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Q & A: Salt Test?

Q.
It’s been awhile, how do I do a salt test again?

2/11/15 | by KM of Santa Barbara, CA

A.
​Great question. In the cigar world, a 'salt test' refers to a method used to check your hygrometer's accuracy in determining proper humidity. When salt is mixed with distilled water, it naturally creates 75% humidity after a period of 24 hours. Therefore, if you feel your analog or digital hygrometer is not working properly, you can perform a salt test to determine if it is faulty and or recalibrate it.

To perform this test, simply take a soda or beer bottle cap and fill it half full with salt. Add a couple drops of distilled water to the salt, but only enough to make it moist, not "soupy." Place your hygrometer and the cap filled with salt in a plastic zip-lock bag and seal it. After 24 hours, you can be guaranteed the humidity inside the bag will be 75% and can then determine if your hygrometer needs replaced or adjusted.

by Sean G

Review: Ave Maria Divinia

Sean G Nothing Short of Perfection

I really loved Ave Maria's Reconquista when it came out a few years back. I mean, it's not something I enjoy everyday after work, but the blend was excellent for a special occasion. And looking at Divinia's price tag, tells me this will only be enjoyed on special occasions as well.

So what are you paying all that money for? A really damn good cigar. Divinia is near flawless. The blend starts off light and smooth and quickly builds to a medium to full body. I got notes of spice and almonds with hints of espresso and cream. The balance of the cigar is amazing and you'll instantly realize this beauty can go toe-to-toe with any top shelf heavyweight. Make that occasion a little more special and pick up some Divinia.

Craft Beer 101

Article: Craft Beer 101

Here’s a question: have you been to your local beer retailer lately? If you answered “Yes,” then no doubt you noticed the absolute explosion of new craft brews that are taking the industry by storm. This trend should remind you of the boutique cigar boom of the recent past. Consumers are more focused than ever on discovering unique blends made from carefully selected ingredients, and more than ever before they’re eschewing national brands in favor of these small, specialized brands.

The rules of the beer world are changing – that’s a fact. The next logical step for any cigar enthusiast, especially one who frequently enjoys boutique brands, is to do a little bit of research and uncover the perfect pairings of craft beers and cigars. To point you in the right direction, we’ve highlighted some of the more popular craft beer styles below and have also included some of our favorites.

Hefeweizen 

Affectionately, it’s just called “hefe.” This type of beer hails from Bavaria and typically includes a 50/50 ratio of wheat and barley malt, and has a cloudy appearance when poured. It has some dry and tart characteristics, along with hints of cloves, apples, and spices. It also has just a hint of bitterness from the hops and is often served with a slice of lemon to cut the bitter edge (a practice that was popularized in America, and is a no-no if you’re drinking a true German hefe). If you’re making the transition from typical lagers to craft beers, a hefe is a good place to start.

We recommend: Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier (Germany), Ayinger Bräu Weisse (Germany), Live Oak HefeWeizen (Texas)

Imperial Stout

These beers are rich and malty, and they often feature notes of dark fruit such as figs or raisins. They usually have an alcohol content greater than 8% ABV and a medium-dry taste with a good amount of strength. Imperial stouts are dark brown to black in color. The amount of hops varies greatly on these beers.

We recommend: Founders Breakfast Stout (Michigan), Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout (California), Victory Storm King (Pennsylvania)

IPA (India Pale Ale)

 It’s all about hops with the IPA, which most beer enthusiasts agree is an acquired taste. American IPAs are often bitter with notes of herbs and citrus. The style of brewing IPAs originated in England, and the American craft beer market has emulated them in terms of style while simultaneously pushing the limits of strength and bitterness. This one is not for the faint of palate.

We recommend: Stone IPA (California), Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA (Delaware), Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale (California)

Porter

Porter beer comes from 18th century London originally, and is well-hopped and made with brown malt. American porter is inspired by old-school brewing methods and can be barrel aged in either bourbon or whiskey barrels. The bitterness from the hops ranges from brew to brew, but most are well balanced and may include notes of coffee or chocolate to mask the burnt flavor.

We recommend: Smuttynose Robust Porter (New Hampshire), Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald Porter (Ohio), Fuller’s London Porter (England)

Tripel Belgian

The word “tripel” refers to part of the actual brewing process where brewers use up to three times the amount of malt. With a deep, golden coloration and an aromatic, complex character, these beers are universally adored by the craft beer enthusiast. They include prominent hops and spicy notes of cinnamon, pepper, nutmeg, clove, and sometimes even banana. Tripels are very alcoholic, but some of the best ones hide it well, so be sure to sip this one slowly.

We recommend: Chimay Tripel (Belgium), St. Bernardus Tripel (Belgium), Allagash Curieux Bourbon-Aged (Maine)

Even a quick skim of this article should make a few things abundantly clear. First, boutique cigars and craft beer have a lot of things in common, not the least of which is a dedicated and loyal fan base intent on uncovering the latest and greatest offerings. Second, the two are practically designed to pair well together, with tasting notes that are highly complementary. It’s no coincidence that we positioned the new Smoking Monk by Drew Estate right next door to this article. Of course, this is only the tip of the iceberg for craft beer. There are tons of resources to help guide your decision and to further educate you on selection, and eventually, to help you find the ideal brew to enjoy with your favorite handmade. Copious sampling and plenty of trial and error is half the fun. Bottoms up!