Happy Friday everyone! Welcome to another round of Pint Friday, the best day of the week. I feel great about getting this project back on track, and I know all of our weeks are more enjoyable with some drinking and smoking to cap them off. For the second week in a row we’ve invited a special guest to join us, this week we got Zak Medwin, our GM here and a man with one of the most discerning palates I’ve ever encountered. He’s a pretty busy guy, and his schedule wouldn’t allow him to do a written review on such short notice like the rest of us, so you’re going to have to watch the video to find out what Zak thought of this pair.
Speaking of this week’s pairing, we just received one of the most anticipated releases from IPCPR, the Surrogates line produced by the L’Atelier company which is a collaboration between the iconic Pete Johnson and his brother KC. I’ve been looking forward to trying these out for months, and when they finally arrived I knew we had to make it a Pint Friday feature. The Surrogates cigars are available in 4 unique sizes, each with a different blend. The blend that sounded most intriguing to me was the colorfully-named Tramp Stamp, so that’s what we went with. We needed an appropriate beer to pair this one with, and when we discovered the Flying Dog Pearl Necklace Oyster Stout on the shelf we knew we had a match, both flavor-wise and with its double-entendre moniker.
I lit up the cigar first, and as you might expect from another Pete Johnson/Don Pepin Garcia collaboration, I was hit with a pretty serious spice blast. The black pepper was heavy, and was really all I could taste at first. I retrohaled some of the early puffs to generate some additional spicy effects, I really do enjoy a peppery cigar after all. After enjoying the cigar by itself for a few minutes, I cracked open the Pearl Necklace Oyster Stout. I’m a big fan of dark beer as well as seafood, but somehow this brew had escaped me until today. Right off the bat it was a nice, solid stout, not overly heavy, just sweet enough, and very smooth. I didn’t get much oyster flavor, but that aspect did start to emerge with continued consumption. I think it may have been more prevalent without the external stimulation from the cigar. The slight sweetness of the brew counterbalanced the spicy smoke nicely, and I knew this was going to be a solid pairing.
Meanwhile, as the cigar burned towards the second 3rd, the spice started to dwindle quite a bit. I’m now getting a charcoal/campfire/BBQ flavor that hits me in a good way. Despite the spice and heavy flavors, this one is staying pretty medium bodied, much like the beer that is pretty mellow in spite of its dark color. My Tramp Stamp’s ash started to get a little flakey as the smoke progressed, but still burning evenly and delivering an easy draw with a ton of smoke. This isn’t an overly complex smoke, and although Zak might disagree with me, I don’t think they all have to be. This one has a style, sticks to it consistently, and it produces a flavor that I quite enjoyed. Considering the relatively low MSRP, this smoke gives a solid value and doesn’t get all snooty about it – no hints of marzipan and Madagascar Vanilla here. You’re getting a well-made smoke that features Pete Johnson’s signature spice and a rich, consistent flavor throughout. Much like a tattoo on a woman’s lower back, this one doesn’t change, it gets in your face and doesn’t give you any surprises once you’ve seen what it can do.
As for the Pearl Necklace, again, this one isn’t going to win any complexity awards. It’s smooth, easy to drink, and has a solid flavor. A nice beer to settle in with for an evening. It didn’t leave me enthralled or dying for another taste, but I could certainly see myself standing up a couple hours later wondering where the rest of my six-pack went.
I enjoyed this pairing, now I’ll turn it over to Josh for his take:
It seems like every month we have several brands fighting for the title of most shocking name. This month brings us the Surrogates line, with such striking names as Bone Crusher, Skull Breaker, Crystal Baller (my personal favorite) and Tramp Stamp. Judging by the comparatively-low price point and no-frills design of the bands and box, these sticks seem like a novelty for both aficionados and newcomers to the hobby.
The wrapper has a slightly earthy smell to it and I found the pre-draw to be nutty in flavor. I was expecting a kick of spice at the beginning of the cigar because of the wrapper being folded over the foot, but the first few puffs were smooth with no bite. Overall, it provided a consistent smoke that was thick and creamy with a medium-body flavor. I didn’t find any outstanding notes in it, just a traditional cigar-flavor throughout. I did need to re-light the stick several times, but only because I was adjusting my lighting and camera equipment. There were no unpleasant notes when relighting, which was definitely a plus.
I’ve had several of Flying Dogs’ offerings before, and I found them all to be too bitter for my taste. It’s almost as if they were trying too hard to make a drink shocking enough to match the distinctive Ralph Steadman artwork on their labels. The Pearl Necklace was quite the opposite. You may be intimidated by the description “Oyster Stout”, but don’t let it scare you away from trying something special. I expected a smooth, understated flavor and what I got was crisp and refreshing with a sweet aftertaste. This was a pretty unique stout and it made me interested in trying other oyster stouts to see how they compare.
Together, the cigar acted as a palate cleanser between swigs, which helped me appreciate the complexity of the brew. If you have a friend you would like to initiate into the world of premium cigars, a Tramp Stamp and a Pearl Necklace would be a fine way to start!
Last but certainly not least, let’s hear what Jason had to say about this alluring pair:
I had no idea what we were getting into this week as I have never tried either the cigar or the beer. I have had other things from Flying Dog in the past and I was impressed with them, so I knew the beer would be fine. The cigar also has a rich family heritage with Pete Johnson and Don Pepin Garcia.
The cigar is presented very well. The wrapper has a nice dark oily look to it. Mine did not have too much in terms of large veins, although at least one other cigar did have a few big veins. I was pleased to see a bunch of extra wrapper folded over the foot before I lit it up. The pre light draw was easy bordering on loose for my preference. After lighting (I chose not to toast first due to the foot being covered) the draw leveled out to pleasant for me; still easy, but no longer loose.
The tastes right off were earth and raisin. There was a slight sweetness that I was not expecting at all. The beer was much more crisp than I had imagined a stout would be. In this situation it was refreshing. I was a bit uneasy about the idea that the beer was brewed with oysters, but I fear no beer. Let’s just say I had a less than favorable experience with raw oysters at a fancy party one night (At least that’s the excuse I tell myself, not all of the drinking I did at the open bar.)
I will say that on their own neither the cigar nor the beer knocked my socks off. It had a tough act to follow from last week’s pairing (we all agreed that might have been the best one we have ever done). The cigar had a nice uniform flavor that did not change too much until the final third. At about the point of the band I noticed a cedar flavor with a hint of what I thought was vanilla. The vanilla died off quickly though. There was not a construction issue with the cigar, but I did have to touch it up a few times and once if flat out went out on me and I needed a relight.
Ultimately the ambiance outshined the experience of the pairing itself. It is fun to sit with friends, and have a guest visitor, and hear their thoughts on everything, and also a great way to unwind after a busy week, especially getting into the holiday rush. I don’t know if I will do a revisit on either the cigar or the beer any time soon, but sometimes the gathering and enjoying is more than just the sum of its parts.
There you have it, three relatively different takes on the same pair. We agree sometimes, but we certainly don’t have to. That’s why it’s fun to get a lot of different takes. Check out our video for more, and to see Zak’s in the moment reaction to this week’s Pint Friday pairing.