The Making of Brown Bottle Cheddar

Don’t you just love a good story about community and collaboration? A synergistic happening that brings the best of different things together to create something wonderful… even delicious? The story behind the making of our Brown Bottle Cheddar is a good one, indeed. It involves three things we love: collaboration, cheese, and beer. And the best part is, it’s 100% true.

The key players in this collaboration are all leaders in their respective arenas. Otter Creek Brewery out of Middlebury, VT has been innovating with craft beers since, as they put it, “acid-wash jeans were in style”. Vermont Farmstead Cheese Company is the award-winning cheese company from South Woodstock, VT that creates unique farmstead and artisanal cheeses. And then there’s yours truly, Healthy Living Market—if you’re reading this you’re probably well aware of our passion for exceptional food and products.

Before we start our story, it’s important to understand that when it comes to cheese, production of the best quality dairy is paramount. Vermont Farmstead Cheese Company (VFCC) uses sustainable farming practices and is wholeheartedly dedicated to their animals and authentic cheesemaking. They’re also the first community-owned artisan cheese and dairy facility in the state of Vermont with a multi-breed herd of cows. Their Holstein, Jersey, Ayrshire, and Brown Swiss cows all have names and each breed adds a different value to their products. For all of these reasons, partnering with VFCC on our collaboration cheddar made perfect sense.

Now, on to the story.

On a chilly day this past December, a member of the Healthy Living staff cruised up through the Green Mountains to the picturesque 18-acre home of VFCC. After being greeted warmly by farmers and cheesemakers, they were ceremoniously put to work milking one of the cows for our first batch of cheddar. Very early the following morning, more folks from the Healthy Living team along with the cosmic crew from Otter Creek Brewing Company descended on the Farmstead for a special day of cheese making.

Rick Woods, the veteran cheesemaker at the helm, orchestrated the whole process beginning with the fresh milk collected the previous evening. Woods, who has helped develop numerous award-winning Vermont cheeses, knows pretty much all there is to know about cheese and prefers using something called a peg mill to tear the curds, giving them more surface area. Peg mill’s are more common in the United Kingdom, which is why one was specially built and shipped to VFCC. This special piece of equipment is key when adding an ingredient like beer to the mix, because it allows the curds to absorb even more of that wonderful flavor.

After the peg mill worked it’s magic, our friends from Otter Creek brought out the extra-special ingredient: the beer! But not just any beer. They’d carefully selected the famous Backseat Berner (a favorite among their brewers), an incredibly juicy American IPA that hits all the notes, from pine and citrus to tropical fruits. When cheesemaker Woods made the call, into the curds went the Berner… and a lot of it! 2 kegs to be exact, minus enough for a celebratory toast among the whole crew, of course. Once the cheese was formed it was pressed into blocks, and set in the cellar to age. After hugs and high-fives were exchanged, the Healthy Living and Otter Creek crews left the Farmstead, ready to do the good work of preparing for the big reveal.

As the cheese has aged, all three companies have been working to tell the story of this collaboration. Even the naming of the cheese was a community effort among the Healthy Living staff! The final vote was for Brown Bottle Cheddar… aptly named, for sure. Our designers created the label, and now after 7 months, Brown Bottle Cheddar is ready for you to enjoy!

Don’t miss out on our upcoming tastings of Brown Bottle Cheddar paired with Backseat Berner at both our locations, and if you’re in Middlebury, be sure to stop into Otter Creek where they’ll be featuring the cheese on their pub menu. And, of course, come into Healthy Living to pick up your own block of Brown Bottle Cheddar. In the spirit of collaboration we recommend pairing it with some good company… and a bottle of Berner.