Fugget Nuggle serving as a palate cleanser between the gravity cask samples, topping up the Nuggle as needed.

Other than the Nuggle, my favorite from this event was the Wild East wild.

The next Caskalot! that I got to attend was last year; with Covid way back in the rear-view mirror (possibly), and Cuzme providing an extra mini-version during the 2023 NYC Beer Week, we got the full-scale event mid-year.

There was a smaller array of guest breweries in 2023 but additional Fifth Hammer brews to more than make up the numbers, with Gun Hill, Interboro, Greenpoint, Strong Rope, Transmitter and I believe Wild East all in attendance.

Fugget Nuggle was again provided on handpump at the bar, and again served as my “grown-up” pint to go along with all the samplers.

Strong Rope brought along their amazing Good Job Burton Ale which for me, just edged out Wild East Moderance and Fifth Hammer’s own Marybock for favorite on this occasion.

So now to 2024…

This year the cask count was back up to fifteen from the 2023 total of twelve casks, with eight (or maybe nine) guest breweries represented; Alewife (with Wayward Lane), Endless Life, Wild East (on their own and in collaboration with our hosts), Finback, Singlecut, Threes, Strong Rope, and Transmitter.

The stillage was moved this year from the usual spot in the brewside lounge to the rear of the main bar area, which on the Saturday session (session two for me) ended up getting hidden behind a 20-plus person doggie birthday party with numerous kiddies and doggies also in attendance, making for an always cute and somewhat dicey cask run for me as I refreshed my two sample glasses on each run (slow, careful, weaving walk with eyes down) from cask to barstool.

I did the event over two days again, getting twelve samples in on the Friday evening and coming back for the other three, plus five double-ups on a very rainy Saturday afternoon.

I washed my samples down with a pint of Richard Neverdick dark mild from the bar on the Friday and a glass of the Fifth Hammer cider on Saturday.

Both sessions were brilliant, with the soggy session on day two possibly even more packed than the Friday evening one; it would appear that everybody but muggins here had the good sense to equip themselves with an umbrella before heading outdoors, although I have no idea how they managed to keep the kids and the pups dry.

Favorite pints for me were the Eagle/Owl partygyle combo from Fifth Hammer and Wild East (I got to spend some time chatting with the Eagle and Owl themselves, Brett and Cuzme, during the Saturday session), the Polo West Coast IPA from Finback (three winners in a row from them now, also voted Best Legs), and the S8 Rice Saison from Transmitter.

I also really enjoyed the Noble in Reason from Endless Life once we had established that it was actually a pub ale and not an anemic yet yeasty dark mild named Mildly Existential.

The event extended over three days, but my darling wife had hinted that she may want to spend some quality time with me on Sunday, so I gave day three a miss and started working on our taxes… Urgh.

Overall, another great Caskalot!

Cool views of the city while waiting for the ferry; well, at least on Friday evening.

Four down now over a ten-year period, all great, zero dud beers.

Looking forward to the 2025 iteration, if not before.

Scorecard w/e 03/05/24

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

  • Old Glenham Tommy Bar Winter Ale @ Jones Wood Foundry
  • Strong Rope Pub Ale @ Jones Wood Foundry
  • Fifth Hammer Richard Neverdick Dark Mild @ Fifth Hammer

And has sampled the following casks at Caskalot! @ Fifth Hammer Brewing:

  • Alewife/Wayward Lane Smoked Imperial Stout
  • Endless Life Noble in Reason Pub Ale
  • Fifth Hammer/Wild East Eagle Partygyle Lager
  • Fifth Hammer/Wild East Owl Partygyle Ale
  • Fifth Hammer Spiced Purple Walrus Belgian Tripel
  • Fifth Hammer Peel and Sip Banana Pale Ale
  • Fifth Hammer Post Retro West Coast IPA with Cherry Juice
  • Fifth Hammer/NYC Homebrewers Guild Wort Share Pale Ale
  • Fifth Hammer Richard Neverdick Dark Mild
  • Finback Polo West Coast IPA
  • Singlecut Dean Mahogany Pale Ale
  • Threes Brewing Tiny Montgomery Spring Oat Bitter
  • Strong Rope Tavern Ale (Hillrock Bourbon Barrel Aged) ESB
  • Transmitter S8 Rice Saison
  • Wild East Moderance/Brett English Pale Ale

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)

5/18/24: NYS British Real Ale Festival at Seneca Lake Brewing

11/8/2024: Two Roads Cask Fest

11/9/2024: 20th Annual Blue Point Cask Ale Festival

Upcoming Casks in NYC

3/6/24: Suarez Family Bitter at Threes Brewing Gowanus for Belgian Tavern Night

NYC Cask Venues

Known Operational/Active Beer Engines

  • Jones Wood Foundry (x2)
  • Fifth Hammer
  • Wild East
  • The Shakespeare (x3)
  • Cask Bar & Kitchen
  • Drop-off Service
  • Spuyten Duyvil

Occasional Pins (worth a follow on Instagram)

  • Strong Rope
  • KCBC
  • Torst

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