The Session #51: Blessed Are The Cheesemakers

Let's make this clear at the get-go. Jay Brooks' idea for this 'cheese-off' Session is a great one - everyone buys the same three cheeses and pairs them with different beers. Though as I couldn't get hold of the particular cheeses (US ones, natch) it made my participation in the Session seem moot. Ah, what the hell - I bought broadly similar styles to those suggested by Jay - soft goat's, aged Cheddar and a blue - and gave it a bash anyway.

Pairing #1: Fivemiletown Cooneen and Saison Cazeau.

A goat's cheese that doesn't taste of the farmyard, a saison that doesn't taste of the farmyard. There's a pairing full of win. Cooneen is delicate almost to the point of anonymity but it's all in the texture - the right side of creamy, still an eat-with-your-fingers cheese rather than one that ends up spread into the wallpaper. Cazeau has a smear of lemon, slight spice. The kind of saison that if you found it at a ramshackle bar halfway round a long yet lazy bike ride, you'd need a taxi to get you back to where you started. On a warm day, it's a beer you stop for. And keep stopping.

Pairing #2: Lincolnshire Poacher and Adnams Innovation

Cards on the table. Lincolnshire Poacher is my favourite hard cheese. It's a little bit nutty, a little bit sweet with a texture that's just-so. Two words describe it best: Lincolnshire Poacher. No point in describing it in terms of other cheeses. It is what it is. Adnams Innovation is one those IPAs that just keeps on giving; pungent wet earth, back-of-the-cupboard spices, sour-sweet citrics that haven't decided which way to fall. But when you cannonball the two - wowser. One eggs the other on, pummeling your taste buds before the other has finished with them. I've always had thicker, maltier beers with Poacher before - never again.

Pairing #3: Long Clawson Stilton with Brewdog Tactical Nuclear Penguin & Sink The Bismarck

My intention was to open up a sensible barley wine that had the balls to take on a full-flavoured Stilton. But I really didn't fancy a whole bottle of the ones I had. But lurking in the fridge, I had two pipettes. Looking like dodgy urine samples, they were actually the slightest snifters of two Brewdog heavyweights. Neither were great, to be honest. Tactical Nuclear Penguin had sherry-cardboard riven all the way through, Sink The Bismarck had an unusually satisfying sugar hit before an odd hop and ethanol burn. Thankfully, neither detracted from the Long Clawson - just creamy enough, just enough bite, a lingering sharpness.

Clear winner for me was the Lincolnshire Poacher with Adnams Innovation. More aged cheddery-stuff with IPA-esque beers will certainly be on my summer picnic agenda.