Blog by Nigel Walsh


More Favorite Things – Stouts

I don’t know if anybody noticed, but there has been some kind of rugby event running over the last few weeks, something involving six nations apparently.

Well, over the last couple of weekends things have been coming to a head and I have found myself hanging at the bar in JWF watching the last two games involving the Ireland team.

The weekend before last, while watching England play spectacular spoilers to Ireland’s attempt on a second consecutive grand slam, I noticed something peculiar going on at the bar …

… I was the only person there that was drinking the casks.

Everybody else, even the Guvnor who was parked next to me, was drinking Guinness.

Fast forward to last Saturday, the final day of the Six Nations Tournament, and the parade day for St. Patrick’s Day to boot, and once again I reached for a pint of the Strong Rope Pub Ale before looking around and finding myself surrounded by a sea of black beers …

… and I went for it (well, after finishing my Pub Ale).

To the shock of all in my immediate area I ordered a pint of Guinness, and to my own surprise, I started salivating as soon as the tap started slowly pouring it out in front of me …

… it has been a very long time since I enjoyed a pint or two (Editor’s Note: it may have been more than two) of the black gold, and I really enjoyed those two (cough!) pints.

We have a long history, Guinness and me.

In one form or another, it has always been there:

  • It was available on tap, alongside Harp lager and Woodpecker/Strongbow cider in whichever brewery-owned tied house I would venture into as a mere amateur back in Strood; I rarely touched the stuff because I had a bit of a sweet tooth back then.
  • My dad drank it. My mum preferred Mackeson sweet stout, also widely available; more on that later.
  • I developed a taste for it as well as real ale during my university days in Edinburgh. It was also ubiquitous, alongside Tennents Lager and Sweetheart stout, and I was fortunate that the nearest pub to my residence, the Star Tavern (now Star Bar), served the best pint in town, in a town that served many good pints of Guinness.
  • Once I got into the real ale kick, the draught Guinness fell by the wayside a little, but the bottle-conditioned form was equally available everywhere and would serve as my go-to beer when I couldn’t get a cask or a Worthington White Shield.
  • Guinness was my savior when I arrived on these shores and found it drowning in gnat’s widdle. It sustained me in both bottle and draught form for many years, and once again I was fortunate that one of the closest Irish bars to my apartment in Woodside was the legendary Liffey Bar (aka Liffey Tavern) in Jackson Heights, which happened to serve the very best Guinness in NYC; don’t just take my word for it. Long gone unfortunately, swallowed by the bus station I believe.

These days it is just an occasional tipple for me, such as this past weekend, when I just felt like having one (cough!). The bottle-conditioning was discontinued over twenty years ago, but the draught form was “improved” around the same time, making bars such as the Liffey unnecessary; you can get a “decent” pint of Guinness pretty much anywhere today.

The real excitement comes from the sheer variety of other stouts on offer in this country at this time; pretty much every brewery now offers at least one form of stout on its “regular” list, and many others offer several stouts and porters in a wide range of styles and strengths …

… even on cask.

I consulted my little log book again this week and found some 10% of the living beers that I have recorded (500/5000) have been stouts, which of course I have no intention of listing individually, but I did sort of divide it up into the most common styles of stout (2021 BJCP Guidelines anyone?), and will bore you with highlight some of the more memorable and favorite ones.

So, without further ado …

Irish Stout/Extra Stout (BJCP #15B/C)

Brewers Select Dry Stout by Gordon Biersch in Rockville MD, a 4.4% Dry Irish Stout. A perfect-to-style Irish stout from what was essentially a German-style chain brewery. This was a self-pour straight from the cask at the 4th Annual Cask Night event at District Chophouse in DC during the 2014 DC Beer Week.

Donnybrook Stout by Victory Brewing in Downingtown PA, a 3.7% Dry Irish Stout. I have had this on cask many times in DC and MD and always found it to be very sessionable.

Fore and Aft by Forest & Main in Ambler PA, a 3.6% Dry American Stout. Another easy-drinker that I got to sample at the 2022 Yards Real Ale Invitational in Philly. This is on my list to track down at the source on a future road (rail) trip.

Summer Stout by Goose Island in Chicago IL, a 3.3% Dry Stout. Who knew? The same folks famed for their high-ABV Bourbon County Brand Stouts put out this little gem at one of the Blue Point cask ale festivals in Patchogue NY.

Sweet Stout (BJCP #16A)

Carton of Milk by Carton Brewing in Atlantic Highlands NJ, a 4% Milk Stout. There used to be an Uno Pizzeria and Grill in Metuchen NJ that held frequent cask ale festivals. I sampled this stout at their 2015 Spring event. My mum would have loved this.

Oatmeal Stout (BJCP #16B)

For Warmth by The Seed in Atlantic City NJ, a 3.8% Oatmeal Stout. Another winner at the 2022 Yards Real Ale Invitational in Philadelphia … I am going to miss it this year as it clashes with a planned Seneca Lake trip.

Foreign Extra Stout (BJCP #16D)

FES by The Brewery of Broken Dreams (favorite brewery name) in Hammondsport NY, a 6.8% Foreign Export Stout. Talking of Seneca Lake, this was my favorite beer at the 3rd Annual NYS British Real Ale Festival at the Beerocracy in 2019.

American Stout (BJCP #20B)

Roughneck by Bluejacket in Washington DC, a 7.2% Dry American Stout. I had many of these at the source in DC, both unadorned and with various complementary hop treatments.

Kalamazoo Stout by Bells Brewing in Kalamazoo MI, a 6% American Stout. This one turned up at Rustico in Arlington/Balston VA, one of those exotics that travelled a long way to get there. I was very impressed by the licorice notes apparently.

