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September 30, 2010

Get Real NY

photo courtesy

This past weekend, a few of NYC's brightest beer minds, Patrick Donagher (Rattle'n'Hum), Alex Hall (Gotham Imbiber), Mary Izett (Ale Street News) and Chris Cuzme (MBAS/NYCHG) came together to put on what turned out to be one of the largest Cask Ale festivals ever in the United States. That's a pretty tall order. But much to their credit, three sold out yet manageable sessions proved that they pulled it off.

A sampling of the casks available. Wandering Star (bottom right) is Alex Hall & Chris Cuzme's future commercial brewery!

I remember Patrick telling me about this festival a few months ago when it was merely an idea. He had held miniature cask festivals at his bar Rattle'n'Hum a few times already in its first two years of existence, but he was looking for something bigger and better. Patrick knows his stuff, so I knew I'd be attending whatever he ended up planning. Skip ahead to August 21st. One of my two homebrewing partners Jeff runs into Mr. Chris Cuzme at Brooklyn Kitchen, where they have a very good selection of homebrew supplies. They get to talking and Jeff mentions how we'd done well in recent NYC homebrew competitions and Chris invites Jeff to participate in the homebrew section of Get Real NY. Boom! We're in.

what Get Real NY looked like at roughly 8am Saturday morning. About 4 hours later we'd be pouring our first beers. photo courtesy

So we brewed 2 batches that we thought would be suitable for serving via cask, a Smoked Northern English Brown and a Smoked Imperial Brown (we like smoke ales). After discussing with homebrew director Chris Cuzme further, we decided that it would be best to volunteer our time for all of the sessions, which would give us the ability to actually pour our homebrew and get immediate feedback from all the attendees. (Unfortunately our other brewer Tim was at Oktoberfest in Germany, so he could not attend. But I mean, come on. Oktoberfest! That's awesome.)

Patrick taps a firkin of Blue Point. I think he startled a few passersby with his projectile beer. photo courtesy

After getting a ride with our kegs from the generous Mary Izett, we arrived at The Altman Building at exactly 8am on Saturday. We immediately went to work hauling firkins around, putting up signs around the neighborhood and transporting glassware & shirts from Rattle'n'Hum. In what seemed like a blink of an eye, the guys had transformed this beautiful room into a full-fledged cask ale paradise. Granted it didn't quite open at the scheduled 12:00 start time, but it wasn't too much of a delay (and the session went later than 3 to make up for it).

manning my post - photo courtesy

The next 9 hours were a whirlwind. Before we knew it we were donning Get Real shirts and setting up our homebrew kegs-turned-casks. Just as the last firkins were put into place, the first patrons were let through the door. I had never actually poured my own cask ale before, and we weren't really given a tutorial so a few volunteers sprayed themselves with some of the beers that hadn't quite settled yet. I was also a victim myself later on. One thing I did learn however, is that I really enjoy serving people beer. And it was particularly fun when people would come up and ask for whichever one was my favorite, which gave me a good challenge.

pouring a Two Bros Heavy Handed - photo courtesy

pouring one of our homebrews - photo courtesy

Of course, the ultimate experience here was pouring our homebrew for people. And yes, sometimes when people asked for our favorites we gave them ours. How could we not? We got a lot of positive feedback, especially for our Smoked Imperial Brown, or "Bacon Robot beer" as some people were calling it. Two people claimed it was their favorite at the whole festival. Maybe they were drunk or maybe they were just being nice, but either way it was very encouraging. Must. Brew. More!

Jeff pouring our other homebrew - photo courtesy

the tendudes homebrew station

The pouring box on the left was designed and built by Chris Cuzme. The one on the right was actually put together by Jeff and myself (mostly Jeff). He had an old subwoofer lying around that wasn't being used anymore, so we drilled a hole in the top and were able to have music play out of the front at the same time as pouring our beer! It was a bit too loud at the fest to utilize the speaker, but next time we throw our own cask party..

something about having this sign with our names on it makes it so much more real (surreal)

The Aftermath

This is what happens to cask ale that doesn't get drunk. Yeah. Cry time.

After the last session ended at 8:00 on Sunday night. Everyone cleared out and it was obvious that there was still a LOT of beer left. A LOT. But in case you weren't already aware, cask ale doesn't last very long. That's all part of the "real-ness" of it. Especially the ones that were lower in ABV. So the end result was a river of beer unlike anything I've ever seen.

Free street beer. Score!

The smell of beer permeated the block and eventually attracted a few people wondering what was going on. This guy actually ran down the street to get a container to capture some of the beer. Not that I blame him, I would have done the same thing.

Jeff demonstrating his exhaustion at about 11pm on Sunday

It took about 3 hours or so to break everything down and load up all of the firkins. At this point I was a bit delirious from spending around 20 hours on my feet during the 2 day fest. Jeff took the opportunity to show his exhaustion on the newly cleared Altman Building floor.

The last of the firkins are hauled away back to Rattle'n'Hum

Except this last one. That Jeff had to keep on his lap as we drove back to Rattle.

All in all, Get Real was a blast. Tiring as hell? Yes, but it was worth it for the experience. Great people, great atmosphere and of course great beer. Here's to the next one!

Get Real NY organizers (L to R) Alex Hall, Patrick Donagher, Chris Cuzme