Local brewers raise a glass at Cask Ale Fest in Marcy
MARCY — A crisp, autumn day was exactly what the brewer ordered for the seventh annual Cask Ale Fest, held at the Woodland Farm Brewery on Trenton Road, just north of Utica, on Saturday.
Hundreds of beer-lovers, ale-drinkers and stout fans gathered under the big, white tent for live music and several rounds of drinks from more than a dozen local breweries.
"Cask ale is the traditional way of serving beer, before kegging and forced carbonation were ever a thing. So the beer is finished carbonating in a stainless steel cask," Keith Redhead, owner and operator of Woodland Farm Brewery, explained. He runs Woodland with his wife, Katie, and 15 employees.
"Since it's a traditional thing, there are breweries that focus on brewing more traditional styles for the Cask Fest. There are also some that get a little creative and are able to throw in extra hops; some people have thrown in extra fruit. You can flavor the beer, specifically, in a 5 or 10 gallon cask. It gives a little more experimentation."
Woodland Farm will celebrate its seventh anniversary in January, and has held the Cask Ale Fest every year — with a scaled down version for the pandemic in 2020. Redhead said all of their drinks are brewed in-house, with the tap room open every Tuesday through Sunday.
They are expanding into a second tap room in the Hulbert House in Boonville in time for Thanksgiving.
"I love beer," Redhead said with a chuckle. He started brewing on the side of a teaching career in Rome and Oriskany, before opening his own brewery.
"As long as I was teaching, I was also home-brewing as a hobby. I spent probably as much time reading about beer and learning about beer, and the chemistry, and all that's entailed in the brewing process, as I did on my lesson plans."
The Cask Ale Fest featured such local breweries as 7 Hamlets Brewing in Westmoreland, 16 Stone Brewpub in Holland Patent and Bagg's Square Brewing in Utica, along with breweries from Syracuse, Cooperstown, Rochester and beyond.
"It's going excellent. There are a lot of different styles. The crowd is very friendly. I see a lot of locals, and a lot of new people. It's nice to have a local festival," said Keith Richards, from 7 Hamlets Brewing in Westmoreland. He said Saturday was his first appearance at the festival, and he had contributed casks for the past two years.
"Brewing is a lot of physical work, but at the same point, it's nice to experiment with beer and do different things," said Richards, who started as a home brewer before going commercial.
Hundreds of people visited Cask Ale Fest Saturday afternoon, both local regulars and visitors from out of state.
Praveen Ravi and Shweta Bala, from New Jersey, said they were in town for the weekend and didn't even know about the festival until they just happened to pass by. As fans of beer, they said they decided to stop by and have a taste.
"So far so good. We honestly didn't know it was happening. So we're sitting here enjoying the music. We wanted to catch a brewery that was also dark, which is why we're here. I'm drinking the one that's always the strongest," said Ravi.
"It's an awesome day to be outside," Ravi said, beer in hand.
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