English Stilton comes in three varieties - the well known Blue (Blue and Mature and/or Vintage Blue) and the rarer White. The Blue is the classic strong smelling and tasting blue veined cheese while the White is without the veins. Both cheeses were awarded the European Union Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status in 1996. The PDO requires making stiltons in a cylindrical form from full cream pastuerized cow's milk produced by dairy herds from the counties of Leiscstershire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire with no applied pressure and forming its own crust or coat. During milk shortaged, Stilton producers may source milk from several surrounding counties. Stilton is innoculated with Penicillium roqueforti (the same fungus used in Roquefort) to make the cheese blue. At about 5 weeks, the cheese maker pierces the cheese with stainless steel needles to let air in and allow the blue veins to grow. Blue Stilton is graded at 6 weeks and cheeses that do not meet standards can not be sold as Stilton. The cheeses are later graded to assess their suitability as mature Blue Stilton or Vintage Stilton. Blue Stilton is aged for 6 to 12 weeks, Mature Blue Stilton is aged 10 to 15 weeks and Vintage Blue Stilton is aged more than 15 weeks.
Blue Stilton has a strong pungent smell with traces of sweat, mushrooms, light funk, grass and nuts. It is soft and creamy yet crumbly and flaky with a buttery melt in your mouth texture. It is mildly tart, sharp, with some light lemon, faint grass, mushrooms and nuts. I am eating it with a Baxter Dolce Mio - an Imperial Cannoli Brown Ale brewed with cacao, vanilla bean, lactose and lemon peel. The malt, cacao and vanilla bean in the beer soften some of the cheese's sharpness and accent the nut flavors. The beer's lemon notes bring the cheese's lemon to notice. Eating the Stilton while drinking the Dolce Mio has me thinking of a mushroom quiche and the pairing works very well. While the dolce Mio steps things up a notch, Stilton will pair very well with any brown ale.