Your Guide to Irish Farmhouse Cheese
There are a number of different types of Irish Farmhouse Cheese and a number of ways to categorise the cheeses.. They can be categorised by their
- Milk type - cows, sheep’s goat’s, buffalo
- Texture - hard, soft, semi-soft
- Rind – bloomy or washed, natural or coated
- Flavour - mild and delicate right up to pungent
Fresh & Soft Cheeses
These are milky and delicate cheeses that don’t have a rind, cream cheese would fall into this style for example. Generally mild in flavour so need a subtler pairing.
Semi-Soft Bloomy Rind
These are semi-soft cheeses with a white rind in the style of Brie and Camembert. They can be made from any milk type but most commonly in Ireland are made from cows or goat’s milk. They fall into a category called surface-ripened cheeses which means that they ripen from the outside in. That’s why you will see that they are usually softest and creamiest near the rind and a little firmer right in the centre.
Semi-Soft Washed Rind
Generally semi-soft in texture, though they can be firmer these are earthy and aromatic cheeses. Stronger cheese style can be difficult to pair with other beverages like wines and is where beers can really come into their own, try with an IPA or pale ale where the hops and fruit can balance the stronger styles of cheese.
Cheddar is a style of hard cheese with a slightly open or “crumbly” texture.
Younger Cheddar is usually a more uncomplicated style, with a little more elasticity in texture where the flavours are likely to not overpower their matches.
Strong Mature Cheddar is a firmer, more “sharp” style of cheese. Usually, it would be aged for close to a year or more and there are some great farmhouse examples in Ireland.
Other Hard Cheeses (Gouda or Alpine Style)
There’s a wide variety of Irish farmhouse cheeses in the Gouda style – this is a sweet, nutty, and creamy style of cheese and can vary from younger and simpler styles to much more pronounced flavours in longer aged versions. Irish Gouda styles are available in all milk types. You can generally identify a Gouda style cheese by its rounded edges.
There are some very mild examples in Ireland, but most have a significant strong flavour – softer versions are usually a little milder and more buttery whereas harder blues in Ireland tend to be a bit stronger.
Goat's Milk Cheese
These range from young and fresh – a wide variety of this type is produced in Ireland to bloomy rind versions to harder cheeses, most often in the Gouda style You can use the suggestions for the types based on texture and rind above, but a goat’s milk cheeses from mild to strong are quite versatile as beer matches.
Sheep's Milk Cheese
Softer younger styles are usually quite mild, though rich in texture. Firmer and aged styles are meatier yet fudgy and sweet. As sheep’s milk cheeses usually have a particularly rich mouthfeel they pair best with richer/fuller styles of beer.
Buffalo Milk Cheese
Although harder styles of buffalo’s milk cheeses are available, the most widely available style is softer creamy cheese and mozzarella. These are delicately flavoured cheeses but with a hint of savoury richness.