As a cheese-maker, people often ask me what my favourite cheese is. My answer changes almost on a daily basis – sometimes I’m in the mood for mild and subtle Childwickbury, sometimes strong and earthy Stichelton, and other times (most often!) a chunk of well-aged Montgomery cheddar.
However, as of last month, I have a new favourite cheese – Bermondsey Spa. A washed-in-local-ale upgrade of the Welsh cheese Golden Cenarth.
Back in February, I saw a tweet from Mootown, who sell Welsh cheeses at Northcross Road Market in East Dulwich, which sparked my interest:
Golden Cenarth won Supreme Cheese at the British Cheese Awards in 2010, but I didn’t warm to it at the time (its flavours were too subtle for me). Kernel Brewery on the other hand, make fantastic ales in an arch in Bermondsey, and I’ve been buying their India Pale Ale since I first tasted it a few years ago.
The combination of this particular cheese with this ale sounded very promising, so I asked Mootown when I might be able to sample some.
A week later, I found myself invited along to a tasting of this cheese-ale hybrid at the Great Exhibition with a few other interested parties (including the Ginger Gourmand, who took the excellent photo below).
Wow. What a cheese. Just look at it. All kinds of wrong, but in the best possible way. Meaty and full of intense flavour, it immediately became my new favourite cheese, and one I wanted to get more involved with. A few emails later, I was on my way to Druid Street industrial estate to help out with the washing.
The cheeses arrive as standard Golden Cenarths, which are immediately unwrapped and placed on in plastic containers (which keeps the humidity around 90-95%), where they sit on stainless steel racks, lined with wax paper. They are kept in their sealed containers at 12c, and washed three times a week – Sunday, Wednesday and Friday.
Washing involves dribbling a couple of drops of ale onto each cheese over the sink, then gently rubbing until they surface was of similar stickiness to a postage stamp.
We washed almost 100 cheeses in total, from those which had just arrived as Golden Cenarth, to some which had been washed for the past four weeks and were oozing from the sides. Interestingly, we used bottles of Kernel India Pale Ale which had been deemed too yeasty and not quite the right flavour to be sold for drinking. I haven’t done any experiments on the effect of yeast on brevibacterium linens growth, but it seems to work pretty well!
Mootown cheese recently launched the cheese under the name “Bermondsey Spa” (it was previously called “London Gold”, which I preferred), and it’s available on their stall every Saturday in Northcross Road. I would heartily recommend you give it a try, as it really is quite exceptional – you might even get one that I washed!