Cheese might not initially come to mind when you think about St. Patrick’s Day, but allow us to explain why you might want to reconsider that (and give you a little cheese smarts at the same time).
St. Patrick’s Day is all about beer, and turns out beer when used in the cheesemaking process can make some amazing cheeses. I’m talking about washed-rind cheeses — my absolute favorite kind of cheese, which by extension should probably make St. Patrick’s Day my favorite holiday since I try to make everything about cheeese.
So how do you make a washed rind cheese? It’s a pretty technical process. You….wash….the rind. The cheesemaker can wash it in a salt brine, or – and here’s where we get to the St. Patrick’s Day connection – in beer (or some other spirit like wine, cider or brandy).
Here’s the school part (which you can skip if you want to go straight to our favorite spirits-washed cheeses in the case right now). Washing cheese in a brine or an alcohol gets rid of any mold growing on the outside of the cheese and promotes the growth of my favorite bacteria – I know you all have your own. Mine is brevibacterium linens or b-linens.
B-linens gives the rind an orange color and a pungent smell, and it gives the cheese a meaty flavor. For me, if a cheese smells like a dirty sock, I love it. I love stinky cheese. Fortunately, you don’t have to love stinky cheeses to find a washed-rind cheese. Despite their strong aromas, many are actually mild.
Ok, class dismissed. Now let’s get to the cheeses we’ll be eating tonight with our green beer.
Rowdy Gentleman from Prodigal Farm
Prodigal Farm is a family farm in North Carolina who cater to their goats’ every need to get the best possible milk they can. They then use some of that milk and pair it with a local beer to make Rowdy Gentleman.
It has a meaty and umami flavor of a washed rind, but keeps the light tangy flavor of a goat’s milk cheese. Notably, they don’t inoculate the cheese with B linens as some cheesemakers do. The washed rind cultivates an environment for a naturally occurring BL.
Rogue River Blue Special Reserve
The folks at Rogue River Creamery have been making cheese in southern Oregon since the 1930s, back when Southern Oregon was a dramatically different place. It’s passed through several generations of the Vella family and is currently owned by David Gremmels and Cary Bryant. They have maintained and even enhanced the traditions that have made Rogue River a favorite among blue cheese lovers.
This Special Reserve is truly special. It’s a raw milk cheese. The milk of a single head of cows is inoculated with Roqueforti, then the cheese is macerated in Clear Creek pear brandy and covered in Shiraz vine leaves. And then it’s left to age for 15 months. Ok, this one isn’t technically a beer cheese, but after a couple of actual beers, you probably won’t care.
Epoisses de Bourgogne
Anyone who knows me well, knows this is my favorite cheese, and the cheese that made me fall in love with cheese. I wrote about my love affair with Epoisses on my blog a couple of months ago.
This French cheese has such a strong aroma that it’s banned on French public transportation. This handcrafted cheese is first washed in brine and then with Marc de Bourgogne, a liqueur that is a by-product of the local wine industry.
Cheesy Recipes for St. Pat’s Day
We believe all holidays should be celebrated with cheese so here are some cheese-focused recipes for St. Patrick’s Day.
- Irish Cheddar Fondue with Stout and Whiskey
- Grilled Beer Sandwich
- Beer-Cheese Spread
- Irish Pub Salad
- Irish Cheddar and Vegetable Bread Pudding
Mark Your Calendars
We’ve got some fun upcoming events you are going to want to put on your calendar.
- March 26: In-Store Tasting with OO Mommie
- March 30: Beer + Cheese Pairing Class at Diebolt Brewery
- April 2: In-Store Tasting with Hacienda Maize
- April 7: Beer vs. Wine Smackdown
- May 7: Bubbles + Cheese (Celebrate Mom!)
- June 19: Beer, Charcuterie + Cheese (Dad’s Turn!)
- July 26: Spirits + Cheese with Devil’s Head Distillery and Cheese for Dummies Author Laurel Miller