Irish Artisan Cheeses

13 Oct 2011

Clockwise from the top: Glebe Brethan Gruyere, Figs {graciously donated by Avoca}, Cooleeney, Cratloe Hill’s Sheeps Milk Cheese, Cashel Blue, Beal Organic Cheddar, St. Tola Goat’s Cheese.

Yes, it is true. I have become a bit obsessed with all things dairy as of late. Butter, raw milk, cheese, cheese and more glorious cheese. I confess, I have become a born-again cheesehead and this is for a perfectly good reason: one of Ireland’s best-kept secrets is that this beautiful “food island” is awash with absolutely amazing artisanal cheeses that you simply cannot ignore.

Of course, I felt it was my obligation to share just a few {which had nothing to do with my luxurious sampling of each and every one of them over wine, figs and crackers for an entire week…no, no, no…not at all} so that you can celebrate this cheesy goodness with me as well.

And while I don’t have any recipes to share with you for this blog post, I hope to do so in the future as my farmer and I are taking a cheese making course here this summer.

So, without further adieu, I invite you to indulge in a few of these special cheeses along with so many more that Ireland has on offer…

Cooleeney is a soft mould ripened cheese, with a beautiful creamy texture and a distinctive aftertaste. This cheese is produced on the Maher farm in the heart of Tipperary where the pastures are rich and are surrounded by damp boggy land an environment which allows the Mahers to produce Cooleeney which, when mature are creamy and oozing with the flavour of one of the finest cheeses.

Glebe Brethan is an artisan cheese made from unpasteurised Montbeliarde cows’ milk at the Tiernan Family Farm, Dunleer, Co. Louth, Ireland. The pedigree cows graze on lush pastures and are fed cereals grown on the farm. It is a gruyere-type cheese made in 45-kilo wheels, which are matured on spruce timbers for 6-18 months. It is carefully hand-turned and salted to form a natural rind, which enhances its unique flavour.

St. Tola Cheese has a unique and distinctive flavour that owes much to the clean fresh environment in which it is produced. The 65 acre organic farm provides herb rich grass and hay for the goats. The St Tola Herd comprises of Saanen, Toggenburg and British Alpine Goats approx 220 in total – a mixture of milkers, kids and pucks. Every year the herd increases by keeping the offspring from the best milkers while retiring goats and their kids are given away as family pets or sent onto Bothar.

Cratloe Hills Sheep’s Cheese was the first Irish ewe’s milk made in modern times. The Fitzgerald family milks their herd of pedigree Friesland ewes from March, after the lambing has finished, until September when the ewes get a much-deserved winter break. The lightly waxed cheese is matured for between 2 – 6 months. The young cheese has a semi-firm texture and a light caramel taste and a slightly dry finish. As the cheese ages, the texture dries slightly and the flavour becomes more robust. Enjoyable with a light wine such as Beaujolais or Chateau Filliol.

Cashel Blue is a semi-soft blue cows’ milk cheese. It is unique, as it is Ireland’s first farmhouse blue cheese. It is all made on the dairy farm of Jane and Louis Grubb nr Cashel in Co. Tipperary Ireland. While some milk is purchased, the majority of the milk comes from the pedigree Friesian dairy herd on the farm. The cheese is made from pasteurised whole milk. It is sold in many speciality outlets in the U.K., United States and Ireland, as well as being listed by most of the British Multiples. Much of the cheese is sold young, while it is firm and crumbly, but for a fuller flavour it is best eaten at about three months of age, when it has a softer texture and more mature flavour.

You can find these cheeses and many more at Sheridan’s Cheesemongers, Fallon & Byrne, Superquinn, Avoca and other shops and restaurants that support local cheese producers in Ireland.

Collins Press has sent me a copy of this lovely new book: Irish Farmhouse Cheeses, A Celebration to share with one lucky reader! Please leave a comment below to be included in the drawing…just tell me why you love Irish cheese, what your favourite Irish cheese is or why you’d love to learn more about these magnificent cheeses. I will happily ship this gem throughout Ireland and abroad.

