Meadow Creek Dairy is a family farm located in the mountains of southwest Virginia. At an elevation of 2,800 feet, the combination of pure water, clean air and deep soils produce an ideal environment for growing diverse, mineral-rich pastures. Rick & Helen Feete have been farming since 1980, and over the years have worked extremely hard, focusing their attention on constantly improving the genetics and milk quality of their herd of Jersey cows. Meadow Creek's cheese production is resolutely seasonal. Milking begins in late March, when all the calves are born, to coincide with the new growth of grass. The cows are never confined and are born and raised on pasture, where they graze a diverse mixture of perennial grasses and legumes, supplemented with some grains, salt and Norwegian kelp. In the fall, when the grass declines, milk production naturally winds down too. Christmas Eve is the last day of the milking season and the beginning of a two-month rest for the cows and the family. Originally called, Mini Grayson, this washed rind cheese has a personality all its own. While the recipe for Mini was based on Meadow Creek’s award-winning Grayson, it is not just a smaller version of its parent cheese. One reason for that is the extra step of washing the cheese in Highland Brewing Company’s Oatmeal Porter during the finishing process. Another reason is that Mini is made in very limited quantities (about 60 wheels per week), with the first wheels available in mid-June. This makes the cheese more seasonal than any of the other cheeses offered by Meadow Creek. Mini is made using Jersey cow milk that is pumped directly from the milking parlor to the cheese-making facility in the Feete’s home. The milk is then heated to 93ºF and the rennet is added. Once the curds and whey have separated, the curds are cut using an automated method that creates corn kernel to hazelnut-sized pieces. The curds are cooked for an additional ten minutes, then drained and put into square shaped hoops. The newly formed cheeses are then brined for the first time and aging begins. The aging process lasts for between 60 and 80 days, during which time the cheeses are washed first with brine, then with beer and flipped to ensure even maturation.
The sweet, grassy flavors of a Munster are present in Mini, but it also has hints of the hops and yeast - a result of the beer used to wash it. Underneath its delicate orange-red rind is a yellow paste created by the carotene-rich milk that is used. The texture of the paste is silky and decadent. Mini’s aroma is pungent and strong.
Beer is an obvious pairing with Mini. But it is also great with an Alsatian or Riesling wine or even a single malt scotch. Serve it with summer stone fruit such as peaches, or other summer fruits such as cherries.