I could have paired this with any of 4 or 5 imperial stouts, but the Sam Adams one leapt out at me, mainly by being at the front of the shelf. Sam Adams produce a huge range of beers, but the only one we see regularly here is their Boston Lager, imported by Shepherd Neame. Despite a few phone calls and a bit of gentle cajoling, it seems as though Sheps aren't going to import anything but Boston Lager in the near future. A shame, but there we go.
The imperial stout is part of Sam Adams' Imperial series - basically, smaller runs of bigger beers for the more niche end of the market. It's a great departure for a big and successful brewer, and makes you wonder why more people don't do something similar. It puts me in mind of Carlsberg's response to the burgeoning microbrewing scene in Denmark - they just started brewing characterful small batch beers, which were embraced by the Danish beer geeks.
The match of imperial stout and vanilla cheesecake isn't rocket science. Both the beer and the dessert are fairly big and chewy, with similar textures, but contrast hugely on the flavour front. But although they contrast, they also highlight the commonalities - the lovely rich creamy vanilla quality in both of them. As you'd expect, the imperial stout is stuffed full of chocolate and espresso character, very clean and slickly executed, as all Sam Adams' beers tend to be.
It's a big gutsy pairing, not something to eat at the end of a large meal. We had this after a fairly light supper, and in calorific terms, it was the bigger half of the meal. It makes perfect sense to me - go easy on the salad to leave plenty of room for dessert and an impy.
POSTSCRIPT: I had another chunk of cheesecake a few nights later with a Stone Russian Imperial Stout, which is a much bigger, wilder beast altogether - lots more burnt and smoky notes going on than in the Sam Adams. If anything, this wildness made it an even better match.