This is a beautiful world of flavor we are talking about here; real beer and cigars that is. Both crafted by hand and passion to create memorable and enjoyable sensations. Both capable of igniting any situation and enriching your life. But beer is not the typical pairing thought of when smoking a cigar – spirits, brandy and cognac are usually reserved for that honor. But today we are going to continue to look at the amazing, and relatively unheard of pairing that is beer and cigars.
In part 1 we broke down the various aspects of a cigar that contribute to their flavor and smoking experience. Then in part 2 we examined the beers that would best suit long and short cigars. Today in part three we will create beer pairings for large ring gauge cigars and earthy cigars.
Large Ring Gauge Cigars
The ring gauge is a measurement of how thick it is – its diameter represented as 1/64th of an inch. The larger the ring gauge the thicker your cigar will be. The various standardized shapes of cigars each have their own standard gauge; for example a corona size cigar has a ring gauge of 42 to 44, and a robusto size is 50. Today though there is an increasing variety in the shape and sizes of cigars, many of which go beyond classical recognition. There are cigars with massive ring gauges that touch, and even go beyond 64 (one full inch in diameter). Regardless of the ring gauge, your cigar could still be built with any wrapper and filler, so you will have to consider the other characteristics of your cigar before making your pairing choice.
The primary affect that a large ring gauge will have on your smoking experience is three fold. First of all, there will be a larger surface area of tobacco that is ignited and thus a larger and often more billowing amount of smoke will be gliding through the cigar to your palate. Second, depending on the length of your cigar, the large gauge could mean that you have a long smoking cigar in front of you. And lastly is the experience. A large ring gauge cigar feel different in your hand and in your mouth. It is a very hefty sensation, and thus an apropriately hefty beer should be paired with it.
The beer you choose should stand up to the strength and power that this large cigar is going to provide you, so look for a beer that is rich in flavor and has distinct flavors. Anything to subtle will be washed away by your cigar. You also want to choose a beer that is a touch sweet rather than bitter. Chances are the smoke entering you mouth will be all consuming and probably quite full – a bitter beer like a double IPA may compliment it nicely, but what you want to do is both quench and sooth your palate so that each puff is fresh and delightful. Furthermore, bitterness doesn’t always react well with deep or complex cigars.
One of my most favorite beers that matches every large cigar is the Schneider Weisse Aventinus, a richly malty, mellow sweet, and effervescent Wheat Doppelbock. It is 8.2% abv and shows a complex and fruity range of malt sensations that tickle your tongue and glide smoothly over you palate. It will excite the larger ring gauge cigar you pair with it, and form the perfect bond.
Beer styles that fit well into this category are Scottish Export, American Amber Ale, Dunkelweizen, Weizenbock, Belgian Specialty Ale, Flanders Red Ale, Flanders Oud Bruin, Belgian Dubbel, Belgian Golden or Dark Strong Ale, Old Ale, or Wood-Aged Beer.
Earth may be an odd way to describe the flavor of a cigar, or anything for that matter, but it does make sense. Earthy flavors can represent a wide range of characteristic that emulate the flavor of grass, hay fields, sod, leather, or straight up fresh dirt. You know that smell in the early morning of your garden, lawn or a field – the fresh and earthy sensation? Well thats what we are talking about, and when found in cigars it can create a smooth and very enjoyable smoke.
Earthy cigars are usually not to spicy, robust, or dark. These flavors would overpower the smooth elegance of earthy flavors. So no matter the size or shape of your cigar, it will most likely have a medium shade wrapper such as a corojo, and will be a medium bodied smoke with mellow flavors of leather, tobacco, fields and dirt. Sounds odd, I know, but once you have had it, you will understand.
A wide range of beers can fit with an earthy cigar, but the best are beers that are also earthy themselves. The most distinguished ingredient in modern American craft beers probably contributes the most earthy flavors, and that is hops. Hops can have flavors that range from pine, citrus and grapefruit peel, to tree bark, fresh cut grass, fields and dirt. These earthy flavors are therefore usually found in hop-focused beers. So look for hoppy beers that build a balance of malt and hop flavors, but do emphasize a dry malt character and a rich earthy hop.
I go for a big American Barley Wine like the Southern Tier Back Burner. American Barleywines give you the perfect combination of a rich and malty beer with great rounds of flavor, a dry and warming mouthfeel and a potently bitter, earthy hop presence. The have all the characteristics to match an earthy cigar, and will quench your palate with rustic flavors allowing you to reflect on the earthy tones of your cigar.
Beer styles that fit well into this category are Marzen, Schwarzbier, Helles Bock, English Brown Ale, Dry Stout, American Stout, English IPA, Imperial IPA, Saison, Biere de Garde, Flanders Red Ale, and American Barleywine.