Orval and Delamere mature goats cheese was, for me, always going to be a hard sell, so this was the obvious first choice for me. I'm not a fan of goats cheese - it's just too, well, goaty for me. Perfect then to pair it with Orval, a beer that slowly turns to dung through the action of brettanomyces yeasts, also a bugbear of mine. Look, I know this makes me sound (a) fussy and (b) a philistine, but I simply struggle with these flavours. I can appreciate that they have a wonderful depth, complexity and intensity, but I simply don't like them. It's a good beer, it's a good cheese, I'm just not crazy about how they taste.
What better, then, to clear the palate than some gently crumbly Lancashire cheese and and dark ale. Ilkley Brewery are firm favourites locally, and starting to make some serious inroads into the national scene. Not only have they been very generous to our little homebrew group, but brewer Stewart Ross also distinguished himself by (a) turning up to consume some beer and cheese and (b) bring some Ilkley Lotus IPA with him, presumably in case we didn't have anything worth drinking on the premises. The cheese was marvellous - like soft, crumbly butter - and paired nicely with the dark nuttiness of the Ilkley Black.
This is a pairing handed down to me, father-to-son style, by the legend that is Rupert Ponsonby. The pairing of mature cheddar against a medium-bodied IPA is one that isn't immediately obvious, but one that actually works really well. The sharpness of the cheddar serves to bring out the sweet nuttiness of the beer, which in turn acts as a foil to the.... well, cheesiness of the cheese. It's hard (as you can see) to explain exactly why this works, but it's something along the lines of marmalade and butter - salty and sweet rubbing up against each other in a deliciously saucy manner.
I started out this post 'fessing up to a dislike of certain flavours that no doubt many readers will view as a lack of maturity, but I'd like counter that by saying that blue cheese is something that I used to abhor, but have come to love. I tell you that to demonstrate that (a) I like scary cheese - I'll eat runny brie with a spoon quite happily - and (b) don't give me a load of crap about how my palate will mature and I'll eventually like goats cheese. I won't. Ditto brett - a tiny amount is OK, giving some sort of hint of background sexiness, like glimpsing the silhouette of the body of someone you fancy through backlit sunlit clothes, but anything more than a glimpse is a bit intimidating, and can almost be unpleasant, because after all, it was only a fantasy anyway (note: I'm aware that I've stretched that simile to breaking point). ANYWAY, blue cheese with strong dark beer totally rocks - the Elland 1872 Porter was great, as was the Moor Amoor (Peat Porter), which displayed a remarkable body and muscularity (sorry, I'm still reeling from the sunlit clothing simile) for a beer of relatively modest alcohol content.
In summary - people like beer, people like cheese, but people love beer and cheese. It's a win-win scenario.