Pairing Cigars and Beer
While Cognac, Bourbon and Scotch have long been the premiere cigar pairing drinks of choice, beer has languished in the shadows as an inferior cigar complement that could not withstand the complexities and deep character of a good cigar.
That is until now.
With the microbrew explosion that has taken the US by storm, a great many beers from every corner of the World have emerged to work in perfect harmony with cigars and deliver amazingly gratifying experiences. Whatever the choice of cigar size or blend, there is sure to be a beer to match.
So settle into your favorite cigar place and let’s talk beer pairing.
As with any cigar pairing endeavor, there is no wrong way to go about it. As long as you enjoy the process, pair whatever you like, always remembering to keep it in moderation.
Now some beers just aren’t meant to share your palate with your cigars, so putting a little thought into pairings, along with a whole lot of trial and error, will help to discover that perfect beer and cigar combination that hits the bulls-eye every time.
The sheer number of different types of beer makes it almost impossible to cover all here, so we will take a look at just a few of the many options available. And there is perhaps no more intriguing or no better place to start than the category of ales, a massive group that stretches from one end of the beer spectrum to the other, providing the most diverse choices for cigar pairings.
The reigning king of ales is currently India Pale Ale or IPA. Once a proper British Pale Ale crafted with extra hops to help preserve it for the long travels to Imperial India, IPAs have become the heart and soul of the Pacific Northwest’s beer explosion.
With ever-increasing IBUs (International Bittering Units, a numbered scale to help quantify the amount of hops in a beer), IPAs are no longer just a West Coast fade, but have become popular options for a great many cigar aficionados around the World. And the massively hoppy Imperial IPAs have especially gained favor as cigar-worthy sippers.
Exceedingly hard to come by, Russian River Brewing’s Pliny the Younger is one of the all-time great Imperial IPAs that will seriously liven up pairings with the best Cuban cigars. A Punch Corona would be a fantastic pairing choice here.
Dogfish Head’s 90 Minute IPA will prove a sumptuous partner for a Cuban Cohiba Piramide Extra. And for a pleasingly balanced standard IPA, Fort George Brewing’s Vortex IPA is a classic Oregon IPA that will prove a fine match for any fuller-flavored Connecticut-wrapped smoke, such as a Honduran Hoyo de Monterrey Excalibur Epicure.
There are plenty of other ales to choose from for those who don’t care for IPAs. Red ales are the next step that have also seen a rise in popularity, providing a uniquely different character to that of IPAs, yet still offering a hefty amount of hops.
Worthy Brewing’s Eruption Imperial Red Ale (IRA) is a winning choice for pairing with many fuller-bodied Cuban cigars, such as a Juan Lopez Seleccion No. 2. For something a little less hoppy and a little sweeter, Rogue’s voluptuous Hazelnut Brown Nectar is a thick and satisfying American Brown Ale.
With plenty of cigar pairing delights available, Belgian-style ales are not to be overlooked either. Belgium’s own Affligem Blonde Ale is an effervescent delight that will pair beautifully with an Arturo Fuente Double Chateau Natural.
Maine-based Allagash Brewing Company also offers some fantastic pairing brews including delicious Dubbel and Tripel ales.
Try the Allagash Saison with Bolivar Petit Coronas for a mind-blowing festival of flavor. And then for just good old everyday brews there are the pale ales.
Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, of course, helped ignite the microbrew boom with its Pale Ale, while others, such as Deschutes’ Mirror Pond Ale and Mad River’s crisp Steelhead Extra Pale Ale, have furthered the immense popularity of pales amongst cigar enthusiasts.
Lagers and Hefeweizens
Lagers and Hefeweizens are other categories of beer that some will provide tremendous enjoyment when partaking with a good smoke. Many Hefeweizens or wheat beers offer pleasing choices, with many offering hints of citrus that play off the more robust notes of tobacco for a scintillating sweet and spicy adventure.
Marzens, along with Pilsners and Bocks are other types that all fall under the general umbrella of lager and offer many cigar-worthy options as well. Marzen-style Oktoberfest beers are outstanding cigar-brews and have spawned many a tie-in between cigar companies and breweries. The Oktoberfest line of cigars by Manuel Quesada is the ultimate pairing choice for, not only Marzens, but a wide range of brews from pale ales to stouts.
Stouts and Porters
Stouts, as well as porters, have truly become the connoisseur’s choice for pairing cigars and beer. With big-boned structure and long-lasting taste, most porters and stouts will hold their own with just about any cigar.
England’s Five Point Brewing Company’s London Smoke Imperial Porter is a prime example, delivering sumptuous chocolate, tobacco, coffee, anise, smoke and fruit nuances that dovetail with the character of a savory Cuban Cohiba Behike BHK 54.
Goose Island Bourbon County Stout is another muscular brew that offers rich bourbon, chocolate, oak, vanilla and cream flavors that are a perfect match for cigars.
Chetco Brewing Company’s Block & Tackle is an award-winning Oregon Stout that enraptures the senses like no other when paired with a Padron 1926 Serie No. 9 Maduro.
And for the ultimate after dinner companion, the Southern Tier Crème Brulee Imperial Stout is a snifter-worthy brew that offers vanilla, cream, custard and toast flavors all tied together by a thick and chocolaty texture. The combination of this stunning beer and a cigar is not just a guilty pleasure, but it is quite simply dessert delivered in glass and smoke.
And that is the whole point of pairing cigars with beer… for the love of all the pleasures that leap out of each sip, each puff and every whiff of aroma. As with all cigar pairings, taking the time to experiment with different combinations of beer and cigars will help zero in on the ultimate cigar-beer partnership that will raise the bar on pure sensory ecstasy.
And next time your friend calls you up and says “There is a cigar bar near me that just opened up! Cigars and whiskey… my treat!” You can politely say “That’ll be cigars and brews… your treat!” So grab some frothy brew, spark up that cigar and savor the moment!
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