Cheesy does it

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To find out, brewer Harviestoun recently teamed up with respected Scottish cheesemonger I J Mellis. Paul Thomas is the company's affineur - the...

To find out, brewer Harviestoun recently teamed up with respected Scottish cheesemonger I J Mellis. Paul Thomas is the company's affineur - the cheesy equivalent of a brewer or vintner. Paul settled down with the cheese board and a selection of fine Scottish ales, and came up with some interesting matches.

Bitter & Twisted has a superb hop profile, combining aromatic hallertau hersbrücker with spicy challenger, finished by late hopping with styrian goldings. This gives a sharpness like a twist of lemon.

Bitter & Twisted was matched with Brucklay - a ewe's milk gouda from Aberdeenshire with a little age on it. The lemony hops on the finish of the beer harmonised perfectly with Brucklay's sweet, nutty flavours. Strathdon Blue from Tain also matched well, but not as elegantly as Brucklay.

Schiehallion is delicately crafted using hersbrücker lager hops. Crisp, dry and airy with a beautifully fresh, grapefruity taste, Schiehallion is perfect served straight from the fridge.

Schiehallion showed well against Waterloo, an English mould-ripened cheese made from Jersey milk. The fruity acidity of the beer worked well with the butteriness of the cheese which was accentuated by the beer, since both Schiehallion and Waterloo have slightly grassy flavours.

Harviestoun's original master brewer, Ken Brooker, spent much of his early life crafting wooden design prototypes for the Ford motor company. He named the black, viscous Old Engine Oil in honour of his second love, the internal combustion engine. Wickedly smooth, this strong dark beer with its chocolatey flavour leaves a bittersweet aftertaste to savour, and once again, is best served chilled.

Old Engine Oil struggled to be matched with most cheeses. The beer would be a perfect accompaniment to Christmas cake - heavy, sweet and fruity. Mild cheeses were lost; strong cheeses became aggressively salty. Crowdie is a soft, curd cheese. Using a Crowdie from Connage dairy, the cheese shows sweet, grassy flavours quite different from any other make of Crowdie. Its texture is close to a mascarpone but less rich and with more acidity. It's subtlety means that it does not struggle against such a big-flavoured beer and the sweet-cake like flavours of the cheese are a step in the right direction.

Contrary to expectation, none of the beers worked with cheddars. Pungent washed-rind cheeses became too salty with the beers - which are very complex and have delicate balanced sweetness. More delicate, grassy flavoured cheeses proved a better match.

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