Going Rogue: Cheesemaker David Gremmels celebrates Rogue Creamery’s 75th year with a visit to Tampa

After tasting Rogue Creamery’s Morimota Soba Cheddar, Chipotle Cheddar, Chocolate Stout Cheddar and Smokey Blue cheese all paired with wine and beer, we were off to Cigar City Brewing. Tampa’s local brewery partnered with Whole Foods Market (where these cheeses are also available) to help David celebrate. The casual tasting at Cigar City highlighted the diversity of Rogue Creamery. I tried more of their blues: Oregon Blue, Oregonzola and Caveman Blue. All were awesome with Cigar City’s Maduro Oatmeal Brown Ale. The caramel, toffee and roasted nut flavors in this incredibly balanced beer rocked with the earthy, creamy blues from Rogue.

Two other clever beer pairings featured the Lavender TouVelle. This American-style cheese is blended with organic lavender blossoms to create a subtle floral flavor finished with hints of sweet cream and roasted nuts. It was heavenly to eat this cheese with Cigar City’s Jai Alai India Pale Ale. The apricot, peach and citrus notes of this hoppy treat perfectly accentuated everything wonderful about the Lavender TouVelle cheese. David recommended trying the cheese with the Sea Bass Saison Farmhouse Ale also brewed at Cigar City. This beer is unique, with its dark brown head and funky nose. The appealing sour finish, along with its own floral nuances, really made the Lavender TouVelle pop.

Photo: American Cheese Society.

A stalker is defined as: a person who follows or observes (a person) persistently, especially out of obsession or derangement. Phew! I don’t qualify, as I am clearly not deranged. Close though, considering I shadowed David Gremmels of Rogue Creamery and the American Cheese Society around Tampa on his latest visit. In my world of cheese, meeting him is like meeting a rock star. Top that with David being one of the most humble and patient people I’ve ever talked to; add cheese, wine and beer to the mix and you can pretty much describe my day as bliss.

I first met David on the terrace at Mazzaro’s Italian Market on a beautiful afternoon. He had just begun a tour of the South to celebrate Rogue Creamery’s 75th anniversary. David and co-owner Cary Bryant bought the creamery in 2002 and they have raked in the awards since. Holding fast to responsibility, Rogue Creamery is certified organic and sustainable with a seal of quality assurance.

In addition to winning the World’s Best Blue Cheese Award in 2003, their Rogue River Blue took Best of Show at the 2009 American Cheese Society competition and second in 2010. Only 2,000 wheels of Rogue River Blue are produced annually. After some aging, Rogue River Blue is hand wrapped in Syrah leaves harvested from Carpenter Hill Vineyards. Rogue soaks the leaves in Clear Creek’s Pear Brandy for eight months before wrapping each wheel of blue and tying the leaves in place with raffia. This makes the mold go into an anaerobic state stopping further growth. The textural charm from the rich, creamy paste dotted with calcium and tyrosine crystals (an amino acid found in protein) assures that you are eating a well-made aged cheese, while the nuances of pine, berries, hazelnuts and pears confirm complexity. Beer pairings for Rogue River Blue run the gamut, but David recommends a special blend of equal parts Rogue Brewery’s Morimota Soba Ale and their Double Chocolate Stout, which he calls a “Mole.” The concoction complements the cheese by accentuating its nuttiness while the cheese brings out the coffee notes in the beer.

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