While the peaches, sweet corn, and watermelons that shine on summer produce stands fade when summer turns to fall, most animal products never go out of season.
For that reason, fall and winter are an exciting time for cheeses: Aged wheels made with spring milk are ready, and the crisp temperatures associated with autumn seem to push one towards the strong flavors of older and bolder wheels like gouda, Stilton, and cheddar. Hot cider, warm sweaters, sharp cheddar—they belong together.
Of course, not all sharp cheddars are created equal. On one end of the sharpness spectrum might be mass-produced Cabot or Tillamook (a perfectly respectable and budget-conscious choice for melting, snacking and mac ‘n’ cheese); on the other might be crumbly, pungent two-year-aged New England cheddars (inspired by Old England traditions). From pleasantly savory to tongue-tingling, they’re all pretty delicious.
One of Pennsylvania’s best cheddars, however, doesn’t really have a place on the spectrum of “sharp.” It is aged—16 to 18 months—but its texture and flavor profile are different than your typical sharp block.
Clover Creek Cheese Cellar Mature Cheddar’s paste is a deep gold, more like an aged gouda than the typical annatto-orange or bone-white cheddar, with a natural rind of mottled buff. The farm raises mixed heritage breed cows about 150 miles from Philly; the herd’s raw milk forms the basis for this remarkable wheel.
Mature Cheddar is also a bit of a limited edition: Cheesemaker David Rice and his family age these wheels of their cheddar especially for the Fair Food Farmstand, and their all-local cheese counter in Reading Terminal Market is the only place to find this gem.
The flavor of Mature Cheddar evokes a sensation akin to eating crisp bacon—a blissfully savory sensation that hits the sides of the tongue, toasty and salty with a hint of sweet, caramelized milk at the tip of the tongue. The lingering, pleasant aftertaste might bring to mind a particularly toothsome flavor of cultured butter. The cheese’s paste, dry and crumbly, breaks apart along crooked fault lines rather than slicing smoothly.
To highlight the best features of Mature Cheddar—bold flavors of grilled meat and crusty bread, a hint of sweet hay—look to a brew light in body whose flavor is built on toasty, comforting flavors (and, conveniently, also features an unobtrusive note of sweetness). Yards Brewing Company’s Brawler plays the perfect supporting role to such a big cheese, laying a malty foundation and bringing out the sweet, caramel note singing over top of Mature Cheddar’s brash umami flavors.
Unlike a hop-driven IPA or syrupy, yeasty farmhouse-style ales, Brawler’s nutty, round flavors won’t clash with a bold, umami-rich cheese like Mature Cheddar. They go together perfectly—like autumn leaves and a favorite flannel shirt.