Blog by Nigel Walsh


An Afternoon of Casks (Take 3)

My daughter and family are currently in the middle of a Japan trip, and this weekend she texted me a couple of photos from the Shinkansen Nozomi super express from Tokyo to Kyoto.

In return, I was able to send her back a couple of photos from our local equivalent, the Danbury Flyer!

It may not hit 170 mph, and it shakes and rattles a bit (a lot), but it has served me well for five separate trips to Nod Hill Brewery in Ridgefield (Branchville) CT; all three cask festivals, an Oktoberfest and one of their Anniversary parties.

It is a little over two hours door-to-door (just like Tokyo to Kyoto I suppose) and I have to watch the time at Nod Hill to make sure that I do not end up with a three hour wait at Branchville station for the return trip, but it sure beats the hassle of driving and then parking back in NYC, and I get to have a few beers.

Once you get to Branchville station, you have a ten-minute walk north along the Ethan Allen Highway (CT Rt 7) to the Nod Hill Brewery, and a pretty walk it is too; the brewery is situated in a narrow valley between two steep tree-lined ridges, and shares that valley with the single-line railway track, Rt 7 and the Norwalk River, which was running quite swiftly after the rains of this past Saturday.

The occasion for my visit this time was the third annual Afternoon of Casks, a serious yet cozy, well-curated cask ale festival featuring the best of Connecticut craft breweries.

Twelve breweries were represented, with two beer engines on the bar and twenty-two pins, firkins, and stichfass in attendance; quite a few stichfass this year as there were quite a few lagers.

The beers were almost exclusively old-world styles, German, Czech, British and Belgian, with just a single native American style (a New England IPA) and a barrel-aged Imperial Stout in the mix.

As with previous events that I have attended at Nod Hill, the beers were stationed at/on the taproom bar, in the taproom itself and all around the edges of the larger back space bar/function room, with food (oysters!) set up in the intermediate brewing passageway and a food truck outside in the parking lot; it is too early in the season and way too cold for the biergarten.

Unlike at most cask events that I have attended, I did not immediately head for the strongest beer to “get it out of the way asap”, there were actually so many classic styles on display that I just wandered from end to end and back again, to scope out whatever took my fancy; I actually walked the entire course before deciding on my first sample.

And the funny thing was, the first five beers that I tasted ended up being my favorites, but in no particular order; the quality of the beer was that impressive.

So, the first/top-5 for me were:

  • Daedalus from Caius Farm Brewery of Branford, a Franconian-style Rotbier brewed as a collaboration with Icarus Brewing from Lakewood NJ. This is a style that is new to my tastebuds, I think that I have only ever tasted one other example of a Rotbier. A beautiful clear pale amber, with a sweetish but not cloying maltiness, more in the nose than the taste, and an overall crisp and clean experience.
  • American Zoigl from Fox Farm Brewery of Salem, another amber lager that comes with a cool history courtesy of Goldfinger Brewing of Downers Grove IL. Just like everything else that comes from Fox Farm, this beer is perfectly executed and just plain delicious; these guys are always in my top-5.
  • This and That Czech pilsner from New Park Brewing of West Hartford. I have had this beer before at last year’s event, rating it in my top-5 again. I am pretty certain that I used it as an antidote to some monster barley wine or imperial stout on that occasion, but this time I went for it early so that I could enjoy it for what it is, a clean and clear classic bohemian pilsner.
  • Public Night from Kent Falls Brewing, an easy drinking English Dark Mild. This one also gets the nod for best head, a lacy frothy example topping a deep ruby beer. Last year, these folks won my best-in-show award for an unusual golden mild, and once again they have shown that they have a deft touch with mild ales in general.
  • And the last award goes to the home team, The Parsons Green Best Bitter from Nod Hill Brewery themselves. I am a fan of their Chesterfield Ordinary Bitter, but this really takes me home; a base of fuggly earthiness with fruity high-notes (yeast? Finishing hops?) and an overall tea-and-biscuits experience. They have a real winner here.

I did eventually grab a very small sample of the Imperial Stout from NewSylum and the Belgian Tripel from Broken Symmetry, the two strongest beers present, and enjoyed both immensely.

But overall, I was very happy that most of the beers were in a modest ABV range, as their style requires, and that I was able to just take my time and chill throughout the three and a half hours that I was there.

I got to do some serious socializing with Tom from New Park and Dave from Fox Farm, our paths have crossed on several occasions now. I also got to hang out with Dave (ex-Delancey) and his friends who drove up for the event; I have a feeling that our paths will continue to cross.

And I did sample the New England IPA, how could I not? It is my favorite of all NEIPAs, the legendary Fuzzy Baby Ducks from New England Brewing Company, a beer that I always seek out when attending any events in Connecticut, and a NEIPA that actually works very well on cask.

On any other day it would make my top-5, but on this occasion, I was just fired up for the classic European stuff.

Another great event put on by the good folks of Nod Hill, with a shoutout to the afternoon’s entertainment Chris Cavaliere (I love his version of Floyd’s Fearless) who basically managed to keep on going in one long set throughout the event.

Which is better than I did, as when we got into that last hour, I spent as much time checking the clock as I did sipping and chatting …

… didn’t want to miss the 4:45pm Danbury Flyer.

Scorecard w/e 03/26/24

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

And has sampled the following casks at An Afternoon of Casks @ Nod Hill Brewery:

  • Berlinetta Brewing VLK Czech Dark Lager
  • Broken Symmetry Rebellious Monk Belgian Tripel
  • Caius Farm Brewery Daedalus Franconian-style Rotbier
  • Counter Weight Brewing Cutline Helles Lager
  • Counter Weight Brewing Emerald Dry Irish Stout
  • Fox Farm Brewery American Zoigl
  • Kent Falls Brewing Public Night Dark Mild
  • NewSylum Brewing Dunkel My Vibe
  • NewSylum Brewing Barrel-aged Dark Star Imperial Stout
  • New England Brewing Fuzzy Baby Ducks NEIPA
  • New England Brewing Elm City Pilsner
  • New Park Brewing This and That Czech Pilsner
  • New Park Brewing Scarlett Irish Red/Maple Syrup
  • Nod Hill Brewery Proper Chap English Brown Ale
  • Nod Hill Brewery Parsons Green Best Bitter
  • Watson Farmhouse Brewery Not Those Pils German Pilsner
  • Watson Farmhouse Brewery Freshly Baked Oatmeal Stout

Upcoming Cask Festivals

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 on 4/21/24, but will be hosting Zwanze Day for one last time, the day before)

Occasional Pins (worth a follow on Instagram)

  • Strong Rope
  • KCBC
  • Torst

Leave a Reply

Sign Up For News

    Sign Up For News