Monday, February 18, 2008

Interview with Alex Hall

Alex Hall is a leader in the cask ale, aka "real ale", movement in this country. He was kind enough to answer some questions for us. Jimmy's No. 43 features 1 or 2 casks ales every night......

You Name?

--- Alex Hall (Alexander Michael Compton Hall if you really want to be formal about it!)

Can you tell us how you first got involved in beer, cask ale specifically?

--- My first job after leaving school was on the railway system in Britain, and the dirt cheap staff travel ticket rate (a quarter of the public fare) enabled me to regularly travel to all corners of England, Scotland, and Wales. CAMRA's Good Beer Guide was my trusty navigator to find the best cask beers in the best pubs in all the unfamiliar cities, towns, and villages I would visit, and as a result I became familiar with Britain's regional and localised brews. After six years of doing that, I was quite the expert on them. As a result, in 1992, I was offered a job in a new 'free house' in Brighton, The Evening Star. Recenly opened under private ownership as a cask ale stronghold, this pub strove to obtain real ales not usually seen locally. I thoroughly learned the necessary cask ale cellarmanship skills there, and two years later it became a brewpub for the fledgling Dark Star Brewing Company. I kept the cellar there until 1999, the year I emigrated.

When did you start the Gotham Imbiber website?

--- I started The Gotham Imbiber as a printed magazine in January 2003, and from the beginning it was also available on the web. I changed my strategy in 2006 and decided to shelve it as a printed magazine, converting the website - into a major resource containing a full city beer guide (Beer Demystifier NYC). My direction has always been to promote craft beer from street level rather than from a pedestal, and the Demystifier I found to be a much more successful way of doing this than the magazines. A local monthly beer publication exists in the form of The Malted Barley Appreciation Society's newsletter, which I contribute to now instead of compiling and publishing The Gotham Imbiber.

How many cask ale establishments are there in NYC now, approximately?

--- At the last count, 38 with it available all or most of the time, 14 part time (a gravity cask once or twice a month), with plenty more in the works - including a new bar where it is planned to have cask ales as the only draft lines.

What are some of your current favorite breweries that make cask ales?

---All the local craft brewers, plus Mercury (Ipswich & Stone Cat), Sly Fox, Yards, Arcadia, to name just a few. Not forgetting Dark Star too, whose cask beers are seen here from time to time thanks to importers The Shelton Brothers.

Is Gotham Ibiber still up? Is there a current listing of cask ale bars?i

--- Yes, is very much alive and well and serving as New York City's craft beer resource online. In addition to the Demystifier, there's a list of cask bars on there - though, to be honest, it's very hard to keep up-to-date the way things are going at the moment! Also, there's a national list up on my other website,

Is there anything we should know about Paul Pendyck and UK Brewing supplies?

--- Only that without his herculean efforts and dedication, cask ale in America would still be very rare indeed. Without the cooperage and dispense equipment he regularly brings in from England by the container load, it just wouldn't be happening. I am delighted to be working with Paul to spread cask ale's availability.

Any links you want us to post?a

--- My two websites, as above. Plus The Malted Barley Appreciation Society can be found at, check out their website and monthly newsletter. Also, I'm part of an exciting new brewery project - keep tabs on our progress at

Anything you want to add about cask ale?

--- That, if kept correctly, the experience cannot be beaten by any modern draft system. It is definitely here to stay - and continue growing in popularity.

Any links to good cask ale sites for information?

--- For cask ale supplies, I run an American cask ale discussion and message board:on our Yahoo group. For UK-based information (but relevant here), apart from on my own cask ale site, CAMRA is a good resource -

Alex, it's unbelievable, but we've had visitors from all across America who have learned about our cask ale offerings from the Gotham Imbiber list of cask ale bars!

--- Cheers!