Slan Abhaile,


Photography by Imen McDonnell

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36 Responses to “Irish Artisan Cheeses”

  1. Elmer Kerr says:

    We have a retail client who is setting up an all-new Gourmet/Deli Parlour that will include an artisan Irish cheese counter and we would be delighted to get advice from someone with your expertise as to what cheeses should be stocked in what will be a great food outlet?

  2. Gerald says:

    Lovely collection of cheese and lovely book. What type of cheese is missing or would complement these? Any ideas?

  3. laura says:

    That book looks lovely.
    I think my favourite cheese is probably Crozier Blue rather than Cashel Blue, I love the flavour the sheep’s milk gives it. Sheep’s dairy seems to be an untapped niche in Ireland, when compared to other European countries. Gubeen is also a firm favourite. Along with plain old Irish cheddar, I miss that living abroad! 🙂

  4. Erin says:

    My family is from Ireland, but I’ve never had Irish cheese. Thanks for this post–it’s great to see the variety and history of cheeses!

  5. Janice says:

    I tasted Irish cheese for the first time this past summer. Of course I loved it. Who wouldn’t? Although my family comes from Ulster, I’ve never had the pleasure of visiting Ireland. Yet. I just learned of you this morning, and am now curious and eager to know more about Irish cheese and the countryside. I would so very much love to have this book at the Alaska lodge, where I am chef durring the summer season. I would appreciate more information about you and your book.:) Thank you, Janice

  6. Siobhan says:

    I love trying different types of cheese. Cooleeney is my current favorite especially with some pear relish. Saw a copy of this book. It is like an encyclopedia of deliciousness. Would love to win it : )

  7. I still have so many cheeses to try… I need to look for these beauties

  8. Living in the French countryside now has opened our eyes to a whole new world of French cheeses, most notably goat & cow milk based ones b/c of our friendships with goat/dairy farmer neighbours. We are now sad for the amazing tastes we now know & much of the world doesn’t! These aren’t commercialized cheeses, so remain our delectable secret 😉 I’m always open to trying other countries’ fromage selections and I have to say Donal turned me on to the Irish Cashel blue back in February when he was in Paris, so much so I tried to find it here in France. No luck, the French don’t like to share the cheese market! Hoping the re-opening of M&S here will bring me hope….so put me down for the Cashel Blue s.v.p. 🙂

  9. Carol Thomas says:

    Ever since my visit to Ireland, and tasting the delicious, rich cheeses there, I have been hunting for them here in the States. We do have some import shops that offer some, not a huge variety though.
    Really enjoy your blog! Thanks!

  10. Kimberly says:

    I haven’t had the good fortune of trying irish cheeses but absolutely love cheese – and a book that looks as beautifully photographed as this one is something I would adore! Beautiful farm books are one of my guilty pleasures… I find the photos and the stories so inspiring~
    So happy to have found you – thank you for helping me figure out how to leave a comment!
    Have a fabulous rest of your week,

  11. Martina says:

    I am a big fan of irish cheese and would love a copy of this book!

  12. Gerard Wallace says:

    I would love to learn a lot more about Irish cheeses.

  13. Yum!
    I’m having lunch as I type this, and typically some cheese in included. This time it is Gouda. The book however may lead me off in new lunchtime directions. I’d love a copy!

  14. Peggy says:

    Oh I love cheese. I am French so I think it is in my genes. Ireland produces some great cheese

  15. Cashel Blue is a favorite, though I think if I were “stuck” with one I’d take Dubliner. Looks like a great book, thanks.

  16. Caryna says:

    I consider myself somewhat of a cheese ambassador by virtue to eating and speaking about cheese so much 🙂

  17. Cathy says:


    Irish cheeses are so tasty. Someone should be touring the country to find the best cheese in each area. Galway Saturday market has a blue cheese that puts a grin on your face for days! Salute to the cheesemakers.

