Blog by Nigel Walsh



No rattling trains this week, this one is a proper road trip and overnighter.

A little over four and a half hours drive from NYC to Londonderry/Derry New Hampshire with the usual expected stops en route, we took our chances with the trusty (?) old Saab for the first time in six months.

And we all survived, the car, my missus and myself; although the silver beast (the car not the missus) did flash a few brake light warnings signs at us pretty much throughout the trip.

This was my third time attending Cask.On at Cask & Vine, right on lovely East Broadway in downtown Derry, and they have expanded since I was last here two years ago (festival clash last year) with the addition/expansion of Daydreaming Brewery right behind the lobby/pub entrance.

As with the previous occasions when I came with my son, we drove up the day before and stayed overnight at the Manchester Airport Sleep Inn, conveniently located in Londonderry, a little over three miles from the event, and pretty much the only choice available in the immediate area; close enough to walk if we chose (we didn’t choose this time – too cold), reasonable price, on-site pool and spa, and build-your-own breakfast for those prepping for beers.

Despite the seasonably cool and windy weather we ventured out along the Londonderry Rail Trail for a wee walk to the local diner (Red Arrow, a little bit of Americana) and back; we were ready to immerse ourselves in the whirlpool to warm up again as soon as we got back to the hotel.

We drove into Derry in the morning and stopped by Moonlight Meadery only to find it closed (some rabbit-related event going on all weekend apparently), which was a shame as we were hoping to bring a few bottled souvenirs back to NYC.

My darling wife dropped me off at Cask & Vine and then wandered off to enjoy endure an exciting excruciating three hours exploring all that Derry has to offer, the thrift shop and the local Autozone; muttering something about all of those brake light warning signs …

I joined the line, took a deep breath, and plunged in.

I was happy to find that once again the tasting glass came with contents, delicious contents; it was half-full (certainly not half-empty) with a welcoming beer, the Daydreaming Broadway ESB pumped all the way from the back room.

I was also happy to see what appeared to be two permanent handpumps against the back wall of the “pub” and two more (temporary maybe) on the countertop, alongside the first three pins.

They reorganized the layout of the festival this year, and I liked what they did with the place.

As well as their own beers and those of some near neighbors in the front “pub” area, they had moved all of the other casks from the back lounging area to the very front of the “bar” space, right up against the windows to the street; all neatly stacked where they could be ordered by number from the printed beer list.

It had the effect of separating the loungers from the samplers with minimal gridlock.

The main Cask & Vine bar area had large sitting tables opposite the bar in the long but quite narrow space, several high-top posing tables for the lurkers closer to the casks, and no stools at the bar itself allowing the rest of us leaners to jostle about for spaces; it worked very well.

The Beers

Firstly, some statistics:

  • There were 33 beers in total.
  • In the “pub” area at the entrance, there were four beers on handpump including the welcoming beer, and three pins on the counter.
  • In the main “bar” area, there were 25 pins (I didn’t notice if any were firkins) in the stillage gantry, and a lone stichfass on the end of the counter.
  • 14 of the 33 beers had no additives whatsoever.
  • There was a single cider, also with no additives.
  • There were three beers with just some dry-hopping treatment.
  • Those beers that had additives were mostly sympathetic additions (no Velvet Elvis breakfast stout this year).
  • While Connecticut last week had a lot of Lagers and Bitters, this event had a lot of Irish Red ales and Stouts, particularly Oatmeal Stouts; this is consistent with what I have seen here in the last two festivals that I attended.
  • I got to sample 21 different beers (13 without additives), and finished off with a couple of repeats for my two favorites.
  • Twenty of those beers were from New Hampshire (yay for local!) and one from nearby Portland Maine.

The Plan

With 33 beers on tap, I knew that I wasn’t going to get to taste them all over a three-hour session, especially with the generous welcoming beer to get us all started.

So, while waiting for the event to formally start, I parked myself at a posing table, sipped on my Broadway ESB, and started to peruse the printed beer list.

I decided to skip over any beers that were over 7% ABV, and also gave any sweet beers a miss; we were planning on driving back immediately after the event let out, and I did not want the long ride home to be too uncomfortable.

I wanted to include as many English style beers as possible, ditto the lagers, and I really had my eye on the cider.

