Blog by Nigel Walsh


Raining Cats and Dogs

Keen readers of my weekly ramblings (conversational) about my weekly ramblings (perambulatory) will have noticed that for the second week in a row, I have not actually managed to set foot in my local boozer.

I usually swing by Jones Wood Foundry on a random day during the week, after I have signed out of work for that day, and then save my longer expeditions for the weekend.

The first week I had a good excuse to skip JWF, as I had a mid-week excursion into deepest Brooklyn instead, as well as the weekend hike into Brooklyn and Queens, all in search of random casks that had popped up on my radar.

So, what is my excuse for this past week?

Well, for the weekend I had a similar jaunt through Greenpoint and Long Island City planned, again in search of a rare and random cask, this time at Tørst.

As for the week days, I was just too knackered by the late afternoon to do anything but shuffle around my block, before collapsing on my couch for the evening.

And just what would bring this super-fit specimen of humanity (cough!) to such a dilapidated state at the end of each day?

A Frenchy did it!

To be more specific, a ten-month old French Bulldog puppy named Dallas, who had barely set foot outside the car that brought him to my building from the airport, after a tiring trip from his namesake city in Texas, before my wife snatched him off of the street offered to board him for a couple of days while his owner got his new forever home ready for him.

“Okay, bring him home” said I, after my wife had informed me that we would be puppy-sitting for several days and nights.

We both love dogs and do a lot of dog-sitting for friends and family and neighbors, and occasional repetitive clients, so how difficult was this going to be?

Besides, we had only just returned the oh-so-easy Amos, the world’s most athletic Pug (really), to Jason after almost a week at Camp Whisperer, and we were looking forward to watching Reo, a four-month-old Parti-Yorkie for a few hours at the end of the week, so it would be great practice … or, so we thought.

So, please excuse this brief doggie detour from the usual Cask Whisperings this week; I promise to circle back to describe the weekend’s cask outing at the end of this posting, but be aware, there will be more dogs.

Let us step into the wayback machine, it may help to explain how we got ourselves into this situation …

The Menagerie

As a young kid I grew up with all kinds of critters, both wild and tame; for dogs, we had a couple of Labradors, Trixie and Pip, mum and son, and on three separate occasions we also had an entire litter of puppies running around all over the house.

Yep, nobody thought about getting their dogs fixed back then, but we always managed to find good homes for the pups.

We also seemed to have an endless stream of indoor/outdoor cats that would make their homes with us for a couple of years and then wander off again when they got a better offer, they were all named Tiddles.

And then there were the intangibles, you just never knew what kind of beast my dad was going to bring back from a day at work or a trip to the pub.

At one time or another, we had rabbits (two of them) who lived in a hutch out in the back yard, two budgies and a greenfinch who had the run (fly?) of the house during the day and a covered cage to sleep in at night, we also had a tortoise who lived inside at first, before moving to the vacated rabbit hutch, and finally decided that its home was going to be in our compost heap at the bottom of the garden.

Over time it shared that compost heap with other passing members of its species, plus entire families of lizards, slow worms and hedgehogs.

The only critters not allowed in our home were rodents; my mum was deathly afraid of them, as I found out when I brought the resident white mouse home from school one day, and hurriedly returned him the next morning.


When I was in my young teens, my dad started hanging out in the historic Coopers Arms pub in Rochester and would always talk about the resident Border Collie behind the bar.

It had been several years since we had a pet in the house, and we were surprised and delighted when he came home from the pub one evening with the cutest little sandy brown and white ball of fur named Brandy.

The pub dog had had a litter of puppies, and when the owners were looking for homes for the pups, my dad volunteered on the spur of the moment; he always had the same “bring him home” philosophy as myself when it came to critters.

Border Collies are famed for their stamina and intelligence, and Brandy had spade loads of both.

I think that one of the reasons that I love walking as much as I do, is that I got so much of it during my formative years; a daily walk around the block for Brandy was a minimum of four miles (home to the Stone Horse and back) and the weekend walks ranged from five miles (the See Ho) to seven miles (the Leather Bottle) and occasionally much further (the Cricketers).