  18. Heidi Leon says:

    Imen darling, I have to confess I have never tried an Irish cheese 🙁 but I see this book as a great opportunity to learn more about Irish cheeses and food!.

    I would like to try them all, but specially Cooleeney (what a funny name) and St. Tola.

  19. Maureen says:

    I’ve always enjoyed Irish Cheese… I look forward to tasting more of them… I had never heard of Cratloe Hills Sheep’s Cheese…

  20. Nancy says:

    i married an Irish computer engineer 🙂 and love cheese a little too much sometimes…thanks! love yer blog!

  21. Katie says:

    As I was reading this, I thought, how can I find out more about Irish cheeses? And behold! There is a book on the subject! Now I want to find out more. Thanks for an inspiring post.

  22. Maggie says:

    nothing better than Irish cheese…

  23. Tim says:

    there is nothing better than Irish cheese, and I live 20 miles from Wisconsin … Your photography and post, make us want to have some now!

  24. Bill says:

    I would love a copy!

  25. Liana says:

    I’d love to try them all…. 🙂

  26. Kay Reinhart says:

    I think Gubbeen is my favorite. But that’s today and because I have some. Tomorrow it will be another if I can get to a shop and buy something else. This book really does justice to the variety and quality of Irish cheeses but nothing beats the real thing.

  27. Emma says:

    I love Irish cheese. I think it’s the best because of the plush land that the cows, sheep & goats graze on, giving the nicest milk. One of my personal favourites is Milleens from West Cork. It’s strong and pungent and tastes great.

  28. Alison says:

    Oh, I love Irish cheese! Gubbeen, adrahan, colleeney… I am from Sligo but live in London at the moment, and it makes me so happy to go into Neals Yard Dairy and see all of the Irish cheeses they have – my heart feels ready to burst with pride! I would love to have a guide like this!

  29. Karen Duffy says:

    I am signed up to take the 12 week introductory cooking course at Ballymaloe in the coming year and this American would like to get a head-start on learning more about Ireland’s cheeses. I believe we get a chance to make our own cheese, which sounds like fun. And judging this book by its cover (which we all do, in spite of the adage against doing so)…the book must be lovely!

    All the best,

  30. Hi Imen, I love your articles in the Farmers Journal’s Country section every Friday. And I really love cheese. I usually have the Beal and St Tola for sale in my little store, but I never get tired of eating them. That is a wonderful platter of Irish artisan cheese you have on display. It would make a fabulous meal anytime! I have tried them all bar the Glebe Brethan, and I am looking forward to adding it to the list of cheese I adore. If you are ever down in Kerry, you should check out the Little Cheese Shop in Dingle! Maya has an amazing selection of Irish cheeses including the wonderful Kilcummin that she makes herself.

  31. I just love the range of cheeses found in Ireland- my family does. We recently consumed Knockdrinna – love Cashel blue and Gubbeen and Cooleeney among others. Goat cheeses are big favourites in our family. Would love to get a copy of this book to learn more about all the others!

  32. Shane says:

    First time visiting this blog, and now I’m hooked! Mouthwatering!
    I’m not a cheese connoisseur at all, but I’d love to learn more.


  33. Jessica Graham says:

    I once wrote an English paper in the 10th grade on Irish Cheese. You could say I was (and am) a bit obsessed! My mom bought me a cheesemaking kit the next year. I am sad to say it was never used, but now that I’m a bit older I would love to learn properly. I have lived in Northern Ireland now for 2 1/2 years, and love the Cashel Blue!
    Kind Regards,
    Jessica Graham

  34. […] znaleźć tylko ten jeden Cashel Blue i jak się okazało to irlandzki ser. A dzisiaj odkryłam ten post na temat irlandzkich serów. A tu jeszcze szerszy opis. Oj długa serowa droga przede […]

  35. Wiosanna says:

    I just moved to Ireland and I love cheese. I just tried Cashel Blue, but I will try to look for others as well 🙂

  36. SoniaBegonia says:

    Delicious and beautiful!

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