Saturday, 20 November 2010

The first beer of Christmas

Samuel Smith's Imperial Stout


When I was first getting into beer, this was the first exceptional Imperial Stout I ever tried. It's a great entree to the style that balances intensity with drinkability...

Anyway, welcome to Rob's Beer Quest's 12 beers of Christmas. As many of you may have noticed, Christmas time is near. For me I would say Christmas starts from sometime mid November till the very early January the following year. It's about the build up just as much as the day itself and since last night the Christmas lights of Alnwick were officially switched on, I thought it must be the ideal time for the first beer of Christmas.

I know some might question my choice of an Imperial Stout for this but strong stouts are definatly for the season (tho not necessarily for Christmas). This claim is also backed by Delia Smith's Delia's Happy Christmas cook book (see page 23, a list of alcoholic beverages essential for Christmas). So there you have it, and you just can't diss the Smith.

But this beer wasn't chose because of some cookbook, I decided it would be a good opener to the series for two reasons. Firstly becase it brings back happy memories of a Christmas eve years back when I first tried this beer, and secondly to conduct a small experiment I have been meaning to try out for a while. You see in the past there has been much debate about some of the content written on the back Sam Smiths bottles, especially the 'serving suggestions' sections. For example this one it suggests you have your beer with:

Espresso coffee; Stilton and Walnuts, baked sultana and lemon cheesecake; steak au poivre; caviar; rich apricot glazed bread and butter pudding; chocolate baked alaska;coffee trifle with roasted almonds; champagne and Havana cigars.  

Nothing too specific then...

With a lot of it I see the point but would you really want to drink stout and coffee at the same time?? Caviar seems a bit odd too. But what about cigars? Well there's only one way to find out...





I have never tried pairing beer with cigars before so out of my small collection of different ones I had no idea which one to go for. In the end I used the old eeny, meeny, miny, mo technique, omitted the bigger/more expensive ones and settled for the Partagas. Short but fat in a nice gold, silver and red case. To be honest, this cigar was nicer than expected. Fine and mellow, like a Cohiba, but different. Part of me wished I'd saved it and not used it for the purposes of this blog post, especially since I learned the price difference between Cuban cigars in the UK and in Cuba (quite shocking). But what the hell. It might be cold and dark (wife's rules, no smoking indoors) but I have my delicious stout in Zak Avery style glassware and my Partagas.

But the big question is, do the two go together?? The umpires decision in this one is simply yes. The smokey flavours seem to complement the roast malts whilst not overpowering the silky smooth texture and bittersweet coffee-chocolate notes of the beer. If the cigar was a bit stronger it might not have worked but this one did.

So there you have it, a good end to the night. Have any other bloggers done a beer and cigar pairing? I don't think so. Who's the daddy? Ay??

10 comments:

Ed said...

A touch of class there Rob.

GRANDE CERVEJEIRO said...

Hello ...
My name is Ricardo, aui I live in Brazil and I really enjoyed of your posts, I'm adding your blog to my reading list ..
Pass on my blog and leave a comment, craft beer is growing in Brazil for a look of my blog .... link below ...
Ein Prosit !!!

http://grandecervejeiro.blogspot.com/

JayZeis said...

I am not a cigar (or anything) smoker, but I have always wondered how well cigars and beers paired.

Rob said...

Ed - That's right, just for the occasion.

Ricardo - That rocks! Have heard a little about craft beer in Brazil and thats good news.

Jay - Well I think the right kind of beer works well. I was thinking of maybe trying out some smoked beers with cigars in the near future.

number1dray said...

Who suggested that beer combination my good man ?

GRANDE CERVEJEIRO said...

Thanks,
I already am a follower of your blog ..
Ein Prosit!!

Rob said...

Well number1dray, it was more or less yourself. But the cigar selection was picked almost completely at random.

Leigh said...

Interesting match, there, with the cigar. Its a great beer, for sure. I had my first 'xmas' beer this afternoon - Bateman's Rosey Nosey. one of the few 'xmas' beers I really ,really like. Holidays are comin', holidays are comin'...

Mark N said...

Excellent post. An Imperial Stout was already on my list to brew in 2011 and now I'm just itching to get underway.

Paul Bailey said...

An excellent beer. Must try and get hold of some myself for Christmas.