Parings 101: Cigars and Beer

Stogie Spotlight13 Comments on Parings 101: Cigars and Beer

Parings 101: Cigars and Beer

Below is the second of three Guest Articles we have for you on pairing cigars and alcoholic beverages. All three pieces have been written by Lindsay Heller and cover Spirits, Beer, and Wine. To prevent information overload, we have separated these articles by beverage type and will present them in the same manner. After reading what Lindsay has to say about pairing cigars and beer, be sure to check back next week to see what she has in store for you on pairing cigars and wine.

If you are interested in writing a Guest Article for Stogie Review, please take a moment to read our forum thread listing what we are currently looking for. The forum thread will change as we receive Guest Articles and consider other topics. If you have something in mind to submit which is not listed, feel free to drop us a line as we are always on the lookout for good guest content.

Padron 1926 and Samuel Smiths Oatmeal Stout

Pairings 101: Beer

Whether you think about it or not, let me tell you beer gets a bad rap. The American market has finally been embracing the European microbrew lifestyle as well as larger labels outside of the stereotypical “cheap” beer you most likely drank in college, so it is a great thing for those of you that love a good brew with your smoke. I have to admit that coming from a wine background I never used to give beer credit until a good friend taught me about beer as if we were talking wine and then I was hooked.

With beer we are essentially talking two different types: ales and lagers. (Although Lambic is a third, it is an obscure Belgian style that is not very popular in the States unless you consider yourself an artisan beer drinker.) Either way the beer you drink consists of four basic ingredients–hops, malted barley, yeast and water—and outside of the other botanicals added, the only differences between a lager and ale is the type of yeast used and the temperature at which fermentation occurs. Both lagers and ales can be thought of like cigars in the sense that their sub-types range from light to full, pale to dark, and so on.

Ales

If you are an ale fan then you probably prefer your cigars to be a bit richer in flavour and on the medium- to full-bodied side, and that’s rightfully so: you need a smoke with some “umph” to work with the beer and not be swallowed by it. Porter ales are great with cigars because the use of black or chocolate malt gives the beer great colour and flavour. Sierra Nevada Porter is creamy and rich and its roasted malted barley notes and hints of coffee and dark chocolate is a lovely match for cigars like the Tatuaje RC 233, the Upmann Vintage Cameroon line or even as something bold as an Ashton VSG.

While most people confuse Porter ale with Stout, Stout is actually darker, thicker and its overwhelming characteristics are that of strong barley and hops. Although Guinness is the most famous Stout in the world, I personally find this somewhat difficult to pair with a good cigar just because it is so rich. Guinness is amazingly bitter and strong in the front, but with the perfect pour you can definitely taste the sweetness in the finish; this makes pairing it hard because not every strong cigar can be so balanced. Honestly if I had my choice of smokes while nursing a pint it would have to be a Bolivar Corona Gigante (Cuba) or a Padrón 80 Años Maduro. Both of these cigars are great sizes for such an intense beer, but like the beer itself, these sticks are solid in construction and delivery.

If Guinness is too much for you on a regular basis but you still like the complexity of Stout, then I highly recommend giving a Sweet or Cream Stout a try. These beers are not as “hoppy” in taste and instead a greater sweetness comes through which is a nice counterbalance to the typically bitter taste of most beers of this variety. I highly recommend Sam Adams Cream Stout with an old reliable cigar: the Padrón 2000 Maduro. This cigar is not pretty to look at, but immediately upon lighting there is this hint of sweetness coming off of the wrapper and light pepper intermingles with some chocolate and lots of coffee notes; in fact as this cigars burns one could swear there is even a hint of raisin and dark fruit, which makes it an inexpensive winner with this tasty beer.

Lagers

Lagers tend to be more common in the American market for a variety of reasons, but for the purpose of cigar pairing, you would want to be drinking either Pilsner or Dark Lager.

