As much as we’re obsessed with seeking out the freshest new cheeses to share here, there are certain favorites that tend to rotate across our cheeseboards with some frequency, particularly around the holidays. And no holiday cheeseboard would be complete without one of the little aged jewels from Vermont Creamery. Our friends at VC have provided a fantastic giveaway prize for us to share, but first I have to share some highlights from my visit to the Creamery and new Ayers Brook Goat Dairy this past summer.
Vermont Creamery was founded by Allison Hooper and Bob Reese in 1984; rather than resting on their well-deserved laurels (30 awards for their products this year alone) in this 30th anniversary year, they set about doubling the size of their aged cheese production facility, launching new fresh goat cheese crumbles, and, building a first-of-its-kind demonstration goat dairy just down the road from the creamery. Oh, and they attained B-corp certification too. Given the popularity of their products, they’ve had an increasing challenge sourcing enough goat milk to meet demand. From their roots as a farmstead creamery with 60 goats, they’ve grown to source milk from 17 goat farms. In the past several years, sales of their aged cheeses have grown exponentially — upwards of 45% each year. They planned to increase the production space from 4,000 square feet to 14,000 square feet, and clearly more goat milk was going to be required.
So they purchased a farm just a few miles away from the creamery and set about building a barn and milking parlor. When I visited last summer, after the 2013 Vermont Cheesemakers Festival, I got the before-the-construction tour at Ayers Brook (above). Back this summer for the 30th anniversary bash, the new facility was up and running. While they are now producing milk there, the intention is to use the facility to train future goat dairy farmers in best practices while providing a guaranteed source of income for those who can produce the high quality milk demanded by the creamery. A win-win for them and for all of us who crave their cheeses.
As mentioned, the creamery was expanded this year as well — the aged, aka wrinkly cheese wing is to the right in the pictures below.
I stopped by the creamery, curd kids in tow, to tour the new space. Here’s another before and after — the vats in the small, single room where the aged cheeses were produced last year (top right) vs. this year, where there are separate rooms for each phase of the process (bottom right).
Even with all this growth, the cheeses are still truly made by hand. Here we watched Coupole being shaped and placed on racks to head into the aging room; Bonne Bouche is the ashed cheese and in the “caves” you can see the white bloom gradually overtake the ash and the rinds crinkle and shrink.
Read on for Part II to learn more about how we enjoy Bijou and to enter our holiday cheese giveaway!