Blog by Nigel Walsh


Full English

No, not the dish.

Well, not this week anyway.

I thought about it on Sunday, and came perilously close to ordering it too.

Nope, what I am whispering about this week is the whole English (it could be British but happened to be English) pub experience, the Full Monty if you will.

I didn’t set out last week to go for the full immersive pub experience, it just happened to happen; the stars must have been aligned, unlike the sun and the moon which will be putting on a show later today instead, so they tell me.

The week actually started off really quiet and miserable, the rain will do that to you.

Stuck inside for days, come Thursday I was ready to head down to Jones Wood to get some exercise and a swift half, and possibly a bite to eat.

Not only was I stuck in the house for the early part of the week, but I was also stuck there by myself as my wife was out of town, so I was obliged to fend for myself, especially in the food department.

You can only eat baked beans and fish finger sandwiches for several days in a row before the urge to get something more substantial becomes overwhelming.

If you were anywhere near First Avenue in the UES late on Thursday afternoon, you would have heard the bangers and mash calling out to me … possibly.

I came very close to not answering the call of the mash, as just before I was ready to set out, Instagram informed me that the Ambleside Pub had finally opened in Mt. Kisco and I was sorely tempted, but decided to hold off until the weekend.

So, with a wicked thirst and empty stomach, and a need for some socialization (the cats can only provide so much, being on a totally superior intellectual level than me) I wandered off to JWF.

Mr. and Mrs. Bagel (don't ask)

It was quiet as usual for a midweek afternoon, but still felt very welcoming as it always does; there was just a couple sitting at the bar near the entrance and the Chelsea/United game on both boxes behind the bar, so I parked myself opposite the back TV and checked out the cask options.

Strong Rope dark mild (4.7%) and Strong Rope Belgian tripel (7.6%), nice.

I have enjoyed both of them before but decided that the tripel would be a dangerous way to start the evening (did it once); I wasn’t looking to be reckless, just chill.

And that is what I did for the next two hours, I just chilled.

There is just something mellow about an English pub like JWF that allows you to decompress in a way that most American bars do not; there is no expectancy that you hurry your drink or food, and no expectancy that you converse with the bar staff or fellow patrons, although you do anyway (unless you don’t) and do not feel in the least awkward about it.

After downing my dark mild aperitif, I was ready for the bangers and mash, and my curious devilish side was also ready for some experimentation.

Those who may have stumbled over this humble blog before may also have noticed my love of the narfa narf (mild and bitter); well, here was the perfect opportunity for me to mix it up, both literally and figuratively.

Ladies and Gentlemen, let me introduce you to the Strong Rope Belgian dubbel (<6.2%), all I can say is that it worked.

By now the bar had started to fill up a little, with other football loving (and Chelsea hating) folks clustered around me watching an absolutely outrageous and brilliant game; I was even happy with the stunning result, as no points for Manchester United keeps West Ham in with an outside chance for another year in European competition … a very outside chance.

I had one more dark mild (hey even the dubbel concoction is over 6%) before heading out, because I wanted to stop by City Swiggers on the way home as I knew that Strong Rope were doing a sampling there in the evening.

And a very generous sampling it was too.

Strong Rope were offering tasters from about eight cans that covered much of their current range, and included the excellent Dr. Lyons’ Mild Ride (4%), a can-conditioned collaboration with Endless Life Brewing which was a rare pale mild.

With the promise of a preview tasting of a new bottled barrel-aged sour (Fairytale) at 8pm, I decided to muscle my way into the small bar area to await the grand opening, and I grabbed a Downeast cider and a Jolly Pumpkin sour (it has been a long time) while I was there.

Now here is the thing, even though I was welcomed and made very comfortable at the bar, and even though the bar itself is very much a neighborhood (my neighborhood) place, there was something missing for me.

Don’t get me wrong, I do like this place, and I had a great time, good beers (even without cask), good company, I got to sit next to a wee doggie, and the vibe was really nice.

It was especially pleasant when I was joined at the bar by Strong Rope owner Jason Sahler and a couple of his friends who live in the area.

We had a lively conversation on all manner of things, including my admission that I had reduced his thoughtfully-brewed tripel into a de-facto dubbel at JWF, which intrigued him enough to head there for dinner after the beer sampling was done.

City Swiggers is a cool place and a great asset to the neighborhood, serving as beer shop and bar, and quiet reading place for some that isn’t a Starbucks, but it just doesn’t satisfy my socialization needs.

It is not supposed to, it is not an English pub.

The Ambleside Pub is most definitely an English pub; even though it has only been open for a few days it is already hitting all the right spots.