I can only remember one occasion when we had to stop for a short break, and that was to clean some ice out from between Brandy’s toes, during a long circular walk through the lanes from Strood to Cobham to Cuxton and back home.

As for his intelligence, there wasn’t a fence or gate that would stop him once he was determined that he was going to get through or over.

He had an amazing homing instinct, I can’t count the number of times that he would be “lost” overnight, only to be found on the front step or in our coal scuttle (several shades of grey) by the morning; on the two occasions that he became separated from my dad in a distant and unknown place, he had the smarts to hunker down nearby and wait for me to come and retrieve him the following day.

He slept in our kitchen, on top of an old ratty blanket draped over a stepladder, and fiercely guarded his favorite toy, a soggy orphaned sock stuffed with several other soggy orphaned socks.

He lived for almost twenty years, and made sure that I got plenty of exercise and entertainment and joy and love for many of those years, and became a great companion to my mum after my dad passed, and my brother and I moved away, and he slowed down in his later years.

He was an incredible dog, and my wife and I wanted our kids to have that same experience with animals when they were old enough to appreciate them.

Smokey and Stinky (wait, aren’t they cats?)

We weren’t sure about a dog at first, we weren’t even sure about a cat, but Smokey just came into our lives; via a cardboard box from upstate New York, “acquired” by a friend, brought into the city by her husband, and brought home in a cab by my wife.

“Sure, bring him home” said I, after my wife had informed me that we would be sharing our apartment with a cat for the rest of his or our lives.

Like most of our animals going forward, Smokey was about two years old when he joined our household; a skinny, smallish tuxedo-colored shorthair which was a deep smokey grey (a bit like Brandy after a night in the scuttle) – we had no problem choosing a name for him.

He had lived most of his prior life outside and was not happy about that, so he had persistently tried to adopt our friend upstate but did not get along with her own cat, so he was shuttled off to his new life of luxury with us in NYC.

As dog-people, we knew nothing about looking after cats initially, but he was patient and taught us well.

“Hmm, no litter box, eh? I will just use this bathtub over here …”

Our kids loved him and he in turn loved them.

We almost lost him when he was seven years old, he had stopped eating and was diagnosed with fatty liver disease.

But it seemed that he still had a strong will to live, so he had a tracheostomy with a feeding tube fitted to his throat; we added milk thistle to his diet, and I fed him through the tube for almost a year, until one day he showed an interest in a liverwurst sandwich that I was preparing for my eldest son.

He sniffed the liverwurst, wolfed it down, and the following day we removed his feeding tube.

He went on to live a further fourteen contented years.

We had been living in midtown when we first got Smokey, but eventually moved to our apartment in the UES where we still live, and in those pre-Costco days we used the large Petco that had opened up by the 86th Street Subway Station for all of Smokey’s needs.

So, on one seemingly innocuous occasion, my wife had gone over to Petco with the kids to pick up some food for Smokey, and I had stayed home preparing dinner or something, when I got the call …

“They are having a cat adoption day!”

“Don’t we have a cat?”

“There is this big beautiful red cat!”

“Okay, bring him home.”

He came and was registered under the name Goldenrod, but after his first litterbox visit, he was immediately referred to as the Fox Cat, or mostly just as Stinky.

He was a big long-haired bundle of love and energy, who almost instantly (well, a couple of days of hisses) got along with his “long-lost brother” Smokey.

We did not know anything about his life before coming to us, but again he was reckoned to be about two years old when he arrived, and like Smokey he was about twenty-one years old when he left us.

We do not believe that he had ever been an outdoor cat, as he shied away from the apartment door whenever we opened it, unlike Smokey who would occasionally show signs of interest in the building hallway and laundry room.

You can just imagine the chaos of the household at that time, with three young kids and two cats racing around the apartment, and on top of that we also had our neighbor’s cats and dogs in the hallway and occasionally in our home for visits.

There was only one thing missing, and that was a dog of our own …


… My wife solved that issue when she was out in the neighborhood one day, and stopped to chat with a couple she met on the street, walking a Wheaten Terrier.

