I can’t even begin to describe the mega awesomeness that was this weekend’s Get Real NY Cask Ale Festival. For two days, New York was blessed with 80+ casks for rare and craft beer along with over a dozen homebrew casks, food vendors, and live music at the Altman Building (usually reserved for fashion trade shows, corporate events and such). Event coordinators Alex Hall (Gotham Imbiber), Patrick Donagher (Rattle N Hum) and Andy Freedman (Wined & Dined) converted the raw event space into a pop-up beer mecca, constructing a ten foot high wooden rig to serve the cask beer.
“Get Real NY is a celebration of the best cask beer and local food available. Expect to have your palate rocked as you sample some of the most amazing cask beers from here, there and everywhere in between. Local chefs from over twenty NYC restaurants will whip up delicious eats for all! Learn about some of your favorite beers from the brewers themselves and share a pint of a home-brew that rivals any pro. This event is for anyone who likes great beer and great food. Let’s be honest, who can possibly say no to great beer and great food?”
The wide variety of beers ranged from those obviously suited for cask conditioning (porters, stouts, bitters, etc) to those which seemed like unlikely partners for for the treatment (imperial pilsners, marzens, etc). The results were equally mixed and suprising. Clear favorites included the Stone Porter aged with vanilla beans to compliment the caramel character of the brew, Green Flash 30th St. Pale Ale – who’s generous citrus hop character too well to the aging – and the Cigar City Marshal Zhukov’s Imperial Stout which picked up nice balsamic and bittersweet chocolate notes from the aging. Otter Creek’s QVH, a long time personal favorite, was also available and its honey/citrus/limestone notes well all pleasantly enhanced in the cask
But other beers just could not hold up to the aging. The Heavy Seas Prosit, an Imperial Pilsner that I have enjoyed before, just tasted like flat caramel water. Likewise was the Löwenbräu Buttenheim Kellerbier who’s grassy notes tasted more like liquid soil than anything else. Between the two was the incredibly perplexing J.W. Lees 2009 Harvest Ale, a super-sweet barleywine that started with flavors of cut grass and pea shoots but ended like a mouthful of dry hay. This was one beer I did, however, recommend over and over as an example of just how crazy cask beers can taste.
Suprisingly, some of the best cask on hand came from local hombrewers. Chris Zucker & Jesse Ferguson (collectively Sea Jay) of the Brooklyn Rot shared an incredible E.S.B. who’s bright hops and light mouthfeel drank more like a west coast IPA and a fine one at that. Ben Gganger and Carl Burger from Park Slope’s Bierkraft also shared their Phival; an American Quad/strong ale brewed with root beer spices, fermented with sour cherries, and final conditioned with Brett in a Tuthilltown Baby Bourbon barrel. The result was one of the finest and most complex homebrews I have ever tried.
Overall, Get Real NY was a great success. It was a real treasure trove for cask beer lovers like myself and a crash course in “Real Ale” for those uninitiated imbibers. Hopefully this will be the start of more frequent festivals and more New York cask ale lovers.
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