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The pairing between cigar and beer

According to Italian legislation, beer is a drink obtained from the alcoholic fermentation of Saccaromyces Cerevisiae or Carlsbergensis yeasts of musts prepared with roasted barley malt and water, bitter with hops. Barley malt can be replaced up to 40% with other cereals malt.
To correctly understand the meaning of this definition, we will analyze each ingredient necessary for the creation of beer.

The water

Beer is made from 90% water and is a fundamental ingredient for making a quality product. Different water sources placed in particular microclimates give beer unique characteristics.


Malt is a cereal grain that has undergone the germination process. In brewer jargon, when referring to malt, it’s referred to as barley malt.
Other types of cereals can be used in addition to barley, such as wheat, oats, corn and rice.
The malt is responsible for the color, body and alcohol content of the beer, affecting some aromas, in particular sweet notes.
There are different types of malt that can be used, each of them gives different characteristics to the beer.

Some types of malt:

  • Basic malts
  • Caramelized malts
  • Toasted malts
  • Smoked malts
  • Peat malts

The hops

Hop is a climbing plant belonging to the Cannabaceae family. The part of the plant that interests the brewer world is located inside the female inflorescences and is called lupulin. There are two types of hops that can be used for making beer.

  • Bitter hops: Contribute to bitter sensations.
  • Aroma hops: Contribute to aromatic notes.

Hops Contributes to the aromaticity, bitterness, stability of the foam and the conservation of beer.


Yeasts are responsible for alcoholic fermentation. In the brewing world it’s very important to talk about the type of yeast used, much more than other drinks such as wine. There are two types of yeast that can be used to make beer, the choice of one or the other is fundamental since the characteristics of the beer will be completely different.

High fermentation yeasts: Saccaromyces Cerevisiae.

  •  By using high fermentation yeasts, beers are called Ale or high fermentation beers. They are complex beers with a potential evolution over time.

Low fermentation yeasts: Saccaromyces Carlsbergensis.

  • By using low fermentation yeasts, beers called Lager or low fermentation beers. They are more neutral beers than Ale, with cleaner aromas which, however, are unlikely to evolve over time.

Spontaneous fermentation

  • There are some beer styles that use a type of fermentation completely different from the other two, taking advantage of the yeasts and bacteria found in the air. However, this method is not widespread since it is not very controllable.

Beer styles

Unlike other drinks such as wine, spirits or sake, in the world of beer there isn’t unique classification system for brewer styles. Each producing country has it’s own vision. The amount of styles and sub-styles is extremely vast and often overlap each other with different terminologies.

The first fundamental distinction is that between Ale and Lager beers.

Ale styles
English wings: Beers with a fruity character that highlight the malt and the hops. Belgian ale: These beers are more fruity and aromatic of the English style beers with a spicy after-taste. Stout: Beers characterized by a very dark color and a very marked roasting. The aromas of roasting such as cocoa and coffee prevail over those given by hops.

Wheat beers: Characterized by the extensive use of wheat (50% and above).

  • Weizen (wheat beers) or Weiss (white beers): German style where malted wheat is used. The spicy character is given exclusively by the yeast.
  • Blanche or Wit: Belgian style where unhealthy wheat is used. Various spices such as coriander are used to give a spicy character.

The affinities between these styles concern, in addition to the use of wheat, are the light and veiled color, the fruity aromas given by the yeast, the medium alcohol content and the spicy and acidic character.

Light lager styles

Pilsener or Pils: Czech style with an Bohemian origin (the name Pilsner derives from the city of Plzeň). The beers use a very light base malt. They have a light or golden color and a well-pronounced bitter aftertaste.

Märzen or Oktoberfestbier: German style traditionally produced in Bavaria. The beers are presented in a color ranging from deep golden to amber, with strong malt flavors.

Bock: Light colored beers with a malty and hoppy taste.

Dark lager

Doppelbock: Dark colored beers that mainly use caramelized malts. The taste is malty and hopped, with a higher alcohol content than the clear Bock.

Dunkel: Dark colored beers with a malty and sweet character.

Schwarzbier: Dark-colored beers with strong hints of toasted malts and a slightly bitter aftertaste.

Lambic (acid beers)

Brewer style that involves the spontaneous fermentation of the must. They are produced exclusively in the Senne valley, in the Pajottenland region, south-west of Brussels, Belgium. They are often additional with fruit syrups to dampen their excessive acidity.

The pairing between cigar and beer in detail

Paiting a cigar with a beer can be a fabulous experience given the versatility of the latter, as for sparkling water and sparkling wines, even in the case of beer through the carbon dioxide, the palate is cleaned with every sip while you are being smoking a cigar. This type of pairing must be done according to a logical criterion since the line that separates a good pairing from a poor one is really thin.

Pairing according to the structure and the persistence.
The pairing combination for structure and persistence is also valid in the brewing world, like in the wine world. Here are some rules:

  • Light-bodied and slightly persistent cigars on the palate should be combined with poorly structured and persistent beers, possibly in the presence of light malts.
  • Medium-bodied and persistent cigars on the palate should be paired with medium structured and persistent beers, possibly with medium intensity malts, both light and dark.
  • full bodied cigars, structured with a long persistence on the palate should be combined with structured, long-lasting beers, possibly in the presence of dark and caramelized malts.

Pairing according to the spicing

Spiciness is another element of the pairing by concordance and is present both in some cigars and in some beers. In order to correctly combine the two products as well as seeking a balance as for the criteria of structure and persistence, it’s to find aromas that recall sweet spices, avoiding too invasive spices that could evolve into hints of smoking and bitter roasting, giving an unpleasant bitter sensation on the palate when pairing.

Pairing for chromaticity

This type of pairing is widely used in food-wine marriage (we talked about it in a previous article, the criteria of pairing). Beer is one of the few drinks that for an assonance of colors with the wrapper (capa) of the cigar can afford to face this type of pairing. The wrapper of a cigar, like the color of a beer, can tell us a lot about what to expect in terms of taste. The pairing is based on choosing a beer whose color is as close as possible to the color of the cigar wrapper.

What to avoid
There are small things that should be avoided when pairing the cigar with the beer.

  • The bitterness given by hops in some Pilsner or IPA beers (not all) doesn’t pair well with the tannicity of the cigar, causing an unpleasant bitter sensation in the mouth.
  • It’s advisable to avoid pairing cigars with beers made with smoked or peated malts. The bitter aftertaste of both products would cause an unpleasant sensation in the mouth.


In this article we dealt with the topic of the pairing between cigar and beer, starting from the legal definition of the latter, we went into the analysis of each element that composes it, water, malt, hops and yeast. We have seen how the brewing styles are innumerable and not classifiable globally but they can be distinguished in Ale and Lager. Finally we went in deep into the pairing between the cigar and the beer, through the criteria of concordance on the structure, persistence, spiciness and chromaticity. Finally, some advice was given on what would be best avoided in order not to spoil the pairing between the cigar and the beer, however always reminding us that experimenting with pairing is the main way to seek new sensations and emotions.


Image by carolineandrade from Pixabay

Sommelier professionista (ASPI Associazione Sommellerie Professionale Italiana) in sedia a rotelle pubblicato a livello internazionale con svariate esperienze nella ristorazione e nella organizzazione di eventi. Scrive di abbinamenti sigari - bevande su Gusto Tabacco.