Cue the next phone call …

“I met a couple who cannot keep their dog because of allergies!”

“That’s nice dear.”

“He is a Wheatie!”

“Aren’t they supposed to be okay for allergies?”

“Yes, but not in this case.”

“Okay, bring him home.”

Bowie probably wondered what hit him when he first arrived, but very quickly settled into the hectic pace and crowded space of our household.

The cats just took it in their stride, as we had softened them up with other cat and dog visitors prior to Bowie’s arrival.

The kids loved it.

Like Brandy before him, Bowie required substantial exercise, usually the bridle path around the Central Park reservoir, but was also quite happy just hanging around with his people and chilling when indoors.

He loved every living thing except for Spaniels for some reason, and he hated water, but that may have been as a result of being tossed into a pond once by me; oops, I thought all dogs loved swimming, but apparently not.

As a purebred he came with some issues, creaky hips and an irritable stomach, and sadly stomach cancer took him from us after ten years.


After we lost Bowie, we were not really looking to get another dog, but our good friend and neighbor arranged a visit from a two/three year-old Tibetan Terrier with a major underbite.

He came, he leaned on our legs, and he won a forever home with us in under ten minutes.

He had a face that only a mother could love.

We named him Pugsley, and he ended up living with us for a further sixteen years.

He was an absolute riot!

One part Wolfman and one part Pikachu, he would bring attention to us whenever we would be out walking him around the neighborhood; everybody knew him, most knew him by name, and those that didn’t, would stop us in the street and ask about him.

He had a Fox Hound best buddy named Zach, who lived in our building and also had access to a lake house upstate, where we spent a lot of weekends over several years; it was hilarious watching Pugsley try to keep up with his buddy, in the yard or on the pontoon boat, but not in the lake itself, he was another one who preferred to remain high and dry.

He has been gone now for several years and we still miss him sorely, we feel his presence still in our home.

But it was during Pugsley’s occupancy that we started volunteering to dog sit, as both he and the Bagels (getting to them shortly) were and are very accepting of our short-term guests.

The Bagels (more cats, long-suffering cats)

They came as a pair, brother and sister, as kittens, feral kittens, trapped and rescued from under a deck in Greenwich CT, and presented to us by a work colleague of our elder son after we had lost Stinky after so many years.

We couldn’t say no, they were so small and cute and vulnerable.

They were also hissy and bitey and scratchy for quite some time, until they got used to us and our crazy-looking dog.

We named them Chelsea and Clinton, which seemed to fit with their personalities as they slowly settled in.

And then one day, they found a bag of store-bought bagels that had been left out on a kitchen counter overnight and, after the event known as The Shredding, have been referred to as Mr. Bagel and Mrs. Bagel ever since.

After many years, Mr. Bagel has really settled in, and pretty much considers our apartment to be his domain, in the same way that Smokey did years before him; he checks out every visitor, whether they have two or four legs, assesses if they be friend or threat, responds appropriately, and then goes back to napping on his recliner.

Mrs. Bagel on the other hand still has some feral in her but has become very sweet with our two-legged visitors over the past year, and much more comfortable with the constant tumult of Camp Whisperer; she has three responses to all adverse situations, running, hiding, and turning a random part of our apartment into her bathroom for the next few days.

The Short-term Guests

We have been entertaining our furry guests for anything from a few hours to a couple of weeks for about ten years now, as well as looking after our grand-dog Abby (a Coton de Tuléar) on several occasions for longer periods of time.

We love it and The Bagels seem to put up with it very well; they are always curious about each new visitor that they are introduced to.

Most visits are spaced out as needs require, but we have on rare occasions had some overlap, and this past two weeks we just happened to have three guest dogs in a row.

Most of our charges are mature and even senior dogs, that may have some minor health issues and medication requirements, but are generally well trained and on regular feed and walk schedules; sure, we get the occasional accident but we long-ago dog-proofed our floors in the apartment due to our own aging critters, so no big cleanup issues.

