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Owen Baily from Neals Yard, Siobhán Ní Ghairbhith from St Tola Goat Farm, and Chef Rory O’Connell, event compere

Clare big cheeses land national prizes

THREE Clare cheesemakers tasted success at the Irish Cheese Awards 2021, the Irish Farmhouse Cheesemaker’s prestigious gala.

St Tola Goat Farm fared best with two gold awards and a silver. In the ‘Fresh/ Soft Cheese: Goat Milk’ category, the Inagh organisation took gold for their St Tola Divine.
In the ‘Raw Milk Cheese: All milk types’ category, there was another gold for their St Tola Original Log. In the “Soft White Cheese: All Milk Types” meanwhile, they took silver for their St. Tola Ash.

Burren Gold Cheese, Aillwee Cave, Ballyvaughan received the Bronze in the “Hard Cheese: Flavour Added’ category for their Burren Gold Cumin.

Dave Merrins and Damien Martyn, Ailwee Caves who were awarded a Bronze at the 2021 Irish Cheese Awards.

Cratloe Hills, meanwhile, from Brickhill West, Cratloe, received the Bronze medal in the ‘Hard/Semi Hard Cheese Under 6 Months: Goat, Sheep, Buffalo’ category for its Cratloe Hills Sheep’s cheese.

Organised by Cáis, the Association of Irish Farmhouse Cheesemakers, the bi-annual event which took place in Bray, celebrates Ireland’s vibrant and thriving farmhouse cheese sector.

Now in its ninth year, the all-island event, which is the only dedicated competition for the sector, received entries from over 50 companies which entered a total of 220 cheeses – the largest number of entries ever recorded for the event.

The keynote address at this year’s awards ceremony was delivered by Minister for Agriculture, Food & the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, TD.

He said “The CAIS Irish cheese awards showcase all that is great and good in our sector.  I offer my congratulations to all those who have been nominated as well as those who receive awards.

“An astonishing 220 cheeses, from mature to mild, which have been entered by 50 cheesemakers, have been judged which shows just the depth and breadth of talent in the sector.

“The wide range of cheese that is produced in Ireland is incredibly important in terms of increasing added value to our cheese sector. The quality of Irish milk produced from our sustainable grass-based production system contributes enormously to the success of the Irish cheese industry.

“I again congratulate the winners as well as those who were nominated. Their hard work and dedication to the craft of cheese mongering is one of the main reasons Ireland has such an impressively successful cheese sector.” 

The cheeses entered were judged by a team of 15 experts with products assessed under the following criteria: aroma, flavour, body and texture, and overall appearance.  Judging for the competition is ‘blind’ with all packaging and labelling removed allowing each cheese to speak for itself.

Tom Dinneen of Bo Rua and Chair of Cáis said, “For Irish farmhouse cheesemakers the Irish Cheese Awards is an important date in our calendar, as we come together as a community to celebrate our achievements.

“This year the judges had the particularly difficult task of putting the eclectic variety of 220 cheeses entered to the taste test to identify their chosen worthy award-winners.

“While the Irish Cheese Awards recognise individual excellence, every farmhouse cheesemaker can take an equal share of the credit for the outstanding contribution that the sector continues to make to Irish food culture, our rural communities and the dairy industry” 

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