Cigar: La Pluma – Principia (San Andrés Wrapper – Nicaragua)
Beer: Flying Dog – Raging Bitch Belgian-Style IPA (8.3% ABV – Frederick, MD)
Pairability Rating: 95/100
Welcome aboard. These pairing blogs are going to be a mixture of reviews and suggestions. Sometimes I’ll be giving you feedback on a particular pairing I’m trying out. Also, if I stumble upon something life changing, I’m going to share it with you.
Allow me to be honest. I decided to put these two items together for my first pairing blog because they are both very solidly in my favorites list in their respective categories. That said, IPAs are notoriously difficult to pair. Perhaps I could have bitten off a smaller task but that seems stupid. I’m here to do it big. I’m here for the people! You deserve the best!!
Alright, enough with the small talk. Let’s get down to business.
Cold draw on the Principia gives me a ton of hay flavor right off the bat. There is a light sweetness to it that reminds me a bit of sweet tea. I am instantly excited thinking about how that will match up with the bitter hops and citrus flavor from the beer.
Citrusy aroma. Almost smells like orange peel. A little hint of spice and creaminess to it. I’ve never really buried my nose into this beer much. I got it by accident one night and loved it and have gone back since. I’ve never brought it home with me, though. There’s a joke in there, but I’ll let it go for now. A quick sip brings back the familiar bitter hops and the citrus spice I remember.
As I said earlier, pairing IPAs with cigars can be difficult. Mainly because the bold bitterness of the hops tends to overwhelm the cigar. One mistake a lot of people tend to make is to pick up the boldest/strongest cigar they can. The idea they have is that the cigar can go toe-to-toe with the beer. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work out that well too often. The two bold flavors tend to clash more than compliment. In this case, the Belgian-Style IPA has a wheaty sweetness to it that is going great with the sweetness from the Principia. There is a bit of pepper coming from the Principia that plays well with the bitter bite on the back of the tongue.
Retrohale on the Principia has a grassy sweetness to it but also has some cocoa notes to it. It’s weird because I’ve noticed the cocoa before, but when paired with the beer, they really are coming to life. Between smoking the cigar, typing this review, and trying to pay attention to the human life going on around me, I’ve let the beer warm up a little. IPAs tend to open in flavor a lot as they warm. They should honestly be served at almost 60 degrees. After pulling this from the refrigerator a while ago, I’m just starting to hit my sweet spot on temp. I’m noticing a little more of the boozy tingle on the lips at this point. The hops are opening up and the sweetness has pulled back a bit.
I’m roughly halfway through the Principa and it’s like these two items were made for each other. As the beer warmed, and the hops took the driver’s seat, the cigar seems to have stepped up with the creaminess. I’m still getting the earthy sweetness to it, but the creaminess is playing really well off of the hops. It’s also pulling out the sweet malty flavors from the Raging Bitch way more than I’ve ever noticed before.
As I said at the beginning of this review, I am a big fan of both of these items. I was actually a bit nervous going into the review that I would be disappointed with the combo. I figured that, being a fan of both the beer and the cigar, if they didn’t pair well I would be wasting a good experience with one or the other. That said, I’m beyond happy to have tried these two together. Coming up on the end of both the cigar and the beer and it’s like these two are making out during the last dance before running off to get married. Ok, maybe that’s a bit dramatic, but damn these two are a great pair. The Principia wrapped up with a similar sweetness it had carried the whole way through. What I noticed was more cocoa and an almost raisin retrohale. Those flavors mixed with the end of the beer and seem to have tamed the hop bitterness and brought it to a sweet finish.
Overall, I can’t say enough about how pleased I am with this pairing. That worked out way better than I could have imagined. Putting it on a scale of 1 to 100 for “pairability,” I’d have to put it at a solid 95. I would definitely suggest you give the two a shot individually, but if you get the chance to try them together… don’t pass it up.
Cheers and long ashes!!