Sring has sprung! As we shed the parkas in favor of the flannel, we grow ever closer to being able to tolerate the weather outside. If you are like me, this means the first cigar is just around the corner, and the neighbors will be coming over with their choice six-packs of favorite suds. So today I would like to talk about some cigar basics, and pairing beer and cigars. If you are looking to get into cigars for the first time, then this article is for you. If you are a more veteran smoker, please leave us a comment about your favorite tricks of the trade.
Where to buy cigars:
When you are done leeching off your neighbor at the yearly block party, its time to head out and buy your own smokes. For the truly novice I recommend your local smoke or tobacco shop. We have plenty of places in the Twin Cities the specialize in cigars. How much you pay will be a good indicator of the quality. But if you are just getting into smoking a cigar, I don’t recommend breaking more then $10, at least until you find out more about what you like in a cigar. Once you know if you like smoother or more robust cigars, then go ahead and splurge a little. The next step is to go online. I personally use Thompson Cigars. Here you can get into varieties, or buy what you like in bulk. Thompson offers several deals for cigars that can get you quality smokes for less then $3 a stick. Sure you have to buy in bulk, but get yourself a good humidor (see below) and you can buy a whole years worth in one shot, and save a ton of cash on the side.
How to choose a cigar:
Okay, I need to start out by saying, I am by no means a cigar expert, heck, my status as a beer expert is a matter of debate on some days. I am personally just dabbling in cigars. If you ARE into cigars then I encourage you to leave us some tips in the comments section and what you would recommend for beginners. We would love to hear from you! Now chances are if you haven’t smoked a cigar before, or are super casual about it, it is probably a more enthusiastic friend that is doing the picking for you. Now when you are ready to go out to start looking for your type of cigar, start cheap. You can find cigars of all types and flavors in the “less the $10” range. Now I have splurged on a few cigars that break the $20 mark. And they are good! Generally they are smoother, burn better and slower, and are generally pretty awesome. But until I smoked a few cigars, I wouldn’t have known the difference! Personally I started out by getting a grab bag of 20 random cigars from the above mentioned Thompson Cigar. I keep the wrappers of the cigars I liked. There are some cigars that are smooth and heavy (they tend to have darker wrappers), and then there are those that are really sharp and linger on your pallet for days. Ask your local smoke shop employee, especially if you are in a notable place like Perfect Ash. If all else falls, just Google it!
Equipment you need for cigar smoking:
I worked with Mantello Cigars about the items everyone who is interested in cigars should have. Here is what they recommended (for your convenience we posted Amazon.com links at the bottom of the article to all these neat gadgets):
#1: Clippers: There are many ways to clip the end of your cigar, drills, punchers, heck I even needed to use a kitchen knife once in desperation. The most common way though are the Guillotine cutters pictured above. This type is all metal and has two blades that leave the end of the cigar nice and smooth. This helps eliminated loose paper edges that get stuck in your teeth.
#2: A Cigar Ash Tray: A normal cigarette ash tray just isn’t going to cut it, especially if you intend to smoke socially. The ash tray pictured above holds four cigars, and keeps them up to keep your tip in perfect condition when you have to pour yourself another beer!
#3: A Desktop Humidor: This little gem fits neatly on my desktop and holds about fifty cigars. It has a little filter that sticks to side and slowly releases moisture. I always thought these units would be expensive, but there are a lot of great looking humidors out there for less then $50. The one pictured above is $29.95.
#4: A Travel Case: I didn’t think I needed this, but now that I have used one, I don’t know how I ever lived with out one. This cedar lined case hold five to eight cigars. Now I travel a lot to breweries, and over to Germany, and this little gadget kept all of my cigars fresh, and damage free. As a social smoker who loves the bring cigars with me to share, this is a MUST have buy, and my favorite item I have for my cigars.
Pairing beer with cigars:
Now that you picked out your stogies from your desktop humidor it is time to start looking at a beer to pair with your cigars. In my experience there are two schools of thought to this, both which have their own merit. Both methods really focus on the the same principal and that is a cigar will deaden your pallet, and leave an after taste in your mouth. The aromas and odors can last for days on the thickest and heaviest of cigars. So the first line of thought is to mirror the scotch drinker. Pick a heavy thick beer, with deep rich flavors. Think beers like Imperial Stouts, Quadruple Belgians, the heavier the better. The types of flavors will pair well with the natural flavors of the cigar, and as people tend to sip these beers, they will last as long as your cigar does. The heavier beers will also lingers with more earthy like flavors and just mellows out that cigar after taste. My second school of thought is one I am still experimenting with, and that is to choose a sharp beer with strong hop flavors like an IPA or, my personal favorite, Pilsner. I find that a strong hop characteristic helps to wash away that cigar after taste, and wakens your taste buds again. Either way, if you are hosting a party where you are featuring beer tasting, save the cigars for the end of the night. Keep your palate clear and clean to taste the beers, and use the cigars as a focal point to discuss the beers you tasted previously, and pair with one of the above.
There there you have it. If you have any tips or suggestions about beer and cigars, please leave us a comment in the below box! Until next time, PROST!
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