The cult section of the literary world

Thirsty Thursday – Stone Smoked Porter w/ Vanilla Bean

by Ross E. Lockhart

When did “vanilla” start to define the mundane, the ordinary, the conventional? After all, there’s nothing vanilla about the history of this rare spice. First cultivated by the Totonacs, residents of what is now Veracruz, Mexico, the tlilxochitl (“black flower”) is said to have first grown on the spot where Princess Xanat, on the lam with a forbidden lover, was beheaded, the vanilla orchids and vines sprouting from where her blood fell. Later, after the Aztecs conquered and subjugated the Totonacs, they developed a taste for vanilla, as did the crew of Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés (Neil Young fans may know him as “Cortez the Killer”), who brought the rare spice back to Europe, where it spent the next few hundred years becoming a spice cultivated throughout the colonized world. Vanilla, it seems, fueled the fires of Empire (sounds like a steampunk plot point to me).

So tonight, I’m having a Stone Smoked Porter w/ Vanilla Bean. Stone Brewing is anything but “vanilla,” having spent the last sixteen years working their way to the top of the SoCal craft brewing scene.

Stone Smoked Porter w/ Vanilla Bean pours a deep, old-piano mahogany brown with a finger-thick tan head and delicate lacing. Wonderfully aromatic, with vanilla at the forefront, alongside notes of chocolate, coffee, and smoke. Smells like dessert. Smoky, roasted malt and barley on the tongue, sweet and complex (and perhaps a hint of burnt toast), complementing well the vanilla, bitter espresso, and dark chocolate aromatics that carry through. Medium bodied, a little thinner and more refreshing than I expected. Bittersweet finish, with lingering vanilla against the palate, and a touch of smoke against the back of the throat. I’d definitely enjoy one of these again.

Book recommendations, vanilla and otherwise… with maybe a little bit of steam.

Clockwork Girl by Athena Villaverde. Pichi was once a normal human girl. But now her skin is made of brass, her organs have been replaced by cogs and gears, and her heart must be wound up every day in order to stay alive. She is a clockwork girl.

The Constantine Affliction by T. Aaron Payton. 1864. London is a city in transition. The Constantine Affliction–a strange malady that kills some of its victims and physically transforms others into the opposite sex–has spread scandal and upheaval throughout society. Scientific marvels and disasters, such as clockwork courtesans, the alchemical fires of Whitechapel, electric carriages, and acidic monsters lurking in the Thames, have forever altered the face of the city.

Ross E. Lockhart is the managing editor of Night Shade Books. A lifelong fan of supernatural, fantastic, speculative, and weird fiction, he holds degrees in English from Sonoma State University (BA) and San Francisco State University (MA). In 2011, he edited the acclaimed anthology The Book of Cthulhu. A follow-up, The Book of Cthulhu II is coming October 2012 from Night Shade Books, and his rock-and-roll novel, Chick Bassist, is coming this winter from Lazy Fascist Press. He lives in an old church in Petaluma, CA, with his wife Jennifer, hundreds of books, and Elinor, who is fitting in nicely. Visit him online at

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