Just like beer, there are limitless varieties of cigars available to us today; when you begin to consider the range of sizes, shapes, flavors, strengths, and origins it becomes clear that there is so single rule for what cigar will go with what beer. We can however build generic rules, or guidelines to help you experiment – because the only best pairing is the one that you enjoy the most.
In part 1 we examined the 3 primary aspects of a cigar which most powerfully influence its flavor, body, and smoking experience. Now we will actually create some delicious beer and cigar pairings. For the purpose of this guide we will begin with 6 different generic cigar characteristics, and match a variety of pairing beers to each one. These characteristics are Long Cigars, Short Cigars, Large Ring Gauge Cigars, Earthy Cigars, Complex Cigars, and Milder Cigars.
For quite a long time long cigars were hidden from the public as shorter, more medium sized cigars were popular. Today though larger and longer cigars are making their way back into the mainstream, and almost every cigar manufacturer produces at least one long cigar for their clientèle. The classic long cigar is the Churchil, a parejo (straight sided cigar) typically 7 inches long with a 48 ring gauge. This is a very popular size today, but there are brands that are creating a sorts of variations on this size; some are slightly longer, some with a larger ring – Alec Bradley had even created a cigar called the MAXX EGO which is 9.25 inches long with a 50 ring gauge.
The key consideration with a long cigar is that you will be smoking it for a relatively long period of time. While they blend may be rich or mild, because there is much tobacco for the smoke to pass through by the time it reaches your palate you will most likely has a fairly full smoke to enjoy, and you will be doing to for an hour or maybe more.
When looking for a suitable beer for a long cigar you must take a few things into consideration. It should be a beer that you will want to enjoy for a long period of time and wont get drowned out by or sick of. The beer should posses enough character to and flavor to match the fullness of you cigar, something that is also mildly quenching or spicy is nice too to help you cleanse your palate over the long haul. You will also want to pick a beer that will be delicious when first enjoyed cool, but will also be suitable as it warms up in your glass over time. Finally, depending on the rate and which you will enjoy this beer, something that comes in a large bottle is always nice so that you know you will not run out.
One of my favorites that meets every one of these prerequisites is the Unibroue Maudite, a Belgian Style Dubbel brewed in Quebec that has distinct dark fruity richness, crisp elegant carbonation and spicy, is a refreshing treat when cool, but is soothing and delicate when warm, and does come in a 750ml corked bottle.
Beer styles that fit well into this category are Dunkelweizen, Weizenbock, Belgian Strong Dark Ale, Belgian Strong Golden Ale, Belgian Dubbel, American Imperial IPA and Baltic Porter. I would aim for something with a strength between 7 and 9% abv.
Depending on your lifestyle and when you typically enjoy a cigar, a shorter one may be your go-to size. The most popular size of cigar in the world is the robusto at 5 to 5.5 inches long with a 50 ring gauge, but of course, there is a slew of size and gauge variations available. Shorter cigars are an interesting creature because some or soft and mild, while others are powerful and rich, so be aware of what you are about to smoke when you seek out a beer.
The key trait that we will be trying to match is the smoking time. Depending on the length of your cigar it may only last you 30 or 4o minutes. Because the smoke does not have to pass through much tobacco to reach you it may still have much flavor, but will not be as full bodied as it would be from a longer cigar.
When searching for the appropriate beer be mindful of the wrapper and richness of your cigar, but choose a beer that matches your smoking time. This beer should be unique and flavorful in such a way that you will want to enjoy it for the whole smoke, and can deal with a mild temperature change. Depending on your preference sweeter or more malty beers will work nicely with a shorter cigar, but I would avoid heavily roasty ones.
This does leave us open to a wide range of beers, but one of my favorites is the La Trappe Isid’or, a Belgian Pale Ale with lush caramel malts, sweet apple and fruit character, and a creamy but light mouthfeel. This is a special beer you will want to savor for some time, and it shows a sublime yet complex range of flavors that will marry perfectly with a shorter cigar.
Beer styles that fit well into this category are Dunkel, Doppelbock, American Double IPA, Weizenbock, Belgian Pale Ale, Belgian Specialty Ale, Christmas Beer or English Barleywine. I would aim for something with a strength between 6 and 9% abv.