July 19th, 2024

Local cheese makers win big in Montreal

By Nicholas Allen - for the Lethbridge Herald on May 6, 2022.

An international food and beverage trade show has announced the winners of the 2022 International Cheese Competition.
One of the cheese companies that entered the competition was Crystal Springs Cheese near Coalhurst, only ten minutes away from Lethbridge. The company was started in 1984 and pride themselves on being “Alberta made” according to their website.
SIAL Canada built on its success in 2019 in Toronto, with this special cheese competition being the first of its kind in Montreal. The jury was made up of 13 cheese industry professionals who evaluated nearly 150 cheeses from 10 countries in 20 categories. For a category to be eligible, three cheeses had to be presented.
Crystal Springs’ Process Manager and Cheese Maker, Jacco Beyer, started getting involved in the family business when he was only 16 after his parents purchased Crystal Springs Cheese. He oversees the day-to-day work of the business and was responsible for developing the cheese that won gold at the International Cheese Competition.
“The last couple of years we made a batch [of cheese] and we’ve seen the potential for it, and we kept on tweaking it over a couple years and last fall we won third place with it,” said Beyer. “That was a milder version and then we had a little bit more of a curd version of it that won first [this year].
One of the cheese wheels entered for the competition won the category for three- to six-month-old cheddar.
“We called it a Fancy Cheddar; it was a little bit different than traditional cheddar…we age it similar to how you would age gouda,” said Beyer. “It’s got a very nice flavour profile to it just because of the way we aged it.
The other three winners were Asiago cheese, Goat Feta cheese and Extra Mature Gouda cheese.
Beyer credits Alberta Milk for inviting Crystal Springs Cheese to submit an entry for the competition. Alberta Milk is the organization that runs the province’s milk supply.
They have a marketing budget for each of their producers and processors explained Beyer.
“To enter a cheese competition, you have to send a full wheel which is five [kilograms] of each cheese entry,” said Beyer. “It can’t be like a little chunk because they don’t want you to be able to pre-taste the wheel.”
He said they entered the competition to create awareness of Crystal Springs Cheese’s brand and that having an award on your label is another eye catcher for consumers. A part of that brand is the artisanal approach they take in producing cheese.
“We have fresh milk from our farm next door so whenever we make cheese, we have access to milk that is either just from that morning or from the night before, so we have a couple days head start pretty much on milk supply to what any commercial cheese would be,” said Beyer.
There are also no steps to speed up the process or make it more mechanized. Beyer shared that all the cheese is hand-made in small batches.
“It’s how cheese was made in the old days,” he stated.
For more information on where to find their cheese visit the website crystalspringscheese.com.

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To quote Monty Python ” Blessed are the Cheesemakers”.