Over Thanksgiving weekend, I was fortunate enough to try my first ever Dutch cheese! Sound good? Well, it was! About a week before Thanksgiving, the kind makers of Beemster Cheese sent me two wedges of their famous cheese. Being the cheese-lover that I am, I couldn’t pass up this opportunity to taste authentic cheese from The Netherlands.
Although I had never heard of this popular Dutch-made cheese, after doing a little research, I learned a great deal about Beemster’s rich history.
Just the Beemster Facts
- Beemster is Holland’s most renowned cheese maker, having been in the cheese industry for over 100 years.
- Beemster ages its artisan cheese for a minimum of 18 months. This is actually considered vintage by British standards.
- Beemster is part of the Caring Dairy program, an initiative started by the makers of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and Beemster, which focuses on environment-friendly practices for making cheese and other dairy products. Beemster is also the exclusive provider of milk for Ben & Jerry’s European ice cream products.
- Beemster cheese is made on the famous Beemster Polder. A polder is a tract of low-lying land protected by dykes, commonly used for dairy farming because it is too wet for crop farming.
- The Beemster Polder is directly responsible for the layout of Manhattan in New York.
So, as you can see, the more I learned about this company and its cheese, the more I liked them. But, how does the cheese taste? The test came when I served the cheese during my family’s annual Thanksgiving dinner.
Thanksgiving With Beemster X-O
Although Beemster had graciously sent both its Beemster X-O and Beemster Classic cheese, I chose to serve only the X-O. The reaction to this 26-month aged cheese was a bit mixed. My mother, who can usually eat just about any cheese, didn’t care for it much. However, there were some guests who absolutely loved it. I took a few nibbles of the cheese and felt it was a little too strong for my taste. I guess it was too aged for my young palate! However, I do want to point out that I did serve the cheese cold, although Beemster suggests that all of its cheeses are best served at room temperature.
Beemster Classic – Take Two
I learned my lesson – room temperature cheese it was! So when serving the Beemster Classic, I made sure to take it out of the fridge about 1 hour before serving. What a difference!
There were so many things that I like about the Beemster Classic – where do I start?
What I liked about Beemster Classic Cheese:
Taste – The Classic’s flavor was a mix of parmesan, asiago, and sharp cheddar. This cheese was so rich and dreamy it made me wonder what the X-O would have tasted like if I would have served it the right way.
Smell – Although most people base their cheese fancy on what the cheese tastes like, I often go by smell. Because, if I can’t get past the smell, I won’t even try it! Unlike some aged cheeses, the Classic didn’t have that aged cheese smell. I won’t describe what that means, I think you know the aged cheese scent when you smell it.
Versatility – According to Beemster’s handy dandy cheese guide, the Classic is great when served as part of a sandwich, with fruit, or just by itself. Plus, it tastes even better while sipping on some red wine – which I did of course…
Ahh.. my lovely J. Lohr Cabernet and Beemster Classic Cheese – a wine and cheese lover’s bliss!
But, even though I highly enjoyed sampling my new Dutch cheese, I did find a few caveats to point out.
What I didn’t like about Beemster Classic Cheese:
Chunks only – The wedge of cheese that was sent to me, which I can only assume is one that you can also buy in the store, was not made for slicing, but only for cutting into chunks. This made it a little awkward eating my cheese with a long, thin cracker.
Convenience – Most of the cheese I serve can be done so straight from the fridge. Granted, maybe I’ve been serving cheese the wrong way my whole life, but this is the only way I’ve known it. For me to remember to take Beemster cheese out ahead of time, allowing it to come to room temperature, would take a miracle – or at least a well-placed sticky note on my fridge door.
Availability – With my new-found love for Beemster cheese, I promptly searched my local Trader Joe’s, Fresh Market, and regular grocery store to see if they carried this brand. My fruitless search left me disappointed and cheeseless. After reviewing the Beemster retailer locations online, it turns out, the closest seller of the cheese, Sunset Foods, is about 20 miles from my house. I plan to keep searching other high-end grocers in hopes that they may have slipped in the Beemster without me knowing.
I have to admit, even with its very minor caveats, this cheese made my Thanksgiving weekend much tastier. Would I buy this cheese in the store? I can say without a doubt – absolutely! But, I have to actually find it in my store first!
Not that I want to scrutinize too much… But Beemster is a hard cheese, not like the soft and semi-soft cheese’s you’ve had that go well with crackers. Hard cheeses are best eaten by themselves. Beemster is also especially dry, and as such adding a cracker to it will make the experience that much drier.
With rare exception, every cheese you eat should be served at room temperature. This allows the fats suspended in the cheese to soften and smooth the cheese out overall. It will also add complexity to the cheese. Again, this is especially important with a very hard cheese like the one you reviewed (likely why it was easier to get away without doing it for other cheeses) because as the fats soften, it will make the cheese smoother and not dry and crumbly like cheese pulled straight from the fridge.
Just a tip, glad you liked the cheese overall, it’s definitely some of the best.
I usually get it at Altbersons. I enjoy eating it with sweet red grapes and white toast… yummy!