The Grafton Village Cheese Company was founded in 1892 as the Grafton Cooperative Cheese Company, which converted surplus milk from local dairy farmers into cheese. Years later, a fire destroyed the original factory. When the nonprofit Windham Foundation restored the company in the mid 1960s, a new era for the town was born. Today, Grafton Cheese handcrafts artisanal, aged cheddar and specialty cheeses that are recognized for quality and taste on a worldwide scale. Proceeds from the sale of these cheeses support the Windham Foundation’s charitable efforts.
Named for the bluff overlooking Grafton Village’s cheesemaking headquarters in Vermont, Bear Hill is truly an American original – a washed rind, Alpine style sheep's milk cheese.
Loosely following the make processes of continental cheeses like Emmentaler and Gouda, Bear Hill begins with 100% sheep’s milk – but the similarities end when the fresh cheese is taken out of the hoop, dry-salted, and washed with a bacteria and yeast solution. As Bear Hill ages for seven to eight months, washings occur less and less frequently, while flavor grows more and more complex.
The cheese is mild as far as washed rinds go, but that’s not to say this cheese doesn’t do a lot of talking. Firm yet pliant, flavors are sweet, fruity, and nutty with a long, savory finish. Bear Hill delivers the sweetness of sheep’s milk without any barnyard aromas.
Bear Hill can pair beautifully with many different beers. Try a malty beer with a little hop, like Otter Creek’s Oktoberfest. For wine pairings, try an Alsace Riesling, a Pinot Blanc, or a Gruner Veltliner.