Match of the Week 25th Anniversary Special: Lincolnshire Poacher and Dhillons Brewery Red IPA
Last Saturday was the 25th anniversary of Lincolnshire Poacher. The first batch of this excellent cheese was made on the 17th of February 1992 by Simon Jones under the tutelage of the late Dougal Campbell, an important figure in the British Cheese renaissance. Here is a picture of this historic moment. Dougal is the bearded fella on the right and Simon the apple cheeked young man on the left.
As Simon pointed out when I bumped into him at Neal’s Yard Dairy last week, the anniversary is particularly auspicious since the date is a sort of palindrome: 17/7/17. Also the family will have been farming Ulceby Grange Farm for 100 years this year.
Poacher is the lovechild of cheddar and gruyere, a sort of hybrid of British and Swiss styles. The sweetness and elastic texture of an Alpine cheese combine with the tanginess and savoury flavour of a West Country cheddar. Unlike traditional cheddars that are wrapped in cloth, Poacher is covered in plasticote which forms a kind of waxy rind. I think it might be this coating among other things that make it possible to age Poacher for up to 24 months, six more than for traditional cheddars. The older cheeses have plenty of authority without becoming overbearing - for me that balance is a style of really skilful cheese making.
On the nose, Dhillons Red has the burnt sugar and fruit notes you would expect from a red ale. On drinking, the beer has that sweet maltiness that make red ales such good partners for cheese. More of a surprise to me was the aromatic and bitter hoppiness. “Gee this is hoppy for a red ale” I thought to myself, before having a more careful look at the label where the initials IPA appear in big obvious letters. It’s that hoppy intensity that really makes this beer work with the Poacher, whose big barnyardy flavour and high acidity might overwhelm a more conventional red ale. Sometimes Lincolnshire Poacher has a pronounced note of tinned pineapple which would be a great compliment to the tropical fruit flavours of the new world hops used in this beer.
The presence, or not, of the delicious and desirable pineapple flavour is an example of an aspect of cheese making that I find really fascinating - its mystery. I was talking about this to Richard, the head cheese maker of Lincolnshire Poacher when I went to visit the farm last year. The conversation went something like this:
Me - “Pineapple!”
Richard - “Yeah I know!”
Me - “How come?”
Richard - “I wish I knew.”
Richard has gone as far as to record as many variables as he can about each day’s cheese making to try and figure out why the pineapple flavour appears. Variables might include things like which field the cows were in and what the weather was like on the day. So far he hasn’t had the time to run any analyses on these data, being too busy making smashing cheese. I suspect that even with the number crunching abilities of a Cray supercomputer we wouldn’t be any closer to getting an answer. Some things about cheese making are just imponderable and close to magic.
You can buy Lincolnshire Poacher from the farm’s own website or from Neal’s Yard Dairy. If you ask politely and send them the requisite funds, the nice people at Dhillons Brewery will send you a case of their Red IPA among other nice beers - I enjoyed the Stout too by the way. To book your very own tasting, find out about public events or just to have a pleasant and stimulating conversation about cheese, contact me here.