Blog by Nigel Walsh


Saison Day … Sort Of

After several weekends of out-of-town trips and in-town events, I finally found myself with no fixed plans this past weekend, and had an opportunity to just chill and get some walking in.

I saw that Threes in Gowanus was holding a Saison Day event, and although there wouldn’t be any guest casks present, I liked the farmhouse styles enough to consider going there to sample a couple, and maybe get a bottle or some cans to bring home.

They would have some interesting and respected collaborators; Allagash of course, but Oxbow and The Seed also got my attention.

So, with that in mind, I did what every self-respecting cask enthusiast would do and went onto Untappd to see what was likely to be on cask at Wild East …

… sorry Threes, but I just can’t help myself.

Oooh! Wild East Stock Ale ESB!

With that settled, it was going to be an overdue return to the ferry and to Gowanus; I also eyeballed the G train to see if I could get in a quick visit to Fifth Hammer on the way back; I have to do my rounds you know.

The Queens diversion was crossed-off when I happened to spot an Instagram short from Drop-off Service, announcing a one-off Dutchess cask of their Tempel altbier.

All I had to do was figure out how to swing by the Alphabets on my way home, because even though the cask would likely be available for several days, I try to limit my outings to once a week; well, not counting my obligatory weekly visit to JWF.

Fear not Fifth Hammer, I will be getting back to you this week.

So, with the weather cooperating (what a beautiful weekend we had), the thought was to take the ferry from E 90th street to the Brooklyn Navy Yard, hike over Fort Greene to Gowanus, pop into Wild East to say hi and sample the Stock Ale, settle down for a saison session in Threes, and then figure out how to get to Drop-off Service and back home again.

Well, I managed to follow the route exactly as envisioned, but some of the timings were a bit off, and that is the joy of the under-planned open-ended weekend stroll crawl.

I had somehow managed to forget breakfast (that never happens) before heading for the ferry, so I was getting serious rumblings as the boat was pulling into the Navy Yard terminal.

A Russ & Daughters Super Heebster on a bialy was going to solve that issue, and also provide the necessary beer sponge that would allow me to survive the afternoon with minimal side-effects.

Suitably fortified, I marched up and over the hill and along 4th Avenue, bypassing Douglass street for now, and made a beeline straight for the cask tap at Wild East, where I was treated like a long-lost family member; well, it had been a couple of months.

The Stock Ale was indeed on the engine, and it was brilliant; a variant of Moderance ESB that had been sitting in cask for nine months or so, it was in great condition, with a hoppy perfumed initial bite and a dry almost oaky bitter finish, and with every sip in-between bringing out different characteristics and flavors.

It was so good that I had to have another, and that was so good that I had to have one more.

While I was sitting at the bar, I happened to overhear a conversation between a couple of Untappders, who were standing somewhere over my shoulder.

After discussing the merits and demerits of Russian River sours, one of them commented on how simple the beer blackboard looked, and I hoped that he was noting its organization and not its contents.

I looked up at it and reviewed the beer styles on offer, and immediately thought just how far we have progressed from the initial micro-brewery days of the ‘90s, when all beers were defined by their color alone; gold (usually a kolsch style, no real lagers), brown (brown ale and the occasional barley wine), red (amber ale or Irish red or a Scotch ale), white (a wheat ale), pink (raspberry wheat) and a couple of black beers if you were lucky (a dunkel style and a stout/porter).

I took a picture of the Wild East blackboard, it is pretty sophisticated, not simple.

I saw Lindsay and Brett wandering around busily in the brewhouse, and when they both left in a hurry, I guessed that I would be seeing them again when I got to the Saison Day event.

I guessed correctly, not only were they there judging at the event, but so were Jason from Strong Rope, Jeff from Endless Life and Chris (ex-Torch and Crown, now consulting to the industry); I also recognized a couple of other familiar industry faces among the crowd.

And there was a crowd!

All three of the downstairs spaces at Threes were totally packed, with long lines for food and bathrooms, but I got really lucky and managed to grab a spot and a stool at the main bar, which was functioning very efficiently; the bar staff at Threes are real experts at their craft.

Instead of the bottles/cans that I was originally contemplating, I saw some very interesting collaborations on the draft menu and decided to try a few:

  • Surrender to Chance, a hoppy saison collaboration with The Seed from Atlantic City NJ.
  • Blue Knit Socks, a blueberry and rhubarb saison from Off Color of Chicago IL.
  • Surya, an herbal botanical saison from Oxbow Brewing of Newcastle ME.

All fabulous.

I stayed for a little over an hour and then thought again about that altbier in the East Village.

Yeah, I can be a little obsessive sometimes.

So, I drifted off towards the subway at Atlantic Terminal with a plan to grab the nearest Manhattan-bound train and then play it by ear and bladder.

I got lucky; the first train in was the N-train to 8th Street/NYU, just ten interesting blocks from my desired destination.

I got to Drop-off Service to find the place absolutely heaving, which was somewhat of a surprise for a mid-afternoon, even on a weekend.

Fortunately, nobody was sitting in the old fogie corner at the right of the entrance, and the bartender was just finishing with an order from someone standing there at the very end of the bar, so I was able to sidestep the crowd and get served immediately.

And another fine cask it was too; a little darker than most altbiers that I have had in the past, but beautifully balanced with the expected maltiness very pronounced.

I love the British and mid-Atlantic style beers that Dutchess produces, but this was my first German-inspired beer from them, and they got it right on the nose.

I stayed just long enough to catch the end of the Chelsea game, visible above all of the heads, and with that I was done crawling for the day; all that was left was a short stroll back to Union Square subway and a quick express train home.

I managed to get in 6.5 miles walking, so not too bad for a do-nothing day.

Scorecard w/e 04/30/24

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

Upcoming Cask Festivals

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

9/7/2024: Noah Webster House Real Ale Harvest Festival, West Hartford CT

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

Occasional Pins (worth a follow on Instagram)

  • Strong Rope
  • KCBC
  • Torst
  • Blind Tiger Ale House

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. John

    We just tapped a pin of our bock beer for May Day at the Red Hook taproom. Wouldn’t want you to break your once a week cadence on our behalf though!

    1. Nigel Walsh

      Any chance it will still be there tomorrow, John?

      Asking for a friend…

  2. John

    Tell your friend it’s likely to still be on tomorrow.

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