It’s no secret we’re pretty big on cheese here. But from the outside, it all looks pretty complicated. We wanted to know what makes Stilton different from Roquefort, what makes brie so soft and blue so, well, blue. So we spoke to Geoff, the owner and operator of Little Cheese Shop in Bayswater, to talk about how cheese is made and how it all gets so different along the way.
Age and Culture
All cheese essentially sits somewhere on a continuum of its ageing: Cheeses like bocconcini, creme fraiche and buffalo mozzarella are known as fresh cheeses, and can only be up to a couple of days old. Bries and camemberts are known as surface ripened, the exterior having grown a mold coating over around three weeks of ageing. Hard and semi-hard cheeses like cheddar, gouda, parmesan, comte and gruyere are the product of anywhere from between two and eight months for semi-hard, and between six months and two years for hard cheeses.
Some cheeses along this spectrum are specially treated to create different styles, including washed rind cheeses and blues. "Washed rind cheese, is washed in brine or an alcoholic solution like beer, wine, cognac or fruit essences.” Geoff said, "With blue they add a blue culture to the milk. The curd is split, the cheese is folded into hoops like a mature feta, they wash that cheese, and around four weeks into that process they pierce the cheese with rods, and all of the dormant blue cultures, the penicillins, are exposed. The blue strains react to the air, moisture and humidity, and the blue starts forming at that point.”
Ageing hard cheeses is an art in its own right. The practice known as affinage uses specifically controlled climate or specially picked caves and cellars, ageing cheese to a required standard. Notably, cheese maker Rolf Beeler does not make his own cheese, but works as Affiner for young cheeses.
"A lot of artisan cheese makers will feel how it’s ripening. When I went to Stone and Crow cheese company we had six cheeses all from the same day, we put a cheese corer into each one and nearly all of them were different. Some had a really dry crust, some weren’t mature enough yet, one was a different flavour profile, they just needed to be balanced differently from there."
"Jack from Stone and Crow doesn’t just go ‘okay that’s nine months, out to the market,’ he’ll put them out when they’re ready.”
Milk and Livestock
Most cheese is made using either Cow, sheep or goat milk. Each milk type lends different qualities to the cheese, with goats cheese on the creamier, funkier end, and cows milk being generally conventional. Within cow’s cheeses, each cow species lends different butter fats, ph levels, protein and milk solids levels, leading to certain cheeses.
"Some cheeses, like cheddar, normally use only dairy or jersey cows. Comte is normally made using montbelairde and simmental cows.” said Geoff, “A lot also comes down to what the stock is fed, In Europe the new milk is very intense because they feed their stock such green grass.”
Food availability creates a harvest cycle of sorts. In Europe and many esteemed Australian dairies, cheese is made using spring milk, which is more lively and floral from the wide availability of green grass. Historically, hard cheeses are designed to be ready during the winter months when food becomes less available and creates a dip in milk production and quality.
Local Cheese Makers
"I think Australia is building a brand. The regions, like wine, are establishing themselves and their name. Along with all of the nuances of that region. During WA cheese week we aimed to expose people to what WA was doing from a cheese point of view.”
Geoff proudly represents a mix of local and international cheeses in the fridge at Little Cheese Shop. Local cheese makers Cambray Cheese, Yallingup Cheese Co. and Kytren Dairy are all well represented, and amongst them interstaters including Woodside Cheese and Stone and Crow.
"I keep it balanced between local and international.” said Geoff, "The cheese represents what the environment is doing. In winter you might prefer a curry or stroganoff over a light salad, and there’s more people wanting those big hearty, earthy robust flavour profiles in their cheese."
"It’s all about what you like, there are avid devotees to lots of different foods. Customers are often surprised that we have such a great range for such a small fridge. They’re often surprised too by how much local produce we stock. We like having those conversations and providing our knowledge as to why we’ve sourced those particular cheeses.”
On both a local and international level, Geoff is keen to stock cheeses which represent quality and craftsmanship, It’s about the belief in what they’re trying to create. It’s not just about putting it out.” he said, "There’s a process, how they manage their milking, what steps they do by hand from milking to ladling to packaging."
"True normandy has to be hand ladled in small barrels. Some camemberts are still put into wooden boxes by hand.”
What’s with all the names? And what should I get?
Many cheeses which seem very similar may have different names, and a large part of what separates a parmesan from a parmigiano reggiano are legally protected names which must hit certain qualifications of process, geography and result. In the case of parmigiano reggiano, the cheese must be from one of five Italian provinces, and must follow a specific set of quality criteria before it is aged. Outside of the European Union, the name parmesan can be used to describe any cheese made in the style of parmigiano reggiano.
So what cheeses should you put on your cheeseboard? The simplest answer is to pick one from each of the three largest categories: One soft cheese, one hard cheese, and one blue.
"Look at what you’ve enjoyed before and the brands producing those cheeses.” said Geoff, "Everyone’s different, but it’s great to push the envelope. You may have a really nice fortified wine at home, and try a blue cheese even if they’re not usually your pick. Or if you always have cheddar, we can look at changing that.”