Imperial Stout (BJCP #20C)

Bungalow Nights by Rockaway Brewing in New York City NY, a 9.8% American Imperial Stout. This was the “killer” beer at the 3rd Annual Caskiversary at Strong Rope Gowanus.

Comrade! by Right Proper Brewpub in Washington DC, a 2.4% Unimperial Russian Stout (yes, you read that right). Outrageously good. All the flavor but none of the booze of an Imperial Russian Stout. I sampled this one at the 2015 Cask Night event at District Chophouse in DC as part of that year’s DC Beer Week festivities.

Oyster Stout (BJCP N/A)

Black Oyster Stout by Keg & Lantern in New York City NY, a 5.8% Oyster Stout. Fresh from their basement brewery in Greenpoint. I really miss that handpump!

Barrel-aged Stout (BJCP N/A)

Master Blend: Jameson Barrel by Sixpoint in New York City NY, a 15% Barrel-aged Imperial Coffee Stout. The strongest cask stout on my list, which I sampled at the 4th Annual Caskiversary at Strong Rope in Gowanus, back in 2019. This tasted just as dangerous as it sounded luckily, encouraging a very small pour.

Black Ops by Brooklyn Brewery in New York City NY, a 14.2% Barrel-aged Imperial Stout. Sampled on cask at the Altman Building in Chelsea at the 2016 NYC Beer Week Cask Festival. A small pour, but a mighty pour. This has to be one of my all-time favorite beers.

Storyteller by Strong Rope Brewing in New York City NY, an 11.7% Barrel-aged Imperial Stout. When I heard that Jones Wood Foundry were planning on putting this on the handpumps, I figured that I wouldn’t need to rush in as I would probably be the only customer drinking it over an extended period. As it happens, I turned up a day after it was tapped and only managed to get the last full pint out of the pin; it was that popular.

2013 Narwhal by Sierra Nevada Brewing in Chico CA, a 10.2% Barrel-aged Imperial Stout. I was served a full 20oz pour of this at the Cask Bar & Kitchen in Midtown Manhattan and somehow, I managed to walk home afterwards … immediately afterwards mind you … sensible lad.

Flavored Stout/Pastry Stout (BJCP N/A)

Chocolate Raspberry Stout by Hardywood Park in Richmond VA, a 9.3% Imperial Stout. This was sampled during a 2014 Stout Stumble around three venues in Arlington/Clarendon VA, alongside their Russian Imperial Stout and Sidamo Coffee Stout; all sippers, all over 9%.

Gingerbread Stout also by Hardywood Park, a 9.2% ginger-spiced Imperial Stout. I had sampled this many times in bottle form (Trader Joes in DC used to sell them around Christmas time), but finally got my lips around a cask pour in 2017 at a Mad Fox Cask Ale Fest in Falls Church VA.

Chocolate Stout by Chelsea Brewing in New York City NY, a 7.3% Chocolate Stout. I had this in the original Pony Bar on the West Side of Manhattan, on my way to the DC Megabus. I miss Chelsea, they were one of the pioneers, as were the Westside Brewing Company from whence they came.

Rise Up Stout by Evolution Brewing in Salisbury MD, a 6.7% Coffee Stout. Does exactly what it says on the tin.  A real eye-opener that I enjoyed at the Fireworks Pizzeria at Arlington Court House VA.

Other Exotics

While going through this “short” list I couldn’t help but notice just how many of the big-name exotic stouts that I had managed to sample from the cask between 2014 and 2019, beers that had travelled a long way to turn up on a beer engine in DC and NYC.

Beers such as:

  • Imperial Michigan Mud from Kuhnhenn in Warren MI.
  • Speedway Stout from Alesmith in San Diego CA.
  • The Dogfather from Laughing Dog in Ponderay ID.
  • Empress Tonkoko from Brew York in York, England.
  • Ten Fidy from Oscar Blues in Longmont CO.
  • Imperial Russian Stout from Stone in Escondido CA.
  • Cuvee Alex Le Rouge from BFM in Jura, Switzerland.
  • Bourbon St. Coffee Stout from Abita in Abita Springs LA.
  • Paradox from BrewDog in Fraserburgh, Scotland.
  • Dragons Milk from New Holland in Holland MI.
  • Tsar Bomba from Buxton in Buxton, England.
  • Yeti from Great Divide in Denver CO.
  • Scarface from Speakeasy in San Francisco CA.
  • And many others from many other states and countries.

Despite what I said last week, I really wouldn’t complain if the worldwide shipment of cask ales resumes at some point …

… but not at the expense of our local breweries.

Scorecard w/e 03/19/24

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

  • Old Glenham Weavers @ Jones Wood Foundry
  • Strong Rope Pub Ale @ Jones Wood Foundry

Upcoming Cask Festivals

3/24/2024: An Afternoon of Casks at Nod Hill Brewing, Ridgefield CT

3/30/2024: Cask.On at Cask & Vine, Derry NH

3/30/2024 (dang): River Horse/Duclaw Cask Fest at River Horse Brewing Company, Ewing NJ

4/10/2024 – 4/13/2024 (5 sessions): 25th Annual New England Real Ale Exhibition (NERAX)

5/18/2024: NYS British Real Ale Festival at Seneca Lake Brewing

5/19/2024 (double-dang): Yards Real Ale Invitational at Yards Brewery, Philadelphia PA

11/8/2024: Two Roads Cask Fest at Area 2, Stratford CT

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

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 (after 20 years they will be closing shortly)

Occasional Pins (worth a follow on Instagram)

  • Strong Rope
  • KCBC
  • Torst

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