It may only be six months ago that Donavan Hall, Mike Voigt and Yuri Janssen received their New York State microbrewery license for Rocky Point Artisan Brewers, but the trio will soon be holding the Fourth Annual Nano Cask Ale Festival, an homage to small craft brewing operations here on Long Island.
Port Jeff Brewing Company, one of nine breweries attending the festival, will be bringing its Big Boy Birch Stout as well as its flagship Schooner Ale, with a cherry twist.
The annual festival first took shape after Hall and Voigt's homebrew club, Long Island Beer & Malt Enthusiasts, held an impromptu get-together after another cask ale festival had been postponed, and packed into what is now RPAB's brewery. About 50 people showed up, and the following winter, more than twice the number of people met at Dek's.
And after that, the trio handed the reigns to an event planner who, for the second year in a row, will be holding the festival at the North Shore Beach Property Owner's Association clubhouse in after last year's sold out. This year's festival takes place on Saturday Jan. 26 from 3 to 7 p.m.
Hall said that the small size of the festival – topping out at 150 people – allows those who really appreciate craft beer to get together in each other's company. While larger festivals also afford the opportunity, the sheer size and scope also invite many who aren't quite as interested in what the brewers are selling, but are rather there just for a good time.
"This tends to focus on people who appreciate good beer and not the larger population who, I guess, is often at the bigger festivals," Hall said on Wednesday. "The crowds there are in the thousands; you try to talk to some people and educate them about your beer who often times, aren't interested. So we found that by keeping it small and reaching out to the craft beer community, it means we have a high-quality, interested crowd."
In addition, Hall hopes to use the opportunity to educate those who are selling brewers' products – bar owners and retailers – about the uniqueness of cask ales (otherwise known as "real ales") as a product. Casks are naturally conditioned without carbon dioxide in what is essentially a large can, sat on its side, where beer finishes its fermentation process and is gravity-fed out of the cask.
"Very few knowledgeable sellers know how to actually deal with casks, so our goal is to provide, once a year, someplace where Long Islanders can come and taste real, Real Ale. Not just out of a can," Hall said.
On the local level, RPAB hopes to "introduce the people of Rocky Point and the North Shore to the breweries as well." The diversity in the Long Island craft beer scene has changed dramatically since the first cask ale festival, and breweries that may have been getting their feet wet at the first one have now moved on to much larger operations.
Those in attendance on Jan. 26 will include: Rocky Point Artisan Brewers, Port Jeff Brewing Company, Barrage Brewing, Ghost Cat Brewing, Spider Bite Beer Company, Blind Bat Brewery, Greenport Harbor Brewing Company, Montauk Brewing Company, Great South Bay Brewery.
Click here to purchase tickets to the Nano Cask Ale Festival.