Pairing Test: Beer

The Setup:

We had so much fun trying various soda pairings, we couldn’t help but do the experiment again with beer. There are way too many beer varieties for one smoke session, so we chose six beers that represented a wide array of flavors and styles.  We tried to go from lightest to darkest but forgot about the Dundee Pilsner so we went lightest to darker to lighter to darkest. It all worked out in the end.

Some general notes about the process: There are two of us, so in the time it took to smoke these Gran Toro Undercrowns, we each had about three beers. I know that doesn’t sound like a lot, but it was enough to…make things interesting. Despite the fact that he is a giant, Nick is quite the lightweight. Full disclosure, Nick got drunk. You cannot rely on his reviews of the pairings that came towards the end of the test. You can rely on Chris (the other Cigar Nub) for those.

For those who may be unfamiliar with the Undercrown, know that it is a medium bodied smoke with creamy, delicious flavors. Our full review of the stick will be up in the coming days. Now, on to the pairings…

Hofbräu Original:

We both have a special place in our hearts for Hofbräu, as the Hofbräuhaus in Munich is one of our favorite places to hang out in Germany. Drinking this beer immediately transports me to a world of beer gardens and encleavaged beer maidens carrying twelve liters of beer at a time. Spell check says “encleavaged” isn’t a word. How about buxom? Yep, there we go. Even with my love for this beer, I didn’t expect it to pair all that well with the Undercrown. I was wrong. This Munich Helles Lager is super clean and crisp and does an excellent job clearing the palate in preparation for the next puff.

Yazoo Pale Ale:

Being from Nashville, we would be committing some sort of felony by failing to include a Yazoo beer in our comparison. The Tennessee penal code is pretty weird. Knowing that we needed a variety of beer types in this test, we chose the Yazoo Pale Ale. While I love this beer due to its delicious fruity and malty qualities, neither of us found it to be a great pair with the cigar. The flavors, as good as they are, linger on the palate. This ends up overpowering the Undercrown and left us feeling like we were pairing the cigar with the beer, rather than the other way around. A fantastic beer, but not one we would pair with the Undercrown again.

Franziskaner Weissbeir:

With strong notes of citrus and fruit, this is one easy beer to drink. The problem with this, and perhaps every other hefeweizen, is that the flavor of the beer really lingers. When pairing a drink with a cigar, I like to sip something that cleanses the palate between puffs, but then fades away and lets you get on with your life. The Franziskaner sticks with you, and as a result, obscures the subtleties of the cigar.  In short, good beer, bad pair.

Dos Equis Amber Ale:

I don’t always pair beer with cigars, but when I do, I prefer something other than Dos Equis. Basically, everything that we thought about the Yazoo also applies to the Dos Equis. Overall, I was surprised by how much I liked the Dos Equis on it’s own. I guess I had never given it a chance before. It’s just not a great cigar pair because the flavors are  at odds with the cigar. Rather than creating harmony in my mouth, it created gross.

Dundee Pilsner:

We both had high hopes for the pilsner pairing. Typically, pilsners tend to be crisp and clean with a nice hoppiness on the finish — qualities that we find desirable in a cigar accompaniment. This is one of the least hopped up pilsners we have ever tasted and the result is a completely forgettable experience. The best and worst thing to be said about the Dundee is that you won’t remember drinking it. While it certainly didn’t detract from the cigar experience, it didn’t stand out either. It might have also been unmemorable because we were drunk at this point. Unsure on that.

Guinness Extra Stout:

Before starting this test, Vegas oddsmakers had Guinness Extra Stout pegged as most likely to win. Vegas had us fooled. While there are some good flavors here that compliment the Undercrown well (coffee and hints of chocolate); the bitterness ends up being a little too overpowering for our liking. Not much else to add really.  Bitter with cigar was not the best. Don’t get me wrong, I love the beer on it’s own, but as with a lot of these, the flavor was too much for the cigar to overcome.

The Winner:

When all was said and done, we were a little bit intoxicated and had to determine which pair we enjoyed the most. While we enjoyed all the beers mentioned here, the true winner is the Hofbräu. Emotional connections to the beer aside, the Germans take the cake for having the beer that does the best job of cleansing the palate between puffs and enhancing the overall smoking experience. Before lighting up your next Undercrown, try finding some Hofbräu Original to enjoy with your smoke and let us know what you think!