Tag Archives: Patrick Donagher

Unusual beers, but little fizz at cask fest

Three samples and program from cask beer fest at Alewife Queens

A hot summer afternoon, apparently, is not a good time to do an indoor cask ale festival, judging by the sparse attendance at the recent Get Real Presents Cask Ale Festival at Alewife Queens.

I estimated some 50 beer lovers stopped into the Long Island City bar on July 14, where some 30 cask ales were available.  You could say it was the price of admission, originally $90 for a VIP ticket that offered an extra hour of drinking.  But those tickets had been marked down to $36 on Groupon just days before the event. Perhaps, the evening sessions were better attended.

Amanda Jones pours a sample.

On a day with the mercury hovering in the 90’s, cold beer would’ve been more appropriate than cellar temperature cask ale. Some beers may have been even warmer. Perhaps, then, it was the lure of the beach or other cooler spots.

Don’t get me wrong. I love cask beer and welcomed the opportunity to sample numerous examples without having to elbow my way through a crowd.

Anyone who’s been to Britain and imbibed the creamy, flavorful real ales, however, might have found something amiss. It seems to me American brewers haven’t learned that you can’t serve every beer you produce on cask.

For the unitiated, cask ale or cask-conditioned beer is  a decription for beer that has been unfiltered, unpasteurized and conditioned in a cask, from whic it is then served without additional nitrogen or carbon dioxide pressure.  It’s also called real ale.

It was a shame that only one beer from Britain, the  home of cask ale, was available to sample.  That beer, Kipling, was a citrusy, American-style IPA from England’s Thornbridge Brewery. One advertised beer that hooked my attendance, JW Lees Harvest Ale aged in Calvados cask, regrettably was not being poured. No explanation was offered, though a wooden firkin of the brew had beens seen on the bar’s floor.

To be sure, many of the ales  gathered by co-owner Patrick Donagher  were quite good. A few, though, were barely palatable.

Many of the offerings were extraordinarily sessionable beers. Among them: Black Racer, a black IPA from Bear Republic; the juicy Phin & Matt’s Extraordinary Ale from Southern Tier and Fluffer IPA from Kuhnhenn Brewing. A double-dry-hopped version of Stone Ruination IPA, came across as oddly sweet. Amazing what the lack of CO2 can do.

Imperial stouts and porters, aged in barrels, or with unusual flavorings also were available.  Noteworthy was Perennial Artisan Ales’ Imperial Coconut Milk Stout and the whiskyish Mendocino Imperial Stout, which was aged in Buffalo Trace barrels.

Keg of Flying Dog Raging Bitch is tapped on the sidewalk.

A couple of beers that I was previously unfamiliar truly took me by surprise. One, Breckenridge Agave Wheat, nearly set my mouth aflame with its jalapeno flavors. Another, chile-flavored brew, Flying Dog’s Raging Bitch, a Belgian-style IPA with mangos and Habanero peppers, however grew on me after my initial taste of capsaicin. River Horse’s Hop-A-Lot-Amus, an imperial IPA dry hopped with grapefruit zest, was less than pleasurable.

Another brew from Flying Dog, Atlantic Lager, should never have been among these brews. It was cloudy and watery. Lager beers, I believe, require carbonation to give them life.

For $36 for four hours of sampling , I think I got my money’s worth. I hope those who paid more felt the same way.



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Beer impresario Patrick Donagher brings his talents to Alewife Queens

Alewife Queens sits midblock at 5-14 51st St. Long Island City

Open since last October, Alewife Queens was the third bar created by the partnership of Michael Bewley, Daniel Lanigan and Bryan Palombo and their first in New York City.  The others are Alewife Baltimore in Maryland and Lord Hobo in Cambridge, Mass.  The bars founders hoped to capitalize on a residential and commercial boom in the neighborhood. New residential towers rise on the waterfront close by. Also nearby are Citibank, JetBlue, Rolex, the New York City Department of Health, and the brand-new CUNY School of Law.

Despite all this, business at Alewife Queens “started out real slow,” said Lanigan at a recent open house for beer bloggers and members of the trade. “Nobody cared.”

New York City, Lanigan said, has many great beer bars, including Rattle ‘n Hum and Gingerman. “We want to be part of that family,” he added, noting that Alewife Queens is but one subway stop from Manhattan and three from Times Square.

With that in mind, he asked for assistance from Patrick Donagher, the New York City beer impresario who formerly managed Rattle ‘n Hum in Manhattan and runs Get Real Presents.

Daniel Lanihsn, left, and Patrick Donagher welcome guests at recent Alewife Queens open housreresents, a beer and food event firm.

Donagher is intent on putting Alewife Queens on beer lovers’ maps. Already, there is much ado.  Recently, the bar-cum-gastro pub hosted a group of beer bloggers and brewery reps at an open house and beer dinner. The next evening a half dozen Belgian brewers shared their sour beers and coming up on July 13 is a cask ale festival.

The beer impresario’s credentials lend credibility to the effort at Alewife Queens. In the 10 years he’s lived in New York, Donagher has done plenty. After moving from Donegal, Ireland, the third-generation bar owner quickly adapted to the new bar scene and its different challenges. He first co-opened and was managing partner of Cherry Tree, a bar in Brooklyn that quickly became known for its craft beers. Then, with his brother, Joe, and another partner, Eamon Donnely, opened Rattle N Hum. Rattle N Hum quickly became one of New York City’s most popular craft beer bars. He spent three years there before moving on in December to his own projects, among them Get Real Presents, which will create events focused on craft beer and local food.

At Alewife Queens, Donagher has a good head start. There are 28 beers on tap and a hundred more by the bottle, aimed mostly at aficionados. There’s am ambitious kitchen, a cavernous 2-level interior space with an outdoor patio in the rear.

I can vouch for the beers and the tasty eats. I enjoyed these brews at the recent open house:

Greenport Harbor Brewing Co. Summer Ale, which was perfect with the outside thermometer reading 98 degrees. A good starter for a long evening of brews, this Golden, pilsner like brew has notes of sweet malt and a pleasant dry finish.

21st Amendment Brewery’s Bitter American, a very sessionable, russet=hued brew with notes of malt and grapefruit on the nose and palate.

Stone Brewing Imperial Russian Stout (2011), poured from a bottle and shared by Dennis Flynn, Stone’s New York rep. A winner, despite its alcoholic bite. It offers up a big malty nose and flavors of raisins’, chocolate, and licorice.

Bottlework’s 13th Anniversary Ale, brewed by Stone. Also shared by Flynn from a bottle. Wow! Thick and delicious, malty sweet with notes of dried fruit and licorice.

Cantillon’s Rosé de Gambrinus with a delightful sour berry nose, strawberry palate and the beautiful sour funkiness that defines this Belgian brewer’s beers.

Bink Blonde by Brouwerij Kerkom, another Belgian, this time an amazing pale ale with notes of malt, herbs, spices, fruit and licorice and a lovely dry finish.

Given these sudsy delights, I’ve no doubt, I’ll return to Alewife Queens.  Will you visit?



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