Nic Barker here live from 19 St.James, I hope this blog finds you all well, and with a fine smoke in hand. As I’m (almost) into craft beers as much as I am cigars, it bothers me slightly when fellow smokers insist that a quality beer and a premium cigar can’t be effortlessly paired when approached correctly, so, having recently introduced my colleague and amigo David to Belgian beers, we decided to have a bit of a pairing evening, not with all ten of these, but here are a few of my favourites -
The beers are ordered from weak to strong sequentially, so you can scroll down in accordance with your manliness, good sir. Splash.
1.Founders All Day IPA - Session IPA – 4.7% (USA) / Trinidad Reyes (Cuba)
Herbaceous and piny, with a subtly citric edge, this moreish session beer is complimented appropriately by the vaguely vegetal notes of the little Reyes. Relatively mild in body, neither outweigh the other. The Reyes comes to a toasty, yet manageable finish, exhibiting notes of leather, earth, black pepper, and cedar evenly. Such a well-balanced smoke, and that bit better with this cold light beer.
2.Weihenstephaner Hefe Weissbier – German Hefewiezen - 5.4% (Germany) / Oliva Series V Melanio Figurado (Nicaragua)
Both flavourfully savoury, this makes for a lovely summertime pairing. Well, the English equivalent of summer. A classic cloudy Wheat Beer, though distinctive, containing notes of banana and clove, with a hint of lemon zest, works wonderfully with this ever-evolving double-tapered smoke. The Melanio Figurado is silky smooth also, lightly woody with some mineral notes, gently earthy at its core and with a crispbread finish, complimenting this crisp fresh beer accordingly.
3. Beavertown Gamma Ray - American Pale Ale - 5.4% (UK) / Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure No.2 (Cuba)
My favourite broadly distributed APA, and my favourite lighter-bodied Robusto; these work together juuust right – and not just because I like them! Drinks almost halfway between an IPA and a Weissbier, cloudy in appearance with a subtle fruity edge, yet still very much hop-forward. The Epicure No.2 (as many of you may well know) is, much like this beer, between mild and medium in body, yet immensely flavourful, displaying cool earth, cedar and a light leather, all in roughly even measure at its core. While the Gamma Ray is lightly zesty, the Epicure No.2 is lightly sweet, yet both are balanced sensibly beyond those qualities.
4.Siren Liquid Mistress – Amber Ale – 5.8% (UK) / Ashton Enchantment (Dominican Republic)
An unconventionally beautiful pairing, strictly for the adventurous palette. Pouring ruby red, with an off-white head and subtle lacing, displaying it’s burnt raisin and cracker malt base, full notes of grapefruit, peach amidst the heavy hops, the profile clashes delectably with the Enchantment’s pronounced black pepper and bittersweet charcoal notes. This red IPA does provide a palette cleansing quality with its citric notes also, adding another layer to mull over during this fantastic pairing. She’ll walk all over you, and all you can do is respect it.
5. Sixpoint Bengali Tiger IPA – India Pale Ale – 6.4% (USA) / Gurkha Cellar Reserve Koi Perfecto (Dominican Republic)
Pouring almost copper in colour with a rich foamy white head, the hops from this clean, balanced IPA present a finish primarily of orange and pineapple notes, and provide a pleasant contrast from this lovely little Perfecto. The smoke is a largely savoury affair in comparison, but because of the everchanging proportioning of wrapper and binder versus filler, because of it being double-tapered, and shrinking of course throughout, you never get the chance to get overly “used” to what’s going on between both smoke and drink.
6. Sierra Nevada Torpedo – Imperial IPA – 7.2% (USA) / Cohiba Siglo IV (Cuba)
Barely falling into Double/Imperial IPA territory at 7.2% volume, this beer is fairly malt-forward for an IPA, revealing a bready caramel character at its base, beyond the orange and vanilla finish. The pine and slightly earthy aftertones match that of the Siglo IV’s wonderfully, before an inch or so into the smoke when the stick really begins to reveal it’s signature leather, grass and spice character. Decadent stuff, yet a sensible pairing.
7. Ellezelloise Hercule Stout – Imperial Stout – 9% (Belgium) / Rocky Patel Vintage 1990 Petit Corona (Honduras)
Pouring jet black, with a small beige head, this full bodied but undeniably smooth stout comes off immensely malty, though with hops still notable, and with a chestnut finish, providing a wonderful amalgamation with the flavours brought on by this great little Maduro smoke; spice, coffee bean, brown sugar and fresh earth. A rich and flavourful experience all round.
8. Thornbridge Jaipur X – Imperial IPA – 10% (UK) / Bolivar Belicosos Finos (Cuba)
A mighty beer, and an equally mighty smoke. Massively hoppy, the Jaipur X brings forth ginger, melon, minty notes, whereas the Belicosos Finos exhibits pronounced spice, tannins and earth throughout, with a subtler leather and sweet side. Both are powerful, yet unnervingly complex, and to be appreciated accordingly. Additionally, at 10% volume, the drink may take as long to finish as the hour-long smoke will do, but then again, maybe it won’t!
9. Gulden Draak - Belgian Strong Dark Ale - 10.5% (Belgium) / Padron Anniversary 1964 Maduro Torpedo (Nicaragua)
Deceptively smooth, this Barley Wine doesn’t override this lovely Nicaraguan smoke, which isn’t a full-bodied cigar by any stretch itself. This yeasty, well-carbonated dessert beer presents flavours of dried fruits, caramel and chocolate, while the Padron exhibits a plethora of subtleties; namely coffee beans, black pepper, brown sugar and even a hint of dark chocolate itself. A real after-dinner treat.
10. Trappistes Rochefort 10 – Quadruple – 11.3% (Belgium) / Partagas Seleccion Privada (Edicion Limitada 2014) (Cuba)
Both massively powerful, and with infinite finesse, this pairing is practically a meal in itself. The Rochefort 10 pours near-black with a tan head, the Seleccion Privada is enrobed in a dark, oily Maduro wrapper. It’s all a bit presentable. An exquisite, full-on marriage of heavy, smooth flavours. Taste-wise, the beer brings rich molasses, blackcurrant, and dark chocolate, while the cigar brings bittersweet cocoa, dank earthiness, dark leather and gentler black pepper qualities. This is an absolute must-try experience, especially for anyone unfamiliar with how well a serious Belgian Stout and a fine Havana cigar can come together.
Do feel free to approach me for a chat in store at any time if you’ve tried anything interesting that you think I may like too, as long as it’s not Carlsberg and Hamlets, I’ll be more than happy to chat with you!
Smoke long and prosper, or, uh, something to that effect…