Its a warm Thursday evening after a long day at work, and the sun is just beginning to crest below the horizon. All you want to do is kick back and enjoy the smooth, relaxing, and calming sensations of a good cigar. You have plenty of cigars to choose from, but you’ll probably go for one of your old favorites. Your patio chair is ready, the weather is right, and all you are missing is the appropriate beverage to match your cigar.
A spirit is the typical pair, but you’re feeling rather saucy tonight, and you don’t want the potency of a 40% whisky. So you open your fridge and look to your beer selection. Yes, there are a huge range of beers that will perfectly match a cigar for you. In Part 1 we over viewed the primary characteristics of a cigar that influence its flavor. In Part 2 we examined beers that work well with long or short cigars. In Part 3 we looked at larger ring gauge and earthy cigars. Now to complete the gamut we will enter the world of complex and milder cigars.
Complexity in a cigar is no different than complexity in a beer, wine or spirit. It really reflects the variety and array of flavors offered by that specific cigar. In a beer, if it shows just one very specific malt flavor and a generic hop bitterness it is probably very one-sided and not complex at all. But once multiple malts and hops are used and you build a wider range of flavors and sensations you begin to build complexity. The same goes for cigars. Complex cigars will show you a variety of tobacco flavors bringing spice, depth, richness, smoothness, earth, leather, sweetness and more. Complex cigars are not for everyone, and they can take some time to warm up to, but once you do they are the bees knees.
When smoking a complex cigar you must consider exactly that, the rich complexity that this cigar is going to provide you, and how you should appropriately pair a beer with it. This cigar will have lots of flavor, a range of aromas and will fill your palate with lush smoke. These cigars are not defined by size or wrapper shade either; they can be long or short, maduro or Connecticut. So be conscious of the way your cigar will smoke when choosing a beer.
The beer your choose should be able to stand up to the complexity, strength and power of the cigar you are smoking. It should be equally interesting and have aromatic and flavorful qualities that match and contrast the cigar well. You should look for larger beers, ones with a higher ABV, probably over 9%. Imperial beers fit this category very well, as do strong stouts and rich Belgian ales.
My go to beer style for a big rich and complex cigar is an Imperial Stout. Something like the AleSmith Speedway Stout has both the power and richness of flavor to stand up to the potency of a complex cigar. But moreover it is filled with lush and complex flavors ranging from roast, espresso, coffee grinds, bitter dark chocolate, cocoa, hops, herbs, earth, and more. This beer is deeply complex and brings a rich and soothing match to a complex cigar like the Rocky Patel Edge Maduro.
Beer styles that fit into this category are Eisbock, Strong Scotch Ale, Baltic Porter, Russian Imperial Stout, Imperial IPA, Belgian Specialty Ale, Belgian Golden or Dark Strong Ale, Barleywine, Old Ale, Christman Beer, Wood Aged Beer, or Smoked Beer.
The term mild does not mean weak, or poor quality. Mild cigars can have full flavors and delicious aromas. But they are not as robust and heavy in smoke as a richer, usually darker cigar. The smoke is mellow and soothing with a creamy light texture and an easier overall smoking experience. Typically mild cigars offer much less complexity and depth than a richer or deeper cigar, but they can still posses fantastic flavors and produce exceptional smoke.
Really they are just built for a different purpose – not every cigar needs to be rich and potent. Sometimes you want an easier, more elegant stick. The same thing goes with the beer. You will not always be looking for the knock-you-outa-the-park beer. Sometimes, maybe most of the times a more soothing and drinkable beer is right up your alley. They key with mild cigars is typically the wrapper. Many milder cigars utilize a Connecticut shade or Corojo wrapper. Really anything lighter than a Maduro has the potential to be milder. The size and shape of the cigar will also affect its strength, but mainly you should focus on the wrapper shade.
A beer to suit a milder cigar should be equally mild so to not overpower and ruin your smoke. It should still be flavorful and delicious, but make sure you choose a beer which is elegant and will match the smooth mellowness of your cigar. Often I will aim for a beer with creamy vanilla flavors, but also a touch of effervescence. This will help match the flavors of your cigar while also quenching your palate nicely between puffs.
I typically go for a rich and hoppy wheat beer like the Schneider Weisse Hopfen-Weisse. This is an 8.2% richly flavored wheat beer with creamy flavors of vanilla and wheat with a delicate champagne like tingle that will keep your palate fresh every time.
Beer styles that fit into this category are Munich Helles, Marzen, Bock, Wheat Beer, Rye Beer, Altbier, English ESB, American Pale Ale, Brown Porter, Dry Stout, Weissbier, Belgian Pale Ale, or Biere de garde.