Blog by Nigel Walsh


Up for the Cup

It was the FA Cup Final this past Saturday, and a very enjoyable one it was too.

I can’t quite place my finger on it, but there is something very satisfying about watching Manchester City lose.

It is even more satisfying to watch them be outplayed and outmanaged by their “underdog” rivals Manchester United.

I watched the game from one of the best seats in the house.

I wandered into Jones Wood Foundry on the dot of 10am, shuffled down the bar to an open spot in front of the second TV, and waited patiently for a few minutes as the boxes were tuned to the correct channel and the music was replaced by live commentary from Wembley (I suggested the Spanish commentary, but got no takers), before saying my hellos and ordering myself a pint of Old Glenham Loom Cornish Ale.

The bar itself was full but pretty quiet for a Saturday morning, the brunch munchers hadn’t yet arrived, and the football bros had probably found another location to watch the game; I am sure that there are Man. U and Man. C pubs elsewhere in the city.

But the couple to my right were United fans and I was happy for them, while the guy on my immediate left was quiet and muttered under his breath a lot, so I tried not to antagonize him.

All very civilized, and more so as I ordered a Full English (over easy) to go with my second pint, a Weavers this time; I like to see the casks cycled so I usually revert to the one that was tapped earliest after sampling the newest.

Ah, the Holy Trinity – footie, real ale, and assorted breakfast meats.

What could be better?

And that got me thinking about all of the important games in the Cask Whisperer’s past; where and how did I experience it, and what was I (likely) eating and drinking at the time?

Let us roll it.

April 28, 1923

Nah, it may feel like it sometimes, but I am not that old.

This was the date of a famous FA Cup Final though.

It was the first football game to be played at the old Wembley Stadium, was West Ham United’s first appearance in the final, and would be the last for another forty years, not counting the 1940 War Cup Final; I am glad that I wasn’t around to watch that one even though West Ham beat Blackburn Rovers 1 – 0.

West Ham managed to get beaten 2 – 0 by Bolton Wanderers in 1923, so I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed it too much.

I do not remember what I consumed that day.

There was a horse though…

May 2, 1964

Now this is more like it.

I do actually have memories of this one, although they are really vague and did not involve any TVs.

Like most kids of my age at that time, I was faced with choosing a football team to support as soon as I was old enough to kick a ball around with my friends at school, in the street, and up on the green; that would have been 1963 for me.

And like most kids I asked my dad.

“Tottenham Hotspur” he said, “they are good, and then there is always West Ham”.

I asked him where they both played, and when he told me, I chose the latter.

My dad had been born in the East End of London, in Bethnal Green Workhouse no less, and I sort of always knew that he was a closet West Ham fan.

Now back in those days we were of very modest means, and football support then meant listening to a Saturday game on the radio, and reading all about it (well, looking at the pictures) in the Sunday newspaper after my dad had checked out the football pools, and then bragging about it when having a kickaround with my schoolmates during the week.

Come May 4th, 1964, I actually had something to brag about, as West Ham had won their first trophy ever, winning the 1964 FA Cup Final by a score of 3 – 2 over Preston North End.

Amazingly, you can now see the entire game, if you so desired, on YouTube here.

So I finally got to see it almost 60 years later, at home with a cup of coffee and a bacon sandwich.

May 19, 1965

As I did with the 1965 European Cup Winners Cup Final, again won by West Ham at Wembley Stadium, this time by 2 – 0 over 1860 Munich.

I do not remember this game even appearing on the radio at the time, and did not even find out about it until the following year, when it was mentioned after Bobby Moore had climbed the Wembley steps for the third straight year to pick up a cup.

July 30, 1966

And what a cup that was!

I think everybody in England who was alive at that time, has probably claimed to have watched the 1966 World Cup Final game against West Germany, regardless of their age at the time.