Looking at your favourite producers may help too. If you really enjoy, say the Yallingup Cheese Co. St Julian, you may come to love their Ashed Brie. The ingredients may not be exactly the same, but each will be made along a similar cheese making ethos.
In short, there’s room on your cheeseboard for experimentation, and trying out a washed rind brie or a rubbed goats cheese doesn’t mean you can’t also have your go-to cheddar.
Little Cheese Shop also hold regular events which show just how beautifully cheese can pair with spirits, beers and wines. Their events can become a great starting point for ideas to build your cheese board upon.
Visit Geoff and Little Cheese Shop at 89C Whatley Cres, Bayswater WA 6053 from Tuesday-Sunday, or stay up to date with them on their Facebook.
Australian craft beer is a wild and seemingly impenetrable world of new styles and breweries. The recent surge of craft beer in cans has led to lower packaging and transportation costs, meaning better and more widely available beer at your local bottle shop, but some beer is so special, so small batch, or from such a young brewery that it might not make it to packages at all. From special keg-only releases to great prices on your favourite brews, we spoke to Elliot Moore of Mane Liqour about how growlers can open up a new and exciting side of craft beer.
Growlers, much like craft beer, can be daunting at first glance. They require an initial outlay for the purchase of the growler, the unit size is significantly larger than a standard bottle of beer, and the alcohol percentages and price points of many tap offerings can feel prohibitive. But it’s exactly the things which make growlers impractical for day-to-day drinking which make it exciting for special occasions. Many growler fills are of keg-only beers, which you may never get to try again, and make a great alternative to a bottle of wine at parties.
So What are Growlers?
Growlers are reusable beer bottles which can be brought to certain bottle shops and breweries to be topped up with draught beer. Most come in 2 litre sizes alongside 1 litre ‘Squealers’, and should be finished the night they are opened. How long a growler lasts in the fridge is dependent on where it’s being filled: Many bottle shops now purge their bottles with carbon dioxide, allowing the beer to last up to several months, however from breweries and bars which simply fill straight from their taps, the growler should be consumed within a few days.
Growlers at Mane Liqour
Mane Liquor were the first bottle shop to start a growler station in a retail space. Elliot recalls a trip to New Zealand for the Beervana beer festival as the genesis of Mane Liqour’s growler station back in 2011, when he and co-owner Josh saw local bottle shops filling up plastic bottles with beer off tap. "We asked why they did it and they said that a lot of smaller breweries were producing beer which was keg only. It made sense since it can get very expensive to package your smaller runs as a brewer. They wanted to do a different brew every couple of weeks, and keeping it in kegs is even more profitable.
“It really impressed us, we were trying to get into that game as well. We'd wanted more unique stuff in our shop and thought that would be a great way to do it. We went back to Perth, approached racing and gaming, because nobody was doing growlers back then, and explained the concept. Racing and Gaming said that as long as the department of health agrees, we’ll let you do it. Which surprised us. We were expecting it to be more difficult.”
Mane Liqour’s initial growler station filled 740ml plastic bottles, starting with two taps of Feral’s brewpub exclusives. “People seemed to love it. We quickly decided that we needed a more professional system, and upgraded to our current system.” Says Elliot.
Now, six years later, they run six taps and fill one and two litre glass bottles, which can be bought in store, or brought from other breweries throughout Australia and the world.
"The idea is to bring beer to people which is usually unavailable anywhere else. Blasta is a brand new brewery, when he hadn’t even finished his brewery yet and was making beer out in different people’s breweries while his came online, the only way to get his beer was to go to a few different pubs. Our system let people check out his beer, buy it, and take it home."
Filling your Growler
Elliot says one of the great advantages for Growlers is that you can try before you buy, which is especially helpful for esoteric beers and special releases which can become polarising or expensive. Knowing that you’re going to love a beer before committing to an unconventional sour, or a $40 per litre barleywine is a great way to open up craft beer and make new styles and breweries less daunting.
Mane Liqour list their current beers and prices on Facebook and Untappd. They also keep a consistent range of styles across their taps: "We’ve broken up our taps to different styles, tap 1 and 2 are more approachable, easy going styles. Things like Nail MVP, Northbridge Brewing Co., affordable, really easy drinking. 3 and 4 are usually a step up, more aggressive IPAs or really cool saisons and brown ales. Tap 5 is always sour, and tap 6 is always something big, a big barley wine, a huge stout or porter. We’re trying to give every drinker something to choose from."
Visit Mane Liquor at 237 Great Eastern Hwy, and check our their tap list on Facebook.
South by South West
The spark which grew to become South by South West came during a post vintage road trip between Napa Valley and Lake Tahoe. Liv and Mij had decided to get "on-the-ground experience to learn about unusual varietals and different practices in wineries all over the world,” culminating in a trip around America, Canada and Italy to see and partake in each region’s style of winemaking.
