Beer Cheese?! The Saison Washed Washtenaw

Excerpt from Ari’s Top 5 enews

Not the pub kind, this wonderful artisan cheese celebrates our local cheesemakers at Zingerman’s Creamery!

Zingerman's Creamery Washtenaw

While the Creamery’s handmade artisan Cream Cheese and fresh City Goat cheeses get the majority of national attention, this little gem of a washed-rind cheese is waiting in the wings to be discovered! It is a world-class offering— Zingerman’s Creamery cheesemaking crew can be proud of the care and craft they put into it. While the cheese itself is small of stature—about an inch or so high, and four inches across, I feel confident it could stand tall alongside the best washed-rind offerings from France, Belgium, or Ireland.

The Washtenaw begins its life much as our long-popular Manchester does; fresh, gently pasteurized cow’s milk from Calder Dairy made into curd and hand-ladled into round forms to mature for a few weeks. But while the Manchester moves straight ahead from there, the Washtenaw takes a side turn—it’s washed daily for three weeks with Saison Ale from Grand Rapids’ Brewery Vivant. The yeasts in the ale act on the curd to turn the Washtenaw into a cheese with its own distinctive identity and flavor. It’s definitely one of our more full-flavored offerings—great nose, more in the family of French washed-rind cheeses like Pont L’Eveque. Perfect for anyone with a predilection for Belgian and French monastery cheeses! Buttery, lively, a slight bit of lovely yeasty bitterness from the beer, it softens up nicely when you let it get to room temperature. The Washtenaw pairs well with the newer, more whole-grain breads from Zingerman’s Bakehouse—Country Miche, Walnut and Sage loaf, and the Roadhouse bread would all make wonderful partners! And, of course, some of that same Saison Ale that we use to wash the rind!

The name? Well, we try to name our cheeses after Michigan towns—Pere Marquette, Manchester, Chelsea, Detroit St. Brick (for the brick street out front of the Deli), Napoleon, Manistique. And given that this is a washed rind cheese and we live in Washtenaw County, we couldn’t resist! — Ari's signature

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