Warsteiner is a Classic German Pilsner that has finally found its way onto even the most simple of grocery store shelves and it is just a nice, stable beer. It is a bit malty in flavour, but there are hints of honey and it is a very clean in taste. The funniest part of a Warsteiner is that it kind of does the opposite of what most cigars do on the palate: instead of starting off bitter like many beers and cigars, this Pilsner actually gives you the sweetness up front and the bitterness in the back, so pick a cigar that does the opposite. I would recommend smoking a Joya de Nicaragua Antaño since the Joya itself is earthy with some spice, but overall there is a nice floral quality to it for a fuller cigar. With some black licorice notes coming out towards the end, this smoke keeps the malt quality of the beer in check throughout.

There are not too many Dark Lagers out there but the one I will mention – Sleeman Dark – is great, so if you ever come across it definitely give it a shot. Sleeman is an all malt beer brewed with English Aroma hops and deep well water, so its malt flavours, hints of caramel and occasional toasted Earth notes have become a trademark taste for the brand. (Note: Dark Lagers are actually medium in body and ruby red/brown in hue, so do not get confused and think it should be deeper and fuller.) It is a balanced beer that deserves an equally balanced and rather aromatic (for lack of a better term) cigar. For the perfect pairing, if you can get your hands on a Partagas Series D no. 4 (Cuba) than go for it. The D4 is earthy and toasty and supremely balanced in its nuances and burn, but it also comes with hints of creamy caramel which brings out the same in the Sleeman Dark.

Lindsay M. Heller is New York City’s only female tobacconist with years of experience as a cigar lover and professional. She has been featured in numerous national and international lifestyle publications, such as Rolling Out, Cigar Snob and Europe’s El Gusto. Outside of her activities in the political arena fighting for smoker’s rights, Lindsay also hosts cigar events and classes, pairing seminars, participates in tasting panels and as a consultant in blending. She currently works for Nat Sherman on Fifth Ave in Manhattan. If you would like to contact her, she can be reached at TheCigarChick@vzw.blackberry.net or you can follow her on Twitter as “@TheCigarChick.”

enjoying cigars since 2005

13 thoughts on “Parings 101: Cigars and Beer

  1. Great article! I’m a beer advocate myself so I love reading articles like this one.

    I like to pair maduros with beers that have at least a bit of malty sweetness, so I usually go with a porter or stout. I also like stouts in particular because they allow you to sip slowly, as they generally taste better as they warm up (to an extent)…so even if the beer sits out for 1+ hour, it’s still tasting damn good.

    For cigars with some spice in it (almost anything DPG, MOWR Ruination,etc), I have recently found some seasonal ales that actually pair nicely with cigars. Xmas ales, winter warmers, festive ales, etc have some variety of spices in the brew that compliment the cigar nicely. Great Lakes Christmas Ale, Dundee Festive Ale, Goose Island Mild Winter, Harpoon Winter Warmer are ones that immediately come time mind.

    Connecticuts pair nicely with coffee stouts. Some of the better coffee stouts I have make you feel as if you were drinking coffee…so why not enjoy it with a cigar as well? Examples include Mikkeller’s Beer geek breakfast stout, Founder’s Breakfast stout, and Ithaca’s Excelsior Eleven.

    In general, I don’t like IPAs with cigars. The bitterness associated with IPAs usually clashes with a cigar (even if the IPA is well balanced), so I tend to stay away from that pairing.

  2. @beaverc32: are some of these seasonal and specialty ales or stouts a regional thing? Believe it or not NYC doesn’t have the greatest craft beer selection and I’m always interested in finding new things.

    I agree with you about IPA–very bad for pairing with cigars!

    1. Hi Lindsay,

      I live in Rochester, NY so I would imagine the beers I can get are similar to what you could get. Maybe you have to look outside the city though? I really don’t know…but I am fortunate to have a huge craft beer shop that has tons of different beers from all over the world (about 50% of the store is US microbrews, though).

      @Mike (KnightRid) – My experience in pairing beer w/ cigars is that if you smoke a good cigar and drink a good beer, they compliment each other nicely and won’t detract from the experience. I must admit that I usually smoke my most expensive cigars with water (and drink my most expensive beers alone) because I don’t want to miss out on anything. Recent example is a $24 bottle of Brooklyn Brewery Black Ops stout (aged in bourbon barrels) — while I am sure it would pair nicely with a smoke, I would rather drink it exclusively and enjoy the beer in all it’s glory than risk having a cigar alter the flavors I get.

