in Patchogue, Long Island's oldest and most award-winning microbrewery, hosted more than 30 breweries from across the nation, carrying over 100 casks at the 7th Annual Cask Ales Festival and drawing a crowd of approximately 900 thirsty beer aficionados.
Cask, or real ale, is favored by brewers and beer enthusiasts alike. It is, in essence, unfiltered and unpasteurized beer that is conditioned in, and served directly out of a cask. It conveys a brewer's purist intentions as far as flavor and character goes.
The event that has taken on a life of its own had its inception in humble beginnings. In 2005, it started as a smattering of local brewers enduring the January cold to gather in the brewery's parking lot to share in quality beer and camaraderie. It has blossomed into one of the largest and most celebrated real ale events in the region.
The event supported Long Island Cares - The Harry Chapin Food Bank.
Among so many renowned brewers, Blue Point Brewery more than held their own as proprietors of the "world's largest cask," as recorded in the Guinness World Records. They were showcasing their special BP Toxic Sludge in the epic cask, which holds nearly 10,000 pints of beer. It is a limited-release originally brewed to benefit Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research's efforts for birds affected by BP's Gulf Coast oil spill.
"I love the BP Toxic Sludge. It's awesome," said David McNamara who came all the way from New York City. "I can't articulate it right now; I've been drinking all day long. I can't define what the taste was ... It's hoppy deliciousness."
Cask versions of several Blue Point brews were also available, and was on hand selling their famous barbecue. There were also hot dogs, pretzels, cookies, stout cake, Horman's Best Pickles and tee shirts for sale. Performances by the American Celtic Bagpipe Band out of Lindenhurst, and folk/fusion band, House of Waters kept revelers entertained.
Those interested in a professional designated driver, and in partying like a rock star, got the chance to enter the Blue Point Brewery/ S&G Limousine Giveaway. The lucky winner was Matt Ingram from Farmingdale.
Keith Palazzolo of Bay Shore, a member of LIBME and B.E.E.R. was thrilled to be a volunteer at the festival where amateur, innovative brewers got to stand beside the pros.
"I'm a home brewer and proud of it. It allows us to show off our beers, and show our brewers are equal or superior to other brewers. There's no money involved. It's made with love," Palazzolo said. "It's different, we're not trying to make amber ale or the next lager —we're trying to make something different. We did American pale ale with fruit from the prickly pear off a cactus."
President of LIBME Rich Thatcher was very excited to have the not-for-profit organization's brewers showcased at the prestigious event.
"Home brewers brought about 10 casks very creatively made from Scottish ale to IPA [India Pale Ale]... A home brewers dream is to become a pro brewer," Thatcher said.
Lauri Spitz, Long Island chapter founder for Girls' Pint Out was filling up glasses with her popular, Heather Honey Scottish Ale, made with honey that comes from bees' pollen from the heather plant.
"The Long Island craft beer scene really blew up in the past year," said Spitz.
Levittown resident, Kevin Yank, commented on what allows home brewing to capture the imaginations of so many.
"It's something anyone can do at home," said Yank. "That's how the Blue Point Brewery started. The owners started brewing their own beer at home, and then it grew and grew and grew."