Pairing beer with
cigars is always a challenge. So when Stone Brewing approached us with
two affordable brews that utilize Belgian yeast and an accompanying list
of suggested cigar pairings, our interest was admittedly piqued.
Cigar smokers understand that the difficulty of pairing a cigar with beer is that a cigar's smoke tends to overwhelm the flavor of beer. Stone Brewing seems to have solved this quandary with their Stone Old Guardian Belgo Barley Wine and Stone Belgo Anise Imperial Russian Stout offerings.
For those living near the Escondido, California-based brewery, this may not come as a surprise. Since last year, Stone Brewing has hosted three beer and cigar pairing nights, arranged by Beverage Supervisor "Dr." Bill Sysak, who also happens to be a cigar enthusiast, at the one acre beer garden facility, with much success. (The next one is scheduled for July 12.)
Stone Brewing has been brewing their versions of Barley Wine and Imperial Russian Stout with much critical success since 1998 and 2000, respectively. This year, though, the brewery has begun a new program called Odd Beers for Odd Years in which they'll be releasing new variations on these classics in odd numbered years (2011, 2013, 2015, etc).
For this year's Odd Year Release, Stone Brewing took its classic Barley wine and Imperial Russian Stout and fermented them with a Belgian yeast strain (hence the name "Belgo") that the brewery first used in its Stone Cali-Belgique IPA.
In addition, Head Brewer Mitch Steele says star anise is added to the Imperial Russian Stout at the very end of the mash, during the whirlpool stage. American and French oak chips are then added post-fermentation, with which the brew is allowed to steep for three days.
The results are
fascinating, especially if you enjoy cigars. We found that a Casa Magna
Churchill pairs well with the Barley Wine as it enhances the toasty
nuttiness of the tang and toffee flavors, and even brings out a bit of
coffee with it. The Casa Magna also turns the Imperial Russian Stout
into a genuine chocolate bomb and enhances the already pleasant sweet
Taking the doctor's advice, we also tried a La Aroma de Cuba Mi Amor Magnifico with each brew. With the Barely Wine, more tang and licorice notes came through and with prolonged smoking, hints of wood (baseball bat) and coffee.
As an experiment, we also tried a Padrón 1964 Anniversary Series cigar with the Imperial Russian Stout and discovered that it brought out coffee flavors as well as a strong note of sambuca.
Available in 36 states, plus Washington D.C., these beers not only quench your thirst with complex flavors but offer a unique pairing with your favorite smoke.
Stone Old Guardian BELGO Barley Wine ($5.99-$6.99, 12 percent alcohol by volume)
Appearance: Reddish copper, half a finger of head
Aroma: Unripe banana, raisins, tang, wheat, slight toffee
Palate: Bananas, toasty, slight rum, overall a very fruity finish.
Stone BELGO Anise Imperial Russian Stout ($5.99-$6.99, 10.5 percent alcohol by volume)
Appearance: Black, finger of head
Aroma: Licorice, zest of citrus
Palate: Boozy chocalate, nougat, tropical fruit (young pomegranate)