It was one of the first games that I ever got to actually see live on television; one of my “rich” friend’s parents actually owned a TV by then and graciously opened up their living room to all close friends and neighbors for all of the England games during the World Cup Finals.

So, I got to sit through all of the drama of that game, on the floor, with a half dozen other kids, drinking R. Whites Lemonade (did I mention they were “rich”) and eating cheese and Branston sarnies, while all of the parents sat around on couches and chairs pulled in from the kitchen.

May 3, 1975

I was at university by the next time that West Ham put in an FA Cup Final appearance, the less said about England (it’s coming home!) the better.

The problem was that I was at a Scottish university, and the FA Cup Final coincided with the 1975 Scottish Cup Final (Celtic 3 -1 Airdrieonians), so I had to fight off several brawny Scotsmen to claim rights to the projector TV in the lounge of my residence hall; I convinced them all that they could just as easily go down the pub, any pub, and watch their game.

I was well prepared in the food and drink department for that game, a haggis supper from the local chippie (chipper?) and a six pack of Worthington White Shield, with a few cans of Tennents as back up.

Awesome game and awesome experience, with my all-time favorite hammer, Billy Bonds leading West Ham to a 2 – 0 victory over my previous hammer hero Bobby Moore, now captaining Fulham.

May 10, 1980

Five years later West Ham were back in the FA Cup Final, this time as major underdogs; in the Second Division at the time, West Ham were up against perennial First Division powerhouse Arsenal.

And I was back to listening to the game on a radio.

By this time, I had been living in the States, in Westport CT, for about six months, and these were the times before (proper) football became popular, or even had any presence at all in the colonies.

So, my work colleagues at the time, mostly living in and around SW Connecticut, decided to celebrate the occasion with a party, and one of my friends brought along a short-wave radio on the off-chance that we would be able to pick up the game.

It didn’t sound good at first, it was very fuzzy and scratchy, and it looked like we would have to make do with the Shipping Forecast instead, but eventually we were able to identify Brian Moore’s voice stuttering over the ether, sounding like he was doing the broadcast from a fish and chip shop, right in front of the fryers.

And it didn’t really get any better as the game went on, and I was soon abandoned in the corner of the living room where we had the “best” reception, while the party went on around the rest of the house and back deck.

I “heard” the winning goal but didn’t know which side was winning until the score was announced as half time approached.

The second half was not much better, but I stuck with it by myself, while someone would come over occasionally to get the latest update and drop off a burger or a bottle of Michelob Dark.

The end result was a 1 – 0 win for West Ham, and that I believe was the very last time that a team from the lower division has won the Cup … it was also the last time in 43 years before West Ham would win anything at all.

Until last year …

June 7, 2023

I still haven’t managed to watch the full game of the 2023 Europa Conference League Final; only the extended highlights and the victory parade are currently available on YouTube.

I sure tried though, I made sure that I got to JWF with enough time to catch kickoff and settled myself in with a pint of the Endless Life From a Great Height Cream Ale and some bangers and mash.

Only to find that it required an obscure satellite channel subscription to actually watch the game.

So, I did what I usually do when footie-less, I opened up my phone to the BBC website and watched the match slowly scroll by in text format.

I had two more pints before giving up and wandered over to Cark Schurz Park, parked myself on a shady bench on the East River Esplanade, and turned the Beeb back on just in time to catch West Ham’s spectacular last-minute winner.

I walked over to the railings looking out onto Hell Gate, pumped my fist into the air, and yelled out “Bowen!” before returning to my bench with a sheepish grin on my face.

West Ham 2 – 1 Fiorentina.

Finally, winners again.

Something very satisfying about that.

* Euro 2024 coming up shortly – you might see me at JWF.

Scorecard w/e 05/28/24

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

  • Old Glenham Weavers Pale Ale @ Jones Wood Foundry
  • Old Glenham Loom Cornish Ale @ Jones Wood Foundry

Upcoming Cask Festivals

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

  • Sadly, no erratics have been identified this week.

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

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