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Posh Pub Pairings


Don't try this at home.

In fact, don't try this at Bohanan's Bar, eitherâ??at least not the way I did it.

I'm talking about my marathon sampling of all three of the new beer and booze tasting packages at Bohanan's Bar. In the course of, oh, an hour and a half or two. I didn't start out to do it this way, but somehow, things just kept comingâ?¦.

The tastings are a collaboration between the bar and kitchen at Bohanan's, with Executive Chef Heather Nañez, Chef James Williams, Head Bartender Timothy Bryand and Bar Manager Carlos Faz all in cahoots. What they've come up with is a trio of pairing “flights” celebrating beer, tequila and single-malt scotchâ??all matched to foods that are either cozy or confrontational, but in every way worthy of contemplation.

Tasters leery of the notion might do well to start with the beer flight and its cheese companions. There are five beer-cheese pairings in this session, and my favorite happened to be number one, pitting Hopus Bitter Belgian Golden Ale against a brie goat cheese and pumpkinseed pesto. It helps that the hoppy beer is superb, but the creamy cheese and the pesto each played with the ale in different, rewarding ways.

Another favorite was Flight Four consisting of Orval Belgian Pale Ale with Brillat Savarin triple cream brie and a chutney blending sundried and fresh tomatoes. There's a great, creamy head on this beer, and a spicy nose to boot. A hint of basil in the chutney was unexpectedly brilliant with the beer.

One match that didn't make it for me was a Chimay Trappist beer paired to a Chimay Trappist cheese. Should have been a slam-dunk, but perhaps it was too obviousâ??or maybe it was the star anise scenting the accompanying, rehydrated apricots that didn't work with the beer's clove component. What did work very well was the salt in the salted cashews and the sweetness of the Texas honeycomb with Samuel Smith Oatmeal English stout and a St. Andres Brie in Flight Five. With its aura of chocolate and toasty coffee, this beer and its companion cheese was almost a dessert course.

The tequila tasting takes a different approach to pairing: there's one food item stacked up against two different tequilas in each flight. (There may be only three flights in this case, but you definitely get your money's worth.) Flight one consists of two blancosâ??Siembra Azul (delicate and faintly peppery) and Hacienda del Cristero (bigger and absolutely great on its own); a cocoa-crusted mango brochette is the foil. The next two flights explore reposados and añejos with salmon ceviche and a mocha-infused mousse respectively. The Siembra Azul label is the common thread between all flights, and the reposado is definitely worth seeking out in the marketplace. Among the añejos, the French-oak-aged Casa Noble stands outâ??but so much so that it nearly wants to be alone with its cocoa powder and spice.

Surprisingly, I don't think I'm flagging, and there are six single-malt flights to go. Suck it up and stick it outâ?¦I swear I didn't finish any glass or plate. Well, almost none of them.

Logically, the scotches are arranged in order of age, from a heathery, 10-year Auchentoshan to a 17-year Bowmore lightly redolent of the smoke and peat of Islay. Profiteroles, bittersweet chocolate galettes and toasted filbert biscotti constitute the sweet pairings; seaweed-cured bluefin tuna and a brined and cold-mesquite-smoked pork tenderloin are among the savories. The pork and the smoky Bowmore were exquisitely complementary, but my favorite of the lot was the 15-year-old Springbank with the filbert biscotti; as the tasting sheet claims, the nuttiness of the Scotch is enhanced by its partner, and the two add up to far more than the sum of their parts.

The beer pairing will set you back $50. Both the Tequila and Scotch encounters are $60. This is clearly a commitment, but the experience is worth it. If, however, you prefer to spend your pocket change on creative cocktails, some of the bar staff has just come back from the Tales of the Cocktail event in New Orleans. This yearly boozefest pulls together both producers and practitioners from around the country and the world. Scotches were hot this year, and rum is said to be enjoying a comeback. With cocktail legends such as Dale De Groff in attendance, surely the bar boys brought back some new ideas. Just belly up to the bar to find out.

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