This is the case where a big, dark, deep, and overpoweringly rich beer finally meets its match with the equivalent cigar. Or if you are a cigar aficionado, here is a beer that can finally stand up with the CAO Brazilia. I’m talking about the Paradox Smokehead by BrewDog. This is really an instance of Goliath and Goliath. Each of these products stand out as some of the richest in their respective field; this is why I thought it would be best to enjoy them together.
Pairing a beer with a cigar is not always easy. Most of the time I will look to a spirit to do the job for me; the natural strength and huge aromatic properties of a fine whiskey or Cognac seem to match a cigar’s strength and aromatics so naturally. But, there are beers with these same strengths. Beers which cannot be tied down by commercial classification. These beers stand proud and bellow their flavor from the mountain tops. Let me tell you what this BrewDog stout is yelling, and why it was the perfect match for the Brazilia.
The BrewDog Paradox Smokehead
This BrewDog Paradox is like no other Stout that they make, and is absolutely unique to the world. It comes in black and gold labelled 341ml bottle, is 10% abv, but it bears a familiar name on it. The Paradox series of stouts are each aged in various whiskey casks for 6 months before being bottled. In this case, this big stout has been aged in one of the most aggressively aromatic Islay Single Malt Scotch Whiskeys in the world; the Smokehead. Smoke and peat billow out of this spirit and fill the room with char and burning wood the second you pour it into a glass. It is a masterful Scotch, but menacingly pungent.
So what is going to happen when you age an Imperial Stout in its cask!? Big things, very big things. When you open a bottle of the Paradox Smokehead, its 6 months rest is very apparent. Rich perfuming smoke fills the air with the strength of chocolate malts and roast barley. It pours a massively deep brown touching black and lets no light in. A short fluffy brown head build on the beer, but dies off soon to a film – probably suffocated by smoke.
The nose is hugely Islay – it is peat smoke right up front leading into a dark roast malt and hints of bitter chocolate, and caramel malt sweetness. There are touches of malt and a bit of hop bitter here, but you have to fight with the smoke to find them. The flavor is much the same. No Marzen I have ever had has brought this much smoke to the game. It is packed with still burning wood and char, and hints of sweet whiskey mixed with malt and roast. As the beer warms a bit it does bring greater Imperial Stout Flavors of dark fruit, burnt brown sugar and some nuttiness.
The beer is dry and aromatic with still the huge smoke and oak sensations pouring out of every sip. This is precisely why it works with the cigar. It is a massive drink with whiskey-like power and sweetness, but it can also match the power of the cigars smoke with its own smoke. Its a very unique combination; there are few if any beers on the planet that can bring this type of smoke, and really only few whiskeys even. This, along with the rich complexity of the Imperial Stout backbone make this beer an excelent pair with rich and deeply potent cigars.
The CAO Brazilia
In CAO’s linup of cigars this is the second strongest and bring its all to every game. I was enjoying the Gol!, a 5 inch cigar with a 56 ring gauge. This cigar has a deep and oily brown wrapper from Brazil, and hugely aromatic filler and binder tobacco from Nicaragua. CAO spent 5 years searching for the finest Brazilian and Nicaraguan tobaccos to use to contruct this masterpiece cigar – and they found their prize.
I do trust CAO, they have never lead me astray – so last summer I bought half a box of the Brazilias and ended up sharing all but 4 with some friends. So I have had this cigar before, but now that its spent a year ageing, I feel like it has brought out greater maturity and smooth richness that was as one point a bit aggressive.
I cut the Brazilia with my guillotine blade and went in for a pre-light smell. It is oily to the touch and shines a dark espresso brown with apparent veins and a smooth texture. The nose is also deep and rich with sweet leathery tobacco and hints of char. It is firm, but pulled very easily immediately after the cut.
The light was easy and the first few puffs were so sublime. Big thick and creamy smoke pours out of this stick and engulfs your palate. It is potent and filled with lush tobacco and hints of pepper and earth. Rich wood and char comes into play with some sweet notes, but complex smoke fills the air and gently caresses my mouth. As the cigar burned I picked up more hints of spice in the way of clove and cinnamon flowing in with the still creamy smooth smoke.
This was a masterful cigar and I am very glad that I have more left – they will be reserved for just the right moment. With the Paradox this was the perfect match. The smoke from the Brazilia was rich and powerful but not overbearing, and showed great complexity. It was able to cut into the sticky thickness of the Smokehead stout and bounce of its malty backbone perfectly. If you don’t believe that a beer can match with a cigar very well, I challenge you – and so does BrewDog.