And in many ways our last three customers were surprisingly easy, even though two were the first puppies that either of us has had to look after for many a year now.

Amos, as I mentioned earlier, was a doddle, he was a repeat visitor who knew the set-up and was comfortable with it; waddle in, say hi to the cats, pick a couch, and settle down for the duration.

Reo was also surprisingly easy for a four-month-old puppy, he did not stay overnight this time but did spend a good nine hours with us; as expected he was very active when awake but took frequent naps and was very independent, he did try to play with the cats, but they just climbed up on the back of the couches and silently mocked him from on high.

Most of the time he contented himself playing with Abby’s toys; they all play with Abby’s toys.

And then there was the Frenchie …

He was such a sweet dog but required constant attention, which is not surprising as he had just been removed from his brethren and flown cross-country by a stranger, and then deposited in a strange environment with two different strangers and their two cranky cats.

But he was not terrible, not a bad boy at all, just very tiring for us old dog-minders.

Like Reo would be, he alternated between chasing the cats around, playing with the dog toys, and taking five-minute power naps, either on the floor or on my legs while I was resting on one of the couches.

Where he differed was in his lack of independence; he not only followed my wife and myself when either of us left the room to go elsewhere in the apartment, but he walked so close to us that we had to shuffle along to make sure that we wouldn’t trip over him, he even walked between our legs sometimes.

He also showed his nervousness by frequently drinking water and then peeing it out again; no real problem, but again we just had to constantly look where we were walking.

He stayed with us over three (four?) nights and was actually very well behaved overnight; we went to our room and closed Dallas out in the living room/hallway with the cats for company, and after ten minutes or so of blood-curdling howls he would settle down to sleep for the night … well, at least until one of the Bagels would get up looking for midnight munchies, when we would all do a rinse and repeat.

That is my excuse, and I am sticking to it …

So, that is why I haven’t been seen in Jones Wood Foundry this past week, and it has taken me eleven pages of a Word document to come up with this weak explanation … jeez.

Now where was I?

Oh yes, the return to Fifth Hammer and Greenpoint.

So, I mentioned my Saturday plans to my wife and as the weather was beautiful, she decided to tag along with me this time; although I suspect that she may have been hoping to catch a glimpse of a dog or two at Fifth Hammer.

No walking across the 59th Street Bridge this time, we just kept it simple by taking the ferry to Long Island City and hiking into Greenpoint and back again, stopping off at Fifth Hammer on our return.

The walk was delightful, on the way to Tørst we were accosted by a cute Spaniel that waited patiently for us to cross the road before saying hi to us, and on the way back we discovered the corner of Guernsey Street and Oak Street, a little bit of the West Village in Greenpoint, who knew?

The Fox Farm Tiddly dark mild was absolutely brilliant, deep black with ruby notes when held up to the light, with a large foamy head that looked like it came from a sparkler, not a gravity tap.

It was roasty and hit well above its 3.8% ABV; I figured that I could have a couple, seeing as we walked all that way.

We returned via Fifth Hammer where we found a one-year-old Old English Sheepdog parked outside, much to my wife’s delight.

There were also several dogs of various shapes and sizes inside the bar, and they served to keep my missus busy while I parked myself at the bar and had a pint of their Snakes on a Trail nut brown ale, and a bottle of their L’amour de Saturne barrel-aged and brettified POG (passion, orange, guava) sour.

This weekend, we will be back on the road again (if the car functions), heading up to the Finger Lakes for the annual New York State British Real Ale Festival at Seneca Lake Brewing.

I am ready for it!

Scorecard w/e 05/14/24

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

  • Fox Farm Tiddly Dark Mild @ Tørst
  • Fifth Hammer Snakes on a Trail Nut Brown Ale/Maple @ Fifth Hammer Brewing

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

Upcoming Random NYC Casks

  • 5/18/2024: Strong Rope (and Wagner Valley) Gotham Grazer Maibock @ Das Bock

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
  • Tørst
  • Blind Tiger Ale House
  • Threes Brewing
  • Brouwerij Lane

Leave a Reply

Sign Up For News