Here I sit at my vacation place in the tip of the thumb of Michigan enjoying another fine day consuming two of my favorite products – beer and a fine cigar. Of course, just any old beer and cigar are not going to work with me; I have a passion for flavor from both of these pleasures. In my beer refrigerator, back home, I will have around 30 different beers to choose from and my cigar humidor carries about a thousand cigars. Why the variety? I just don’t know how I will feel or what I want to experience on any given day and my wife believes me – so I am staying with that story.
At my favorite cigar store I have been asked, “What wine will go good with a cigar?” Wine is another of my vices. Whether it’s wine or a quality Belgian beer, you need to match your cigar to the beverage for maximum pleasure. As stated on the Global Beer Network website, under ‘Beer 101 – Belgian Beer & Cigars ,’ “…tasting depends on many factors: the cigar you smoke, your personal taste, what you have eaten before.” Let me add, what beer you plan on drinking and if you are eating during while smoking or not.
In this article let me try to explain my approach to Cigar and Beer pairing, so you can maximize your pleasures. I will first explain my point scale system and then my word description approach.
I try to think of taste in a zero to ten scale, zero being very mild to ten very strong and robust. Start charting your taste on different cigars. Rate them from zero to ten. For example, for me a Don Lino natural or a Macanudo would score a zero for very mild. A Camacho, in general, would score 9 or a 10, with me. I would do the same for the beer as well, a zero for a domestic beer especially ‘light’ beers and then a 9 or 10 for my porters and stouts. Once charted, I would know my taste number and I would go two numbers in either direction for matching. Now, I am ready to pair my beer with a cigar to match.
If my beer is a 4 on this scale I want my cigar to be within two points from this tasting. This gives me a range from a two (mild) to a 6 (medium). The beer flavor will not be lost in this range. Whereas, if you chose a cigar with an 8 score (fuller), it would over-power the beer and the flavor would not be maximized. So, if I was smoking a cigar that was an 8, I would select a beer that would be a 6, 7, 8, 9 or 10.
Let’s take a look. The Wittekerke Belgian Wheat Ale: I would score as a 4, on the mild side of medium, a very pleasant tasting wheat ale that would be wonderful on a very hot day indeed. Also, I do not get any strong spicy flavors from this beer, just pure wheat beer pleasure. So, I do not want too strong of a cigar where it overwhelms the beverage or a too mild of a cigar where I lose the smoking pleasure. A nice balanced Cameroon cigar or a Connecticut wrapped cigar would do. The other day I enjoyed my Wittekerke with a Leon Jimenes Cameroon 300 and it was magical.
Just recently, I enjoyed my Piraat Ale with a Don Lino Africa Kiboko, a 6.5 x 58 ring gage beauty. The full flavor of the cigar was paired perfectly with the hearty flavor of the Piraat. Which reminds me – it’s time to fill the chalice one more time.
In our next installment, Bruce discusses how to maximize the benefits of Belgian beer and cigars by combining his point system with a word descriptor approach.