The Session #20 - Peculier, isn't it?
There's an amazing array of microclimates in the Bay Area, thanks mostly to curious geography, a dramatic maritime influence, and an alternating of coolness and hot air from the legions of fixed-gear bike riders. Within minutes upon crossing the Golden Gate bridge, for example, it's not uncommon for the temperature to swing by twenty degrees, especially in the summer, when the supreme fog-producing power of the Marin Headlands and Golden Gate Park gets into high gear, beating back the waves of heat rolling in from the Central Valley with a tenacious soup of dampness so incarnate that folks mistaking it for rain is easily forgiven.
Outside of the grasp of the fog, which makes itself at home nearly year-round, erasing any semblance of passing seasons, the world carries on as usual. Having spent the majority of my life under that cozy blanket of gray gravy, though, the past four years living out on its periphery have been somewhat enlightening (summer hot! winter cold!) if not also tinged with nostalgic longings for such simple things, like wearing black year-round, never really needing sunglasses, and subsisting on a diet solely based on comfort food.
Having a perilously iffy memory, I hadn't actually intended on participating in this round of the Session, but thanks to an unlikely convergence (and I guess that's how memory works, anyway) of this image, along with the strangely unseasonable (if not entirely uncommon in these parts) appearance of my old friend Boss Fog crawling westward through the trees, having clamored over Nicasio Ridge, wading through the forest of Geronimo Valley, and finally pushing past White Hill down into the Ross Valley, up into the cuffs of my shirt and the legs of my pants, that old familiar chill down in the bones that led Mark Twain to not make make mention of it, I was struck by the realization that I can't imagine enjoying a Theakston's Old Peculier without the lingering visage of Mario's Bohemian Cigar Shop in North Beach, nor the accompaniment of a fine, fat, Italian sausage sandwich on grilled focaccia.
The same place where I first experienced Ommegang, early in my awakening love for yummy beers, Mario's is an unassuming joint in a neighborhood thick with unassuming joints, not a "beer" place by any means, nor a destination diner truly worthy of the commute it would take me to get there now by virtue of its offerings alone. There is the endless procession of the fantasy fishbowl provided by the foot traffic of Washington Square, there is the seemingly always available window seat from which to view it, and there are the tiny tables at which voices can get close and quiet and conspiratorial, all at the expense of those unknowing tourists and troublemakers out there on Columbus Ave.
A dark, different, yet easily quaffable beer that stands up kindly to the thickest Sunday gravy, Old Peculier was a great introduction to the concept of dark, robust old-slash-strong ales in the British tradition, a far cry from the stouts and porters of the Pacific Northwest. Not surprisingly, it's also quite at home when set in front of a monochrome backdrop of vaporous, gooey fog. The tinges of nostalgia kicked in when I saw that image on my screen, while out the window to my right, the bay trees were disappearing into a gradual, erasing mist.
And now the real rain is closing in, which brings Eugene, Oregon back to mind, and along with it, many, many other beers. First one: Mississippi Mud. Busting open fake jugs with Alex while breaking my knuckles trying to crack John Hurt's fingerstyle code. Don't ask me why that one, and not one of the amazing, iconic brews of the region that impressed upon my palate so, helping to turn me into the snob I am today.
I think that about does it. There's really no narrative closing here. It's just a memory, after all. I'm just happy to know that my horrible inability to reminisce with clarity doesn't mean that with the right stimulus, a a place and a mood and a time in my life can be brought so quickly, whip-crackingly back into focus like that.
The Session is a blog carnival originated by Stan Hieronymus at Appellation Beer. This month's party is being hosted by Bathtub Brewery. For a summary of the Sessions thus far, check out Brookston's handy guide.
Labels: the session