St. Patrick’s Day is just around the corner and what better way to celebrate than with an Irish cheese plate? Our team at Formaggio Kitchen Cambridge have put together a selection of some of our favorites and Eric, our Cambridge beer buyer, has given us a list of fantastic beers to pair with them. Best wishes for a safe and happy St. Patrick’s Day. Éirinn go Brách!
Ardrahan – Made by Mary Burns*, near Kanturk, County Cork, Ardrahan is a washed-rind cow milk cheese with a pungent, farmhouse aroma. Ireland is experiencing a renaissance in artisan cheesemaking and Ardrahan could be considered a forerunner of the movement – Mary and her husband, Eugene, began making it back in 1983. In fact, their first customers were not Irish at all but French. It didn’t take long, however, for the cheese to catch on at home. And no wonder – it is creamy and nutty in flavor, with a slight saltiness and a delicious rind. A great pairing with a strong ale or, as Mary herself has said, “[Ardrahan] goes down very, very well with Irish whiskey. It’s been well researched, well tried out.”
Eric’s recommended beer pairing: Brouwerij Verhaeghe – Duchesse de Bourgogne
Coolea – In the late 1970s, Helene and Dick Willems moved from the Netherlands to Ireland and bought a farm in a remote part of the country where Irish Gaelic is still spoken. Cheesemaking began as a hobby but increasing demand from neighbors and eventually from shops turned it into more than that. Today, their son, Dicky, and his wife, Sinead, carry on the tradition. Modeled after Gouda and made with milk from cows that graze on rich bog land, Coolea is firm, with an occasional crunch from denatured protein clusters. It has great depth of flavor with a balanced sweetness reminiscent of salty caramel.
Eric’s recommended beer pairing: Harpoon Brewery – Black IPA
Cashel Blue – Made by the husband and wife team of Louis and Jane Grubb at Beechmount in County Tipperary, this is one of Ireland’s most well-known artisan blue cheeses. The Grubb family have been long associated with the Cashel area and it looks as though the tradition will continue – Louis and Jane’s daughter, Sarah, and her husband, Sergio, joined the family business in 2003. Cashel Blue is named after Cashel Rock, which overlooks the pastures where the family’s cows graze. It is creamy, rich and savory.
Eric’s recommended beer pairing: Pretty Things – Baby Tree
Crozier Blue – Made by the same team that is behind Cashel Blue, this cheese is made with sheep instead of cow milk.
For this cheese, however, instead of using milk from their own cows, they use sheep milk from Louis Grubb’s cousin, Henry Clifton Brown. Henry maintains a flock of 300 Friesland sheep. Crozier Blue is a creamy cheese with hints of salt and toasted nuts.
Eric’s recommended beer pairing: Cambridge Brewing Co – Scotch Ale
*For a great video tour of the farm where Ardrahan is made – and an interview with cheesemaker, Mary Burns, click here.