Staying out of the bars meant finding joy in a different drinking ritual. Credit: Bill Savage

The change of season from winter to spring in Chicago is all about looking forward. We anticipate that, some day in late May, White Man’s Winter (my term for the seasonal mirror of “Indian Summer,” blasts of cold after periods of vernal warmth) will finally end.

But this turn of season, from COVID Winter to Vaccine Spring, I anticipate something I will miss about recent months of working from home in a mostly shut-down city: cold beers beside a hot fire.

That combination I long associated with the family cabin in northern Wisconsin, on weekends when the weather might be fine or Pokegama Lake might be rimmed with new ice. The dockside fire ring was our evening ritual, and we’d stare into the flames while eating, drinking, and talking.

It’s not the same in the city, of course, but many bars and restaurants that battled pandemic seating limitations brought fireside beers back, and I’m glad of it. A mostly solo moment, but nonetheless a reason to get out of the house and away from Zoom, to have a little (masked and distanced) social contact, and to savor the sensuous contrasts of frigid air and cool drink with bundled-up body heat and the fire’s radiance.

So, as 2021 inches towards true spring, I plan to hit R Public House in Jarvis Square on every chilly happy hour I can, for a couple of Hofbrau Helles and the entrancing dance of propane flames.