"We had a loose plan to learn about the lifestyle of wine while we were doing vintages overseas, with the aim of being able to come home to Australia and begin our own label. With a lot of hard work, we've been able to make it happen.”
Liv and Mij
Liv and Mij are, respectively, a chemical engineer and graphic designer. Bringing their unique skills to their wine label, Liv’s background compliments winemaking, and Mij is involved with viticulture and designs the visuals of their brand.
"One of our differences is that by having jobs outside winemaking, it ensures that we can avoid shortcuts. We make what we want and how we want to make it, without compromise."
The two are friendly, charming, unpretentious and fun: A perfect embodiment of their wines.
South by South West wines are clean, crisp and friendly. They are not afraid to break rules when they need to, but don’t deny the regions from which they source their fruit.
"South by South West is all about making intentional wines which are unique to each vintage.” Mij told us, "We place emphasis on showcasing the region that the grapes are grown and what was specific about the vintage they were grown. We use minimal intervention practices and strive for maximum flavour and textural profiles that are balanced and made for enjoyment."
At this Grape To Glass we tried four wines from their Regional Classics range and a Petit Verdot from their One Tonne Projects range.
We started the night with a beautiful Sauvignon Blanc which blended four diverse subregions, moving on to a clean and fresh Chardonnay. Onto their reds, we tried a cooler-climate franklin river Syrah which Liv and Mij call a beautiful “proscuitto wine” and a Malbec Cabernet which riffed on the popular cabernet merlot blend, adding their own touch for a smooth and great drinking wine.
In Grape to Glass tradition, we finished with a surprise wine: The 2016 Greenhorn Petit Verdot. We personally couldn’t get enough of this strong, spicy wine Mij and Liv call the “big boy” of their collection. The Petit Verdot, amongst their other One Tonne Projects, comes from a single tonne of great fruit. The name Greenhorn comes as a reference to this project as their first time making 100% Petit Verdot, alongside a reference to their vintage in California travelling through the Greenhorn mountain ranges.
For this event we trekked down to the courtyard of North Fremantle’s Percy Flint, a beautiful dimly lit space warmed by great wine and company.
For a bit of a change from the usual format, this event was completely seated, with nibbles coming and going between tables throughout the night.
Lisa Richards started Knutsford Gourmet with a simple mission statement: To introduce new flavours to the cheeseboards of Perth. While Perth’s access to quality cheese has steadily increased, she noticed that people were more inclined to fill a plain cracker with spreads, fruits and nuts, than to look at upgrading the cracker itself. We spoke to Lisa about how she started making gourmet crackers, and her experiences as likely Perth’s only gourmet handmade cracker producer.
"I wanted to encourage people to eat a different flavoured biscuit with their cheese instead of a plain cracker or cheese on it’s own. People would add paste and fruit to a plain cracker, so why not have a flavoured cracker?”
Lisa began making biscuits when one morning, stocking up at The Grand Fromage at Kyilla Farmers Market, she noticed she couldn't get everything she needed to entertain guests that night, "I told him he should sell biscuits and accompaniments,” She suggested that she could make these biscuits herself, and showed up to the next market with her first batch, baked in her home oven, "He loved them, and became my first stockist.”
Starting with a Walnut and Honey Lavosh based on a recipe she learned as an apprentice chef, Lisa began expanding her offerings and building her brand.
"I think it helps having been a chef for 17 years. It helps to know your flavours. For example I don’t use raw fennel seeds, I toast them first which gives a more nutty, wholesome flavour. I have different styles of biscuit as base styles, and then any flavour can go on it, It’s all about experience and experimentation.
Her products now include graham crackers, lavosh, multi-seed crackers, shortbread and biscotti, each with suggested cheese pairings on their packaging.
"Just like any food, a chef puts together a plate with flavours which all compliment each other. I’ve designed styles of biscuits which will compliment your style of cheese."
Each package contains just enough produce for an average cheeseboard without any waste, the crackers have a good shelf-life of 5-8 weeks depending on the product, even despite being handmade with no preservatives.
As her brand expands, Lisa has moved from her home oven to a commercial kitchen, with yet another move in the works. She plans to expand her range and distribution without neglecting the quality and bespoke nature of her produce.
“My home oven made everything up until about three months ago. It was on morning, noon and night. I would drop the kids to school, roll, bake, then pick them up with trays ready for the oven. I’d put them to bed and start again from seven to around midnight, then start again."
"Once I’ve got the new space I’m looking for I can get the product to a lot more people. I also want to start touching on the Eastern states.”
The success and positive reactions Knutsford Gourmet has earned have shown Perth’s trending interest towards more complex and nuanced food, "People don’t spend money going out to clubs so much any more, they spend money on food, something you can remember and talk about for the rest of your life.” said Lisa.
In closing, we asked Lisa how she sets up a cheeseboard at home. "I always have a lavosh, something long, then a stack, some nuts, olives and fresh fruit on your plate,” she said, "I like some sweet and some savoury, Three cheeses and the biscuits which best suit."
Order Knutsford Gourmet and find their stockists on their website.