In downtown Mt. Kisco, just over an hour north of Grand Central on the Harlem line, the pub itself is a three-minute walk from the station, you can’t get much more convenient with that; and with the fogie ticket that I qualify for, it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg either.

At first glance, it doesn’t appear to have much in common with JWF other than the handpumps.

Whereas the bar at JWF is a dark cozy narrow space, separated from the eating areas by a short stairway, the Ambleside is one large well-lit corner pub with tables and booths around two sides and plenty of open space for standing around and lurking, and there was a lot of that going-on on Saturday with all of the scattered televisions showing different football games.

There were maybe a dozen different football shirts on display, with even a small person toddling around in his West Ham kit; it reminded me of Nevada Smiths in its heyday, except with kids.

The bar staff and the guvnor Drew were very attentive to all of the patrons, patiently explaining how an English pub works with the food and drink ordering, and equally patiently explaining the whole concept of cask ale.

They needn’t have bothered as most of the punters, expats and otherwise, were jumping on the Ambleside Best Bitter perfectly brewed by Old Glenham to Drew’s original recipe; think Boddies …

Drew had mentioned that they had already killed casks of Old Glenham Loom and dark mild in the three days that they had been open, and they had to replace two casks of the Ambleside while I was there; I can see that Ian is going to be really busy up at Old Glenham.

With the Villa game on at the large screen towards the back corner, I parked myself at the bar, in range of one of the smaller screens that was showing the Wolves/West Ham game, and was treated to a rare win despite the usual white-knuckle last-20 minutes and desperate finish; there is more than one reason why my blood pressure is shot …

Three pints in, I decided that it would be best that I get some food before the train ride home; I had seen some impressive sausage rolls pass by as I was leaning on the bar, but opted for a cheese and onion pasty and a pork pie when I spotted them on the menu.

Both really tasty, the pasty was served hot and was both crispy and gooey, and the cold (as nature intended) pork pie would give Myers a run for their money; topped with Colmans mustard, which was hastily retrieved from Drew’s British shop The Hamlet just down the road (cheers Drew) it was just perfect.

As was the Ambleside itself; there was a mixture of all kinds of humanity, single blokes of all ages, couples young and older, families with small kids, groups of football fans, mostly local to the area but many with accents from all corners of the UK.

Most of all, it had the comforting atmosphere that I really feel at home with.

Now I just have to figure out how best to fit it into my socializing rotation.

I will definitely be back, and real soon.

So that would normally be it for a week for me, two outings, JWF during the week and a random one at the weekend.

But this Sunday was National Beer Day, the only good thing to come out of prohibition, as we er, came out of prohibition.

Besides, it was Liverpool’s turn to disrupt Man. Utd. so, off I went again to Jones Wood.

On a Sunday at 11 am the place was heaving, but I managed to find a spot at the bar and soon settled in with a pint of OG Loom; the tripel had kicked sometime between Thursday and Sunday.

I immediately fell into lively banter (piss-taking) with my neighbors at the bar, and all was well with the world.

Another cracking game with Liverpool falling into the same errant strategy as Chelsea before them, trying to kick the ball through all the Man. Utd. legs in the penalty area and failing miserably.

But just like Chelsea a couple of days before, Liverpool eventually managed to get a penalty to deny United the win.

With a short break before the afternoon games came on, I started to get the munchies again, but behaved myself by only getting a sticky toffee pudding instead of the Full English; I did come perilously close though.

A great time was had this past week, with two excellent but different English pubs to raise my spirits and cure any lingering homesickness (Ed. Note: don’t you believe it, he is a New Yorker all the way through).

I am off to Boston this Wednesday for NERAX, where I plan on sampling as many of the expected fifty British beers as I can reasonable down over four daily sessions; I don’t need to cross the pond as long as the beers come to me.

But expect me back in JWF for a Full English the following weekend.

Scorecard w/e 04/09/24

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

  • Strong Rope Tripel @ Jones Wood Foundry
  • Strong Rope A Mild Journey @ Jones Wood Foundry
  • Old Glenham Loom Cornish Ale @ Jones Wood Foundry
  • Old Glenham Ambleside Best Bitter @ The Ambleside Pub, Mt. Kisko NY

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

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. John

    Thanks for covering the Dubbel blend! Also, Lukas at Blind Tiger confirmed they’re doing casks on the bar occasionally, they have an OEC cask for next Thursday 4/18.

  2. Nigel Walsh

    Cheers John, did you get to try it?

    Thanks also for the heads-up on the Blind Tiger cask, I will have to monitor their social media much more closely so that I can stay on top of things.

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