I’ve always carried with me a sense of seasonal disbelief. I grew up in Akron, Ohio, once (and maybe still) the American city credited with the least number of sunny days… along with being, by far, the most disparaged city in America, framed in countless books, films, and comedic monologues as a dirty little industrial town populated by simple minded immigrants. I also sandwiched in 20 years in New York, so the northeastern seasonal experience is what I’ve always lived.
Important note: I’ll not use this space to speak to what an amazing town Akron really turns out to be, boasting an embarrassment of riches in terms of cultural, athletic, and intellectual contributions to the world… especially for such a small, dank, dreary, low I.Q. burg.
But I will note here that, when in bloom, it is a singular, brilliant place, the mix of greens so stunning as to appear to be almost golden in it’s vibrance.
But those days are, admittedly, not all that prevalent, and this just feeds my confusion.
I’m assuming here, that the seasons are considered quarterly events, but I’ve always been surprised, on some sub-atomic level, based on my belief that we, of course, get three months of Summer, but with a couple or three weeks on either end to gently buffer it, or maybe just by acceding to my will, this is the longest season of the year. Maybe it’s because summer is so vivid in our childhood memories, a long and lustrous vacation from everything. No wonder, as I believe we are everyone we’ve ever been, the 9 year old out playing in July a particularly strong component informing my delusion.
So given my screwed up body clock, I’m always surprised by the coming of Fall, followed by the Great Grayness (reads like a Tolkein location, yes?) Once undone, I never really recover. So yesterday, 12/22, I was even more disoriented, as there was the great conflict between going to lunch with the sun out and temperatures approaching 60 at odds with my disbelief that it only NOW is officially Winter I always figure we’ve started Winter right around Thanksgiving and this one was just particularly mild.
As I review the above mess, I see how completely off I’ve always been, Thanksgiving considered the penultimate Fall holiday.
All the above is just getting this personal weirdness off my chest as I was planning on addressing a couple darker brews, more easily considered “Winter Warmers” than sunny time fare, when it’s only NOW become Winter… on THIS day also approaching 60 with a misty drizzle. Pretty meek stuff.
First, a brief mention of Stone’s Coffee Milk Stout. Got it in a 12 pack variety ensemble a couple weeks ago and had stashed it away for myself when the band came over. As it goes for most offerings from Stone, this is a real brew, not a novelty. Starting with a beautiful, sturdy tan head, there’s a lovely bitterness to it, almost all bitter upon the first sip or two. Then that touch of sweetness from the milk sugars reveals itself on the back of the tongue. Stone’s handling of the coffee is expert, evoking the wonderful, time tested Mocha Porter from our friends at Rogue. At 5% ABV, one could happily drink a carload of this tasty bev.
Yesterday, that unseasonably warm first day of winter, we went with a friend to a favorite local eatery/watering hole, The Lockview. We’ve mentioned this tavern often, as they carry a billion beers in bottles, while offering a nicely rotating 12 taps, growlers, and a really talented kitchen, as evidenced by previous posts here ranging from a random act of burger heaven to a brilliant Founders Beer Dinner.
This time we were in for a late lunch that turned into a super early dinner. When our server came up for drink orders, having perused the board, I opted for the Breckenridge Nitro Vanilla Porter. I love this beer as it is, but I’ve also come to really enjoy nitro offerings, sometimes as a novelty, sometimes simply by moving a beer into a different realm. My favorite example is Boddingtons Pub Ale. I’ve had it straight from a tap and found it to be good but nothing extraordinary. From the nitro can, however, it’s a piece of creamy heaven.
Another interesting one is Left Hand Milk Stout. I thought of it as I tried the above mentioned Stone Coffee Milk Stout. Frankly, I think it’s just a psychological thing, but as I very much like the Left Hand in bottle and tap, when poured from a nitro source, the milk sugars along with the extra creamy mouth feel is really quite the symbiotic delight to me.
So having the Vanilla Porter, with that red bean sweetness emerging when experienced with salty, savory food, more than enough joy as it is, adding in the creaminess with the nitrogen makes it a real treat.
It’s important to note what I ate with this drink, as it turned out to be outstanding. First up, whenever someone is offering a New England style clam chowder, I have to try it. It’s a pretty simple soup, and while there are variations on the theme, more often than not, there’s something of a ceiling to how good it can get. In this case, it was spectacular. Perfect consistency, creamy, but still a soup. Sometimes, people find it better as it closes in on the texture of library paste, thinking it that much richer. Not me. Everything was perfect, with a surprisingly different flavor element I couldn’t put my finger on.
When Jimmy Morris aka Jimmy Jams, one of Lockview’s chefs (and one of the overseers of their new taqueria, which we’ll be heading to for their soft open on the Monday after Christmas), the creator of one of the best burgers I’ve ever had, stopped to say hello, I asked about the chowder, whipped up by one of the owners, Bob Bassone. As Jimmy listed ingredients, the one that stood out was the touch of thyme Bob put in it. Now if you were to ask me what thyme tasted like, I could never tell you, but it was clearly the difference in this delicious chowder.
Then came the daily special, which I can only attribute to Jimmy, our burger-meister. As it read on the board:
“8 oz. blue-ribbon burger topped with tender roast beef, applewood bacon, swiss, arugula and garlic aoli on a ciabatta bun, served with hand cut french fries.”
Nothing super exotic but, a perfect medium rare as ordered, it rivaled the burger Jimmy created for me in the piece linked above. Drippy, flavorful goodness.
I then came home, stuffed to the gills, and watched my alma mater, the University of Akron Zips, win their first ever bowl game. Admittedly, it was just one of 40 bowl games this year, the… not making this up… Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, but still, an 8-5 season and a bowl win is a bowl win, as opposed to no bowl, or a bowl loss, right?
A great day.