By Aaron Estes, Cheese Editor
On a working farm in Sharon Springs, NY, Josh and Brent are raising a dozen chickens, a couple of pigs and approximately 80 goats. One of the byproducts of raising goats is an ample supply of goat’s milk which in turn, lends itself to making cheese.
After doing a bit of research and with some assistance from the local creamery at Cooperstown Cheese Company, the Boys started producing cheese from their goat’s milk. Not happy with the acidity and sharpness of an aged cheese made purely from goat’s milk, they decided to mix in some cow’s milk (60% goat/40% cow) to add a layer of complexity and round out the flavor profile.
The cheeses are aged for approximately four months and then “blackened” on the exterior with a hardwood ash. Although some traditional chevre and soft goat’s cheeses do incorporate vegetable ash (think Capriole’s “Sofia”), the rinds on aged varieties are usually left to their own devices, with perhaps some washed encouragement from the affineur. The result here Beekman "Blaak," a dark and textured 2 lb-wheel, with a hint of smoke on the nose from the exterior ash.
With all of the hype surrounding the show and the Beekman brand, this cheese was popular right from the outset. Even before people had a chance to try this cheese, they wanted it.
I have now had an opportunity to try this cheese on two separate occasions from two separate wheels with two different groups of people, and the cheese has left me, for lack of a better word, wanting.
Visually, this is a gorgeous wheel. The blackened ash completely coats the rind and enhances the textures that are present from the basket molds used in making this cheese. It is definitely a conversation piece to have this cheese on your board as the contrast between the pale paste and the dark rind is quite stunning.
But, after letting the cheese come to room temp, I didn’t get anything on the nose beyond the smoky hints from the wood ash that coats the outside. I actually thought it was a bit overpowering.
What disappointed me -- on both occasions I might add -- was the lack of flavor or complexity. When combining cow and goat's milk, I expect a cheese that marries the tangy bite from the goat’s milk with a mellow and rounded creaminess from the cow’s milk. Blaak didn’t provide that for me or for the others that were tasting this with me.
This cheese is incredibly mild which isn’t necessarily a bad thing if that is what you are looking for. Personally, I look for pronounced and unique flavors, a nice balance of salt, and overall complexity. This cheese may contain some of those elements, but they are muted to the point of being nearly absent.
In looking at my fellow tasters (two cheese shop owners for one tasting, and a certain founder of a respected New York wine site for the other), we had that same look of recognition on our faces after trying a couple of pieces. This cheese is made by people who are on TV! Every major shop in the Northeast wants this cheese! So…why don’t we like it?
I can’t really answer that question. Sometimes hype, fame or reputation may cloud objectivity in trying something for the first time. That is the main reason why I wanted to try this cheese again from a different wheel, in a different location, with a different group. Was it just me? No.
Now it sounds like I didn’t like this cheese on any level. I am not saying that at all. I just think there is vast room for improvement. I look forward to seeing how the Beekman brand and “Blaak” evolve over time.