I live very close to Red Hook, and I often take their presence in my backyard for granted. So, the other night the moon was full and I was craving adventure, so a friend and I took a jaunt over to the Red Hook Brewery in Portsmouth. The inside of this place is odd looking but neat – its a replica of the west coast Red Hook – complete with its earthquake proof architecture. So there are odd looking columns, and a tour guide has told me that their brewpub is *the* place to be in an earthquake in Portsmouth. (Believe it or not, there are occasional small rumbles on this coast, too).

So being that it is fully fall now, and the wind was howling in that way that it only can on a delightfully creepy autumn night, I was in a crisp mood. We were seated quite close to the bar itself. I first ordered an Autumn Harvest, because I was in the mood. The “Late Harvest” as they’re calling it came to me in an ale glass with a beautiful copper red color – perfect for the evening. The smell was mild with a little fruit or citrus warmth to it. There was a nice thin head which laced as I took my first sips. Its a signature red – spicy, smooth, light. Lots of spices and very autumnal. I think this is a really solid offering from them and I’m pleased to have had it on such an appropriate night.
As my food arrived (a delightful bleu cheese burger with “lots of bleu cheese” at my request) I caught something out of the corner of my eye behind a bar. A cask. This took me by surprise as I had *no* idea that Red Hook put any of their brews through casking, or aging. On fine print at the very bottom of the menu it said, “ask your server about our casked offerings.” So, I did. I ordered the cask-conditioned black hook porter, my friend ordered the regular Nitro/Black Hook porter so we could both compare side by side. And the experience was unforgettable.

The regular Nitro Porter (so named for its nitrogenation, not carbonation) came with a creamy thick head. Its taste was smooth, light and mixed. This one “curtained” down the glass instead of laced, and it was interesting, smooth and roasty tasting. The creaminess makes this one, officially, my favorite porter, because it never gives you any bitterness to speak of. 
The cask conditioned one (which means that it isn’t pressurized, and is served slightly warmer) came over with no head, but smelled so wonderfully of coffee and chocolate that I got all excited. The color was dark brown just as the regular Nitro was, but this one had a whole other game going on. There was a much more distinct hop note here – making the brew more complicated tasting. it has a bit of the bitterness that you would expect from a normal porter, but in this case don’t get until its casked
According to our server Red Hook has been doing little casked thing for at least five years and I never even realized it. It was truly an educational experience to try these two side by side. The atmosphere, too, was just right. Our server knew his stuff about beer (always appreciated) fun songs like “Only the Good Die Young” by Billy Joel were on the speakers and keeping us smiling, and the food was tasty too. The icing on the cake? The casked version of the nitro cost us exactly twenty-three cents more than the regular version. And I’d bet that if you try it, it’s worth the extra quarter.