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Tasting Notes with Jim Beauregard: Finishing the six-pack, trying something new

You might’ve noticed last week that in writing about the mixed six-pack I was able to obtain from Hannaford’s, I only wrote about four beers. It’s not that I’m numerically challenged, and neither did I inadvertently drop two of them on the way back to the car — I just ran out of space.

So, first things first; let’s look at those last two 12-ounce bottles:

• Waterfront Brewing Company IPA; Portland, Maine, brewed by the Shipyard brewing company. Amber in the glass under a thick and frothy white head. It’s the hops and citrus notes that come through on the nose, with light malts. It’s on the palate that the malt comes to the fore. Medium body, well blended alcohol at 5.7%. The flavor profile holds on to some of the citrus that was in the nose, as well as a good dose of hops bitterness, but it’s here that the malt comes into its own with caramel, toast and nuttiness as well as some roasted notes. A good pale ale.

• Shipyard Export Handcrafted Ale, Portland, Maine. No alcohol level listed on the label, but 5.1% listed on the website. Average size off-white head, frothy and diminishing. Golden-amber beer with medium malt intensity and low hops on the nose. The palate is dry, with medium-plus bitterness, medium acidity and tannin, medium carbonation and well-integrated alcohol. Body is medium and it has medium flavor intensity in which malt also comes forward, with caramel, grain and roasted notes. Very refreshing.

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So, moving from beer to wine, I want to tell you about my dinner last week at Mint Bistro with my old friend Susan. She suggested going there, and I had never been. Knowing that I’m not someone who particularly likes change, she went out of her way to mention something new. She is just that kind of gal. (In fact, I have worked long and hard to collect around me a close circle of friends who avoid change at almost any cost. Take my friend Simon, for instance, who will proudly proclaim that “The only thing in life worth changing is underwear.”)

So, despite my protests, off we went to Mint.

Now, Susan arrived just a little bit before me and was seated at the far end of the bistro sipping a glass of white wine. When I sat down her first words were, “I was going to get you a glass of something, but then I thought — am I crazy? He writes a wine column!” She had a glass of J. Lohr Estates Riverstone Chardonnay (California) at $7.50 a glass. Knowing I was on the hunt for a burger I picked a Cabernet Sauvignon. Shortly after, we ordered dinner.

And that’s where the trouble began. I did order my burger. Susan ordered lamb but then, inexplicably, another glass of white wine. “Um, Susan, people usually drink some sort of red wine with lamb.”

“I’m having white.”

“Do you maybe want to try a nice light red with it?”

“Nope.”

“Okay, maybe a heavier red? Cabernet Sauvignon, maybe an Amarone?

“Nuh-uh.”

“Barbaresco? Barolo? Chateauneuf-du-Pape? Claret? Crozes-Hermitage?”

“Nah.”

“Malbec? Merlot? California Pinot Noir, Ribera del Duero? Australian Shiraz, Zinfandel, Gigondas, Tempranillo, Bandol Rosé, Petite Syrah. Brunello di Montalcino?”

“White.”

“Okay. Gewürztraminer, German Kabinett, Pinot Gris, Viognier? They all go with lamb.”

“Chardonnay. This one.”

All my expert suggestions having come to naught, I thought of the first column I wrote for this paper, back in the summer of 2008. In it, discussing wine pairings, I recalled the scene in the first “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie when Captain Barbossa referred to the Pirate’s Code as being “more like guidelines.”

There is certain wisdom in that. All this wine-writing stuff is designed to find wines that pair well with certain foods, that complement them, or that provide a contrast, and this is all stuff worth knowing.

At the same time, in the end, another reason to do all that research is simply to find out what kind of wine it is you like. And then drink it with whatever you feel like having.

So, by the long-established canons of wine pairing, Susan was behaving heretically. But, that’s one of the reasons I love her. Chard and lamb it was.

As for the red I had with my burger:

• Freakshow Cabernet Sauvignon, Lodi, Calif. ($11 a glass): Dark purple in the glass, still good dose of purple the rim, opaque at the core with the nose of black fruit. It is a balanced presentation, with which black fruit and some depth to it, notes of black currant, some earthy notes as well and blackberry, good structure, good finish. Just right for their burger and shoestring fries.

Nice place, Mint Bistro. I recommend it. Best of all, next time I go, it won’t be the first time. But I’ll probably go with Susan, and sit at the same table…

(Readers less averse than I to trying something new can find Mint Bistro at 1105 Elm St. in Manchester, between Lowell and Bridge streets. Nice low-light atmosphere for the end of the day and plenty of interesting things to choose from. Menus and wine lists are online at www.mintbistronh.com.)

Contact local beer and wine writer Jim Beauregard at tastingnotesnh@aol.com.



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