Portsmouth: Book, Beer Pairing

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The scene at Portsmouth Book & Bar; photo by Christopher Klein

Could ale cure the ails of independent bookstores? Given the crowd that filled the newly-opened Portsmouth Book & Bar on a recent Saturday afternoon, it’s certainly possible.

As the winter sun gushed through the tall picture windows of the bookstore-taproom hybrid in Portsmouth, N.H., dozens of customers lounged on sofas, held court at a cozy six-seat bar, and huddled around tables imbibing books and glasses of beer and wine.

While cafes have become common appendages as bookstores try to fend off the Amazon and e-book assault, Book & Bar, which opened in December, adds a new dimension with beer, wine, gourmet sandwiches, small plates and pastries.

Brew lovers can go upscale with one of the local craft beers on tap or slum with a can of Narragansett, the sudsy equivalent of a trashy romance novel.

There are about a dozen choices on the wine list, and caffeine fiends will still find coffee, espresso, cappuccino and coffeehouse chatter.

The menu of high-quality used books for sale, many of them for less than the price of a beer, is even more impressive. Thousands of tomes are organized in sections from graphic novels to math, New England to Eastern philosophy.

The renovated, 2,800-square-foot space, located in the city’s old granite Custom House just a block from Market Square, retains the building’s 19th-century grandeur with lofty coffered ceilings and classical columns.

The result is a very literary atmosphere for enjoying a drink, a meal and a good read.

Good luck ordering that on Amazon.