I’ve been cooking with a lot of cheeses recently but haven’t had much time to scout out new ones. So, when I saw that my veg box supplier had added a new cheese to its catalogue, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to sound it out.
Brewer’s Gold is a semi-soft, pasteurised, cow’s milk cheese. It’s a washed rind too, which of course means that it has a certain funkiness to it. England and Wales have their fair share of washed rinds (Stinking Bishop, St James, Celtic Promise and Burwash Rose, to name but a few) but Ireland has become especially renowned for them over recent decades. Gubbeen, Durrus, Ardrahan and Milleens will all be familiar to anyone with a nose (preferably a strong nose) for good cheese and they all hail from County Cork, where the climate of the area – damp and briny from the sea – is said to provide the ideal conditions for washed rind cheeses.
Brewer’s Gold is produced by Knockdrinna Farmhouse Cheese Co, in collaboration with The Little Milk Company, a co-operative of ten Irish organic dairy farmers. Knockdrinna, based in Stoneyford, County Kilkenny, was started by home chef Helen Finnegan in 2004. She began by experimenting with an internet kit in a converted back kitchen. Helen confesses that ‘we had the best fed foxes in any part of the country for those first few years!’ Fortunately, her skill grew and so did the business, moving to a small, purpose-built dairy in 2005.
Brewer’s Gold was born out of a beer and cheese tasting evening, which saw Helen partnering with Carlow Brewing, who produce Irish craft ales. Knockdrinna had previously used wine to wash some of their cheeses but the event inspired her to create a recipe using beers, which were mixed with saltwater and used to wash the young cheeses every two to three days. This encourages the Brevibacterium linens cultures, which give washed rind cheeses their distinctive orange rind and ‘smelly toes’ aroma (the B. Linens culture is actually also responsible for making your feet stink). Three different craft breweries supply the beer, depending on which farmers are supplying the milk.
Brewer’s Gold is not a shrinking violet kind of cheese. The sticky rind – which as well as yellowy-orange growth is also starting a little black and white mould garden – gives way to a soft and creamy paste inside, with a buttery texture and a taste that hints of the beers which bathed it. It’s not a cheese for the faint-hearted but, for anyone that likes their cheese with a bit of punch – or their cheese with a pint of good beer – this is definitely one to seek out.