Cheese Of The Week: Chimay

Cheese of The Week is a weekly feature on The Daily Meal, drawing on the expertise of internationally renowned cheese expert and consultant Raymond Hook

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This is the story of a true Trappist cheese washed in true Trappist beer.

L'Abbaye Notre-Dame de Scourmont is located just outside of the town of Chimay, about two hours south of Brussels, and was founded in 1850 by seventeen Benedictine monks. These monks followed the centuries-old tradition of producing food – primarily cheese, and later, beer – for the community and the monastery, a tradition that is continued today with the beers and cheeses crafted for the renowned Chimay label.

To be labeled "Trappist," the Chimay cheese is required to be made by monks inside the actual walls of the monastery, and even more importantly, the proceeds must go to help the monks minister to their community. Following the Benedictine monks' ethos, the 48th chapter of the Rule of St. Benedict states, "For then are they monks in truth, if they live by the work of their hands." The cheese and beer were once made in small batches entirely by hand; although the Monks now embrace modern production methods, their work is still grounded in their sect's philosophical traditions.

Chimay cheese is made from pasteurized cow's milk and then carefully washed in the Chimay Premiere Red Cap Beer. The washing in beer helps develop Brevibacterium linens (commonly referred to as B-linens), which give the cheese its distinct orange color and well as a bit of a strong smell. These B-linens endow the cheese with a complex flavor profile, but one that is much milder than the smell might lead you to believe. As the cheese ages, it will develop stronger, earthier flavors. At its perfect stage of ripeness, the cheese is somewhat fudgy in texture, with a slightly sticky rind that will have granular bits on it from the beer washing. A subtle mushroomy quality and big umami flavors are also trademarks. This is a bold yet versatile cheese, and can be served as part of a fine cheese course, grated on top of soup to add richness, or even melted into a savory egg dish.

At this time of year, we particularly recommend incorporating Chimay into your holiday cheese board. In the season of giving thanks, this is a fantastic cheese that has its own history of community and charity to impart.

Additional reporting by Madeleine James.