A month or so ago a box showed up on my doorstep (ok, it was at the garage….it’s a figure of speech) containing four bottles of beer and a four pack of CAO cigars (with a CAO bottle opener attached). This represented a pairing event held at the Flying Dog Brewery back in June with Rick Rodriguez of CAO called “The Art of Craft” They put together the following pairing suggestions:
- OSA Sol and Snake Dog IPA: The zesty spice of OSA Sol meets its match with the citrus and resinous hop aromas and flavors of Snake Dog.
- CAO Brazilia and Gonzo Imperial Porter: Both big and bold, the bitter coffee and chocolate flavors in CAO Brazilia are mimicked by the same robust notes in Gonzo.
- CAO Gold and Raging Bitch Belgian-Style IPA: The wildly complex hop bitterness and fruity sweet Belgian yeast notes in Raging Bitch are soothed by CAO Gold’s caramel creaminess.
- CAO Mx2 and Pearl Necklace Oyster Stout: Dark and dry is the name of this pairing’s game with Mx2’s rich notes of earth and Pearl Necklace’s dry, roast, and slightly bitter character.
This put me in an awkward position. As many of you know, I gave up alcoholic beverages completely over twenty years ago, so I would either have to jump off the wagon, or figure something else out. Now, I was a big fan of beer in my twenties, but to be honest, I was more into quantity over quality, and I would make projects out of finding how little I could pay for beer. One experiment included a two dollar six-pack of Carling’s Black Label (even then it was NOT worth it), and countless cases of National Bohemian in 16oz returnable bottles and good old Rolling Rock, which was practically a boutique brand at the time. Needless to say, my palate wouldn’t be up to this task anyway. So I asked a couple friends over to drink these beers and smoke these cigars, which was a surprisingly easy sell. I’ve known Bruce Kramer since the old days of the Usenet cigar group back in the ’90s. Bruce is a certified beer judge and a home brewer, and quite the foodie. Obviously, he’s also been a connoisseur of exceptional cigars for a long time. Bruce also is involved in the production of The Bacon Jams, a spreadable bacon product that is about to be featured on QVC, and is taking the bacon world by storm. He was an obvious choice for a panelist in this project. As I figured four cigars and beers would be a lot to tackle in one sitting I reached out to another friend with a beer, food and cigars background, local author and food writer, Jim Breslin. Jim recently released a novel called “Shoplandia“, which is a fun book based upon his lengthy career s a producer at QVC ( I read it, loved it and could relate since I worked at QVC myself briefly in the ’80s). He also writes for the West Chester Dish, a local food and restaurant guide here in Chester County, PA. as well as founding and hosting Story Slams locally. Jim also enjoys fine cigars and has been a reader here, I’d like to think I’ve been able to steer him toward some new and interesting cigar choices. You may also remember Jim from my review last fall of his “Stooges and Stogies” event. I chose to pair the CAO Brazilia with a Reeds Extra Ginger Brew, and the CAO MX2 with a Natural Brew Draft Root Beer. We sat down in front of the video camera and captured our thoughts on these pairings. The video runs about 12 minutes, a bit long for my tastes, but I think these guys made some great tasting observations and it’s well worth the watch. Please pardon the umbrella pole, but it only really blocked me out, so no big deal.
Let’s give Jim and Bruce a round of applause for helping out, and subjecting themselves to an evening of fine conversation between segments and some free beer and smokes! If you want to check this out yourself, the CAO “Art of Craft” cigar pack will be available alongside each corresponding beer exclusively at 46 Total Wine stores throughout Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, Virginia, North Carolina, and California beginning July 1. Thank you to Victoria McKee Jaworski and her crew at General Cigar Co. for providing the samples and a great excuse to get three friends together for some smokes and drinks. Bruce and Jim hadn’t met prior to this, and had an amazing amount in common. Another great story about cigars opening doors to friendships! Now Bruce and Jim are after me to arrange another beer and cigar pairing evening!
What the heck, let’s give some CAO goodies away! I have a metal CAO Flathead 660 sign (a pain in the ass to mail, BTW. My problem, not yours!), a CAO Area 9 pack containing six vintage CAO cigars from the original CAO aging rooms, anywhere from 5 to 20 year old! Also a couple of the new Flathead Sparkplugs and a 554 Camshaft. Sorry, I don’t have the 660 Carb that goes with the sign. Leave a comment with your favorite cigar and beer pairings (I’ll accept soft drink and coffee pairings too!) and I’ll select a random winner on Sunday.
Thanks for watching, and until the next time,