World Cheese Encyclopaedia - Each Sunday learn all about a cheese in season.
This week Beenleigh Blue from the UK
Country: UK 🇬🇧
Made from: Sheep’s milk
Texture: crumbly, dense and smooth
Taste: burnt caramel, salty, spicy
Aging: 6 months
Beenleigh Blue is a modern, farmhouse, unpasteurised, organic, vegetarian, blue cheese made from sheep's milk. Produced by Ben Harris of Ticklemore Cheese Company, the cheese is based on a Roquefort recipe invented by Robin Congden, the founder of the company.
Beenleigh Blue is one of the few blue sheep’s milk cheeses produced in Britain. It is made between January and July using the milk of Dorset-Friesland cross sheep from the farm of Terry Perkins, located in Cornwall.
While this cheese is produced year-round it is distinctly seasonal (it is in peak shape August - January), due to the changing pasture conditions for the sheep. Initially intended as Britain's answer to Roquefort, this blue – in a roundabout and ultimately accidental way – perfectly showcases the concept of terroir. The pate, which is solid, rich, and slightly crumbling, has a soft tanginess, bordering on yoghurt and fresh nuts, that balances well with the pale blue veining.
Its composition is crumbly and moist, and it has an overall sweet flavour. After the blue veining within the cheese develops, it is wrapped in foil and then aged for at least five months.
Shaped into a cylinder, the cheese has a rough, crusty, natural rind which is slightly sticky with some patches of blue, gray and white moulds. It is moist, yet crumbly, with the blue appearing as bold blue-green streaks through the white interior. The flavour is steely blue, with the burnt caramel sweetness, characteristic of fine sheep's milk. It melts on the palate, disclosing its strong, spicy character.
The cheese ripens in six months and has a fat content of 45 - 50 per cent.
Beenleigh Blue is produced by the Ticklemore Cheese Company. Robin Congdon was one of the first pioneers in the 1970s to revive the tradition of milking sheep in the UK. He started off with thirty sheep on a smallholding near Exeter and initially produced yoghurt and soft cheeses which he took to London once a week to sell. Within a few years he was introduced to Maurice Ash who was connected with the Dartington Hall Estate and the two went into partnership on a larger farm alongside the river Dart. Here Robin developed Beenleigh Blue named after the hamlet in which it was first made and later Harbourne Blue named after the tributary of the Dart which flows through Beenleigh. Several years later he created Devon Blue using the cows’ milk of a neighbouring farmer. Beenleigh Blue began with limited production in the 1980s and as production increased it became available to consumers throughout the year. It has been produced since 2006 by Ben Harris.
How to enjoy it
A wonderful companion to Mead, Port, Cabernet Merlot or Sweet Cider. With age the cheese can develop a piquancy that marries well with English honeys. Dessert wines from the Pyrénées – such as Pacheranc Du Vic-Bilh Vendemiaire – are optimal pairings.
Sources: cheese.com, cotswoldcheese.com, La Fromagerie, Ticklemore Cheese, La Boutique Gasconne