  3. Great article! I myself havent had a beer in over 10 years now and I think I would rather reach for a scotch, brandy, or wine, rather than some of these expensive beers. It might be personal preference but I still think a lot of the beers out there will have an effect on the cigar you are smoking and the tastes you are getting. Some of them are just so flavorful that it dilutes the cigar to the background 🙁 I am basing that on others comments, since i have not drank a beer in so long 😉

    Mike

  4. Wow! I was thinking of submitting something for this, but I am glad I didn’t. You really hit it out of the park! I couldn’t really do anything as broad as what you have done, and I will certainly give some of your suggestions a shot. Great job and thanks for the article.

  5. Great topic and a great article. I am an avid home brewer, brewing about 100-150 gallons a year with a good friend of mine. It has become our tradition to have a cigar while the wart boils. I like hoppy bitter beer but I have yet to find one that complements a cigar in any reasonable manner. Lindsay’s suggestions for ales are very good and I agree with all of them. I would also suggest trying some traditional English style beers as they tend be have lots of malty caramel notes with out the bitterness. Even though the name is deceiving, bitters and special bitters as well as brown ales that are true English beers (We Americans tend to go a bit overboard on the hops) can complement a cigar very nicely. On a recent trip to NYC I came across a Brazilian beer, Xingu black beer. This would make a great paring with a good maduro as the beer has a taste that reminds me of molasses. On the lighter side I’ve had some great blond beers paired with cigars (Acid Kuba Kuba, RP Edge Lite).

    As for the lagers don’t be discouraged by the lack of darker lagers. The crisp clean flavor profile of lagers tends to showcase the malt very well. Malt flavors from very raw grain to nutty to caramel to a roasted and smokey flavor are all possible are accentuated in a lager. Depending on the cigar i would try a Vienna lager (Dos XX) or a Negro Modelo. Bocks are a great lager and come in many different variations, Shiner Bock comes to mind. A nice malty taste with just a bit of sweetness, which is typical for the style, and would make a nice pairing with a medium bodied cigar. I’ll end with what I have recently come to enjoy and that is a wheat-rye Vienna styled lager. I’ve never had a commercial beer that i could even begin compare it to. A glass or two of that and an RP SG-92, Cuesta Rey Centro Fino or LGC Series R and I’m in heaven.

    When I just started brewing I learned something about very subjective critiques when a fellow brewer questioned my recipe and then told me how to fix it. I learned subjective decisions that are a matter of taste only matter to you! Find what you like and go with it because the no one else is drinking your beer or smoking your cigar. Bottoms up and long ashes!

  6. Im glad to see an article regarding beer pairings. I thought I was the only one. That being said, Ive been searching for the perfect pairing for somwe time now. Here are a few dandies Ive made note of along the way. Try them out. I hope you enjoy. Some of these are beers native to the upper midwest and Ill try to find a similar nationally distributed beer.

    Perdomo Lot 23 Robusto Maduro Summit EPA. (Similar to Sierra Nevada IPA)
    Oliva Serie G Belicoso Maduro New Castle Brown Ale
    Arturo Fuente Chateau Fuente Rothschilde Maduro Red hook Long Hammer IPA
    Fuente y Fuente Opus X Robusto Fat Tire

    As you can see Im partial to the Robusto-Rothschilde sizes. Let me know if you have any comments on these pairings or any new ones to experiment with.

  7. Love just about any stogie pairing notes with beer who knew that such a tasty beverage goes well with cigars, I’m also on beer advocate which in my mind has too many purist. It seems you did not cover stouts, which goes great just any about any maduro type of cigar.

    Padron 1926, #35 Maduro (personal age: +2 years) paired with Goose Island Boubon County 2009 (cellared: +1 month)

    Tatuaje Havana VI Noble (personal age: +3 months) paired with Founders Backwoods Bastard (cellared: +1 month)

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