THE EDITOR’S DESK :: Pairing a Great Beer and a Fine Cigar – Trappist Rochefort 10 and the Tatuaje Petite Havana Cazadores

by Harvey Gold - Dave Daugherty on December 10, 2012

Here at YBN we love to pair beer with food, spirits, and cigars. We also post a blog, Thrift Store Records/Cheap Red  Wine, and as evidenced recently at our Beer Clinic, we even pair beer with Arias.

This one involved a trip to a new favorite haunt, written about here recently, Havana House. Dave in town, the proud papa seeing his son graduate from college, we decided to meet up there and try a little something and something.

As we know, Havana House carries so much of everything, it could be overwhelming, but I was on a mission. First, as Dr. Carol observed in her most recent piece on Opera and Beer, Trappist Rochefort 10 is considered one of the best beers in the world by pretty much everyone. Some call it THE BEST, so clearly, we needed to try it, and of course, HH had it in the cooler.

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I had written a piece a while back, pairing Mortlach 15 Speyside Single Malt Scotch with a Cohiba Black Pequeno. In this piece, we were graced by a bit of a cigar tutorial from Havana House’s Tony Bellatto, in which he suggested that, if I liked the Cohiba, to next try a Tatuaje Brown label Noella, or an Illusione Epernay Le Petite. As HH was out of the Noella on this occasion, I was directed by Havana House’s Steve to a Tatuaje Petite Havana Cazadores to accompany this legendary beer.

This pairing turned out to be genius. The Trappist Rochefort poured dark and almost purple. Nothing about the nose was overwhelming even as it warmed, but it was faintly sweet and distinctive. Probably based on the alcohol level, it came to me with the hint of, maybe, a nice sweet and oaky Port.

Upon first sip, even quite cold, it presented an unusually high level of flavor. We could taste the sweetness, of course, immediately, a figgy richness, and no separate expression of alcohol, even with it’s 11.3% ABV!

We then fired up the Havana Cazadores’. I did so carefully, as I’ve found some smaller cigars should be drawn gently and carefully as they can bite rather easily, this described as a “Havana Cazadores caught in a shrink-ray.” Featuring Nicarauguan filler and an Ecuadorian wrap, it started with some pepper, much like the Cohiba, but presented as a more rounded and substantial smoke. A “brown” and earthy smoke, it both offset and complemented the Trappist Rochefort.

At first, the warmth and pepper of the Cazadores, and the increase in temperature of this Trappist ale, I suspect, resulted in the most heavenly drinking experience. The carbonation and sweetness cut through and cooled my palate while producing no bitterness, nothing cloying in it’s sweetness or sticky to the tongue. I began to taste molasses and a very subtle fruitiness, perhaps the fig I first detected, now less as fruit and more of a richness.

Overall, I felt I was drinking a very simple Ale brewed to perfection. This, I think, is probably illusion. Most claim a great complexity here. I suspect it’s partially my own lack of depth, but I also think it’s such a perfectly balanced beer with little jumping out, the whole truly the “sum of the parts,” that it comes to me as “simple” and extraordinarily delicious. So, as perception is reality, that’s where I’ll leave it: a simple and perfect beer. The last sip was as properly weighted as the first, something one doesn’t see that often, particularly in dark, malt driven ales, which can gain weight with temperature. Not a bad thing, mind you, just an observation. This very consistency throughout in the Rochefort, though, seemed to bely the high alcohol content, clearly boosting the flavor while hiding out…. until, of course the imbiber realizes precisely how “happy” he or she is at the end.

This happiness, however, can’t exclude the contribution of the fine Cazadores to this pairing! The draw was smooth, easy, and consistent, and as the beer warmed, the smoke concurrently smoothed out, becoming richer. Ah, timing is everything. Perhaps it was the pairing, or maybe this very smoke, but I found this cigar to do something I hadn’t enjoyed, well… ever.

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See, I’m a reformed cigarette smoker, so I have this thing about inhaling. I never inhale a cigar deeply and I *never inhale an entire cigar, but I always inhale. Sometimes, when it’s too smooth and recessive, I’ll inhale too much. When it’s too peppery and what I call a cigar that’s “work,” it’s less so, and frankly, not being a proper stogiehead, I think such experiences aren’t quite what they should be. The last 2/3s of this one proved its value as a cigar and/or finally found me more of a cigar smoker, as I totally enjoyed it without any inhaling. Enveloping myself in it, floating the smoke around between my mouth and nose, it was all wonderful, enjoyable, flavorful, not too recessive, not too peppery. Along with this wonderful ale, a delicious experience on every level.

And at a total cost of around $15, (9.95 for the Trappist Rochefort 10 and a mere $5 and change for the Tatuaje) a crazy bargain!

OK, a number of years ago, when presented with a 1952 English Market Havana (enjoyed with a bottle of Macallan 25), I did gently inhale pretty much all of it, even running around the house as I came to the last inch, coming up with the largest roach clip I’ve ever fashioned. Wouldn’t you?

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