Saturday, April 14, 2012

Cask ale for all!

I popped over to the New England Real Ale Exhibition (NERAX) on Thursday to sample some cask ale from the UK and US. I had previously avoided NERAX after hearing about cramped conditions and malfunctioning toilets, but since it had moved from the Dilboy VFW Post in Davis Square to larger accommodations at the American Legion Post near Union Square in Somerville, I thought I might give it a go—am I ever glad that I did.

It was a drizzly sort of early evening, not enough for an umbrella, but just enough so I got marginally wet as I walked the block or so to the hall. Since I was unfamiliar with the proceedings, I made a loop around the block to scope it out and returned to find myself in the cash only line; the other line was reserved for will-call patrons. It wasn’t long before the will-call line began to move and not long after that that our line was ushered through the doors and down into the hall to purchase our tickets and to pick up a cash refundable nonick pint glass.

I came with a plan of attack, I had printed the list of beers and breweries the night before, and while not all of the beers I had highlighted were pouring on Thursday evening, it helped me focus my efforts. I knew I wanted to start in the UK since it wasn’t everyday that I had the choice of so many beers from England, Scotland and Wales at my disposal.

The first beer of the evening was a deliciously malty 80/- ale from Stewart Brewing, a brewery located just south of Edinburgh. Poured at just the right temperature with a hint of natural carbonation, it proved to be a great start to the proceedings and was actually one of my favorite beers of the night.

Over the course of the evening, I drank my way from London to Southwold, up to Leeds, and into the heart of Yorkshire, back down into Wales and all the way to the foot of the Cairngorm Mountains in Scotland. I did manage to take the slow boat back to the states, just to start closest to home with an excellent representation of local breweries. I particularly enjoyed the Scottish Milk Stout from Notch Brewing Company. Brewed with lactose sugar and dark malts, this 4.3% American session beer was drinking incredibly well on Thursday evening, with hints of sweet milk sugar and cocoa notes from the dark malts balancing magnificently on the palate.

As the evening wound down, so did I. I grabbed a quick pulled pork sandwich from Redbones Barbeque, sipped on my last beer and looked around at all the happy campers. Overall, I had an excellent time, and it seemed that all those around me did as well. Earlier in the evening I overheard the police detail assigned to the event say into his radio that it didn’t appear to be too rowdy a group, “more like the wine and cheese crowd, if you know what I mean.” He was probably right, we cask ale fans aren’t really there to get “rowdy,” just don’t try to over-carbonate or serve our beers too cold and we’ll be perfectly respectable.

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