What? No books? That's right baby, all play and no play, makes Jack a dull boy.
Last night, three of us traipsed off to the 14th annual New England Real Ale Exhibition at the George Dilboy VFW Post #529, in Somerville, put on each year by CASC (Cask-Conditioned Ale Support Campaign). This year, the four day exhibition has over 80 firkins of Real Ale, from England, Scotland, Wales, America, and one from Germany, which kicked before I got a chance to try it. All the beers are cask-conditioned, served by gravity or hand-pump, are naturally carbonated, and have live yeast in in the cask. The NERAX focuses on these Real Ales for the freshness and complexity of favors, and most are session beer with low alcohol content, so you can have a few without falling over.
Advanced tickets was the way to go. For other people. We waited in line. While in line, one of the organizers told us that the British Consul General came to the closed Brewer's Session earlier in the day, and made a speech, looking dapper in his perfect suit, and presumable tippled a bit himself. The guy who told us about it was pretty psyched.
It was $15 to get in this year and $5 for a glass deposit, which I surrendered upon leaving so I could take the glass with me. Its a 20-ounce Imperial (Nonic) pint glass, nicely screened with the NERAX logo, and marked for quarter and half pints along the side. I drank half pints of the ale I tried, although I didn't finish them all. Here's how it went for me:
Long Hammer IPA - Red Hook, Portsmouth, New Hampshire (ABV 6.5%)
You can get this ale in a bottle, and even on tap, even on tap at Cataqua Public House--which is in the Portsmouth brewery!--and it doesn't taste this good. (The Pub also serves a couple of cask conditioned brews, but Long Hammer was not on the offing when I was there.) Clean and citrusy on the nose, light and slightly cloudy in color, with a thin, wispy head, grapefruit start, light carbonation, wet and full mouthfeel, lingering bitter hop finish. Not as good as two years ago, but a great start for the night.
Old Engine Oil - Harviestoun, Alva, Clackmannanshire, Scotland (ABV 4.5%)
Strong molases aroma with yeasty background, light bitterness, smokey chocolate hops with hints of leather. Weak flavors overall, with a slight sourness, thin, airy head which left the glass very clean, strong brown-black color, and a fast finish.
Bargee - Elland Brewery, Elland, West Yorkshire, England (ABV 3.8%)
Powerful rising bread smell, sourdough bread flavor, thin, frothy head, creamy mouthfeel, amber color, slightly cloudy. All-in-all, not my favorite. I think the sourness was too much for me, it was a little like eating raw bread dough. I didn't finish this one.
Black Fly Stout - Gritty McDuff's, Portland, Maine (ABV 4.8%)
Scents of snow, malty, full and flavorful, light smokiness, brown-black color with a thin head that completely evaporated as it sat in my pocket while we chatted, I didn't love this beer, but I finished it. It had warmed in my pocket, and it was good warm, earthy, roasted finish.
Red Tuft - Sixpoint Brewing, Brooklyn, New York (ABV 5.0%)
Light aroma, crisp ESB snap with grapefruit skin bitterness, light hops, lemon highlights, very clean, very low carbonation, almost no head, refreshing, grapefruit finish. A nice way to end the night.
It was a fun night! If you didn't make it, you can still get over there today. Its five bucks cheaper and it runs from 12 to 7. NERAX North is this fall in Haverhill. Cheers!