Craft beer and cigars go together like peanut butter and jelly.
Although many people think first of scotch or port when they think of sipping along with a lit stogie, a good beer can be the perfect complement for a good cigar. There are no hard and fast rules to finding the best brew for your cigar—or vice versa—as the combination is all about personal taste, which is subjective. Nonetheless, there are a few guiding points that can help you find a good match.
As we know, different styles of beers give of an array of flavors and aromas. Similarly, different types of cigars offer different flavors and aromas. Knowing the basics about the style of beer and cigar you pick will go a long way to helping you create balance between the two. After all, you don’t want one to completely overpower the other, and you certainly don’t want to overload your taste and scent receptors between the two.
In general, Jamaican and Dominican cigars are milder, Hondurans are mild but spicy, Havanas are medium but full, and Maduros are richer and fuller. And the thinner the cigar, the stronger the smoke. Meanwhile, IPAs, pale ales, and saisons will have spicier or stronger flavors and aromas compared to porters, stouts, and lagers. As far as types go, barrel-aged beers, Belgians, and stouts will pair well with a variety of milder cigars.
Avoid extremes on either end as you search for complementary beers and cigars. Work toward pairing mellow with medium, or strong with stronger.For example, try a lighter beer with a milder cigar, or a strong cigar with a stronger beer. You can also look for common notes—coffee or chocolate in both, for example.
Be sure to have the beer ready and start sipping it before lighting the cigar. If you start puffing right away, the smoke will dominate your palate and you won’t be able to get a good sense of the beer’s flavor or aroma at first taste.
Once you’ve figured out some general guidelines for what types or styles of beer you prefer with which kinds of cigars, you can branch out and really explore. Try a pumpkin ale with a Havana, or a Hefeweizen with a Maduro. If you don’t care for a combination, you don’t have to try it again.
Whether you keep a dedicated journal or scribble on your tablet, it pays to take notes as you continue partnering different cigars and beers with one another. Keep track of what was good and what was not so god, so that you can recreate or avoid particular pairings in the future. And if you really want to be an aficionado, make note of what you liked about the combinations that worked, perhaps even what notes you taste or smell in each beer and each cigar, and how those things interact with one another.
The more knowledge and experience you amass, the more you’ll enjoy cigar and beer nights. Long gone will be scotch’s monopoly over smoky card games and starry evenings on the patio.