The first time that Blue Point Brewery opened its doors to other brewmasters, the luminaries of Long Island’s craft beer community had to fight their way through a blizzard to sample just two of its cask ales.
But in the 12 years since, Blue Point’s annual Cask Ales Festival has become a must for those who dabble in hops and malt. Part brainstorming, part drinking session, it’s where brewmasters and beer enthusiasts swap recipe tips and techniques as they try to concoct the next great India pale ale or lager.
“As friends and fans came in for the cask ale experience, the brewers were asked about the competition between other breweries on Long Island,” says Dan Jansen, 34, the facility’s brewmaster and director of operations. “Blue Point wanted to show fellow Long Islanders that craft beer culture was not about competition, it was about collaboration.”
Since its inception, the festival has given a platform to home brewers and professional craft beer entrepreneurs alike. On Saturday, guests will have access to more than 200 varieties of cask ale from 60 breweries on Long Island and beyond, a selection that organizers say is often hard to find. Thousands are expected to descend on Patchogue for the event.
Cask ale — or cask-conditioned beer — is unfiltered and unpasteurized. It is served from a cask and without additional nitrogen or carbon dioxide pressure, and is typically warmer and less foamy than beer from a tap.
“The thing I have always loved about the Cask Fest is that it feels like you are at a family barbecue,” says Philip Probeck, 53, of Centereach, who has been a regular at the brewery since 2004.
A TASTE OF CAMARADERIE
Jen Davis, a Bellport resident, has attended the Cask Fest both as a patron and a volunteer. Now she’s set to debut as a brewer with the Long Island Beer and Malt Enthusiasts Home Brew Club. Davis and her husband, Tim, have prepared a dry hopped hard apple cider for this year.
“The envelope is pushed further every event, and the bar is set higher and higher,” Jen Davis, 41, says. “There are so many brew variations that you would never be able to sample outside of this amazing festival.”
Variety has helped the craft beer industry and the Cask Ales Festival grow substantially in recent years, says Elyse Carlucci, Blue Point’s brand activation coordinator.
This year, 20 local craft breweries and home brew clubs from Long Island will take part in the celebration, as will national craft beer standard bearers like Louisiana’s Abita, Oskar Blues of Colorado and pale ale specialist Sierra Nevada from Central California. Michigan-based Virtue Cider will be the first cider company to attend the fest.
“Brewers tend to have a lot of fun with the types of ingredients that they add to their casks,” Carlucci, 27, says. “It’s interesting to see all the creative twists on a centuries-old tradition.”
Of course, what’s a beer without a pairing? A number of food trucks, including Island Empanada, Backstreet Burger, Naked Cowboy Oyster and Bobbique, will serve up their best dishes while local bands Funkin’ A and Andy Frasco and the U.N. perform live music.
“The Cask Fest is filled with unique options, a lot of them only available this one day,” says Scott Trinkwald, 39, of Patchogue Village, who has attended all but one fest. “It gives brewers from dozens of breweries a chance to have some fun, to experiment, and we, the curious beer drinkers, benefit from it.”
Blue Point will debut an original brew from Jansen: the Old Howling Bastard Barleywine with smoked oak chips and vanilla, a peanut butter and jelly oatmeal stout and a white IPA with banana chips and roasted pecans.
ABOUT THE BREWERY
As the oldest operating brewery on Long Island, Blue Point knows the recipe to the continued success of the craft beer and to its growing popularity, the brewmaster says.
“I think people are into seeing where the beers they’re drinking are made,” Jansen says. “In general, the brewing industry is very friendly. It’s a very tight-knit but open community.”
The Cask Ales Festival will showcase the personalities of the different breweries.
“It’s not a competition,” Carlucci says. “Everyone is collaborating to show off their styles.”