I penciled in a checkbox next to each of the twenty beers that caught my attention, and found that I had managed to haul up several Irish Reds and Oatmeal Stouts in my net; no surprises there, I love those styles almost as much as the good folks from New Hampshire.

Also, no surprise that I managed to check off all but two of the no-additive beers listed.

The Execution

Having completed my own personal checklist and my aperitif, I was able to approach the beers in the same manner as I did last week at Nod Hill, basically in whatever order I saw fit, knowing that I would not have to rush any beers and that I could just take my time and enjoy myself.

But I made straight for the stichfass first.

How could I not? It was the Jakobus German-style pilsner from the mighty Schilling Beer Company; it may have been German-style, but it was dispensed and consumed Czech-style (pretty much a mliko), due to it being a little over-pressurized initially. Nothing wrong with that, and I knew that I would be heading back for another one later.

The second beer that really caught my eye was the Peculier Persuasion from Martha’s Exchange, so that was where I headed next.

I remember drinking Old Peculier on cask back in the old country, and usually regretting it afterwards.

I have also been indulging recently, as it has finally returned to the States (and JWF) in bottle, can and draught form.

So, I had to try the local interpretation, and am happy to say that they pretty much nailed it.

Next up was the Dearg Irish Red from Long Blue Cat Brewing of Londonderry; my son and I had walked there a couple of years ago from the hotel, and found it to be a friendly place despite of, or maybe because of its biker bar vibes.

This was the first cask that I have seen from them, so I had to try it; it was very well executed.

And then to the cider from Hermit Woods; heirloom cider, apple, pear and quince, and oak barrel aged, it looked really tempting.

At 7% it was sitting at the top end of my planned range, but from the description, it appeared to be dry, so I gave it a break.

So glad I did, it was absolutely awesome.

Definitely the highlight for me, it was crisp and dry and tangy, without even a hint of sweetness, just a beautiful pour; I knew that along with the Schilling, I was going to finish with another pour of this, it was the taste that I wanted to take home with me.

After getting these must-haves out of the way, I just worked my way through my checklist in no particular order, just trying to maximize my steps by alternating between “pub” and “bar”, and watching under my feet to make sure that I didn’t trip over the pub dog Chewie (Chewbacca) who had the run (and the running) of the place.

What a sweet dog!

As a kid I was fortunate to have had a border collie as a family pet for many years, and the way that Chewie presented himself in the pub reminded me of my old four-legged mate Brandy.

The Favorites

So many. No duds.

I could only get it down to a top-7 this time, with the cider and the Schilling taking the top two places and five honorable mentions:

  • Czar’s Brewing from Exeter NH brought along a near-perfect English Dark Mild, deep ruby with a scummy head and gentle roastiness; the listing states that it was conditioned on bourbon-soaked staves, but the effect was very subtle.
  • Stoneface Brewing of Newington NH came with one of the few IPAs, a NEIPA dry-hopped with HBC-586, Mosaic and Idaho-7 (I love Idaho-7); juicy and vaguely piney goodness.
  • Throwback Brewery of North Hampton NH had a dry-hopped pilsner listed, using a Pink Boots hop treatment; I could have sworn that it was another NEIPA as it was so juicy fruity, but it still made my top-7.
  • I had my first taste of a Lentebock thanks to Vulgar Brewing of Franklin NH; I am a real fan of the Maibock style of beer, and this appeared to be very similar in both appearance and taste.
  • Rounding out the top-7 is the Elver Red Rye Ale from Post & Beam of Peterborough NH; I sampled five Irish Reds and/or American Ambers at the event, and this one really stayed with me, it was the perfect combination of malty bitterness that grabbed me.

The Verdict

I missed this event last year because it had clashed with another event for which I had already purchased tickets.

This year, I grabbed my ticket as soon as they went on sale, and as a result I had to miss another clashing event closer to home.

Absolutely no regrets, I love Cask.On.

It was a very laid-back and chill session with friendly participants and punters, good stick-to-your ribs food (vegetarian?), and a super-chill four-legged majordomo running the show in the bar area.

Well worth chancing our luck with the car again.

Scorecard w/e 04/02/24

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

And has sampled the following casks at Cask.On @ Cask & Vine, Derry NH:

Upcoming Cask Festivals

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

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