Hidden Hill’s Old Gold and 2SP Delco Lager
written by Alex Jones
Being a local cheese aficionado means tasting cheeses of all kinds, inspired by styles from all over the world. From cloudlike Brie-styles and elegant ash-lined bloomy rind pyramids to beefy, oozy washed rinds and bold, crunchy Alpine styles aged to fruity-yet-savory multidimensional perfection. Trying new cheeses is always exciting. Even two cheeses that were inspired by the same style will taste different, based on the milk, the land, the cheesemaker and the microbial terroir of the aging room.
Great cheeses showcase flavors, aromas, and textures that range from subtle and mild to powerful. But sometimes, the most powerful reaction to a cheese can be one that tastes like home, or childhood, or that evokes the same sensations as great American comfort food—rich, creamy, rounded and savory flavors. For me, for example, grocery store sharp cheddar is pretty high up there on my list of childhood favorites, and a piquant, biting-yet-creamy artisan sharp cheddar is still a staple in my cheese drawer to this day.
Hidden Hills Dairy specializes in cheeses that qualify on their own as this sort of elevated comfort food. Cheesemaker Lori Sollenberger, who milks a small herd of 15 Jersey cows on her family’s farm in south central Pennsylvania, makes aged raw milk cheeses inspired by or evocative of grocery store staples. Her Hidden Hills Gold is based on a Gouda recipe. Another cheese, Ivory Lace, is mildly flavored, soft in texture, and stippled with delicate bubbles (“eyelets”) and is inspired by Havarti. Sollenberger describes her Buttercup, a melt-on-your-tongue cheese named for its flavor profile, as “Velveeta you can feel good about eating.”
But it’s Sollenberger’s Old Gold, a take on Hidden Hills Gouda that’s aged for a minimum of 12 months and sometimes up to two years, that distills all of the comforting flavors and textures—sweet, salty, savory, crunchy, creamy—into a single, straightforward bite. The firm paste crumbles at the chew, made exciting by tyramines (also known as “cheese crunchies” that can be found in many hard aged cheeses), before quickly melting into sweet cream and brown butter flavors on the tongue. Cue the dopamine flood and reach for another piece.
Old Gold is perfect for snacking with your favorite crackers and crisp garlic dill pickles, or gussied up alongside toasted walnuts and local wildflower honey or slices of dried persimmon. It’s also an excellent ingredient cheese, bolstering your burger, adding a flavor boost to your mac & cheese recipe (pair it with a stellar melter like Buttercup for optimal flavor and texture), or adding savoriness when slivered over a Caesar salad. Or make like Pizzeria Beddia and finish your next homemade pie with a healthy grating of Old Gold as soon as the pie comes out of the oven.
To pair with this deeply flavored cheese, I sought out malty brews that would play more of a supporting role and amplify the caramel flavors of Old Gold — no juicy hops to overpower Old Gold’s sweet-savory interplay, no sweet wheat beers that might taste cloying paired with this rich cheese. 2SP Brewing Company’s Delco Lager, brewed just west of Philly city limits, fit the bill perfectly. This amber lager is light enough to let the cheese shine and clear the palate, but flavorful enough to highlight those toffee notes that a cheesemaker producing an aged Gouda style works so hard to cultivate. Plus, the 4% ABV makes it as drinkable as Old Gold is easy to eat.