Kells Bay Cheese, delicious cheese from the heart of the Kingdom
It’s a nice summer day in the Kingdom, and I’m in for a special treat: visit Brian at his cheese production facility in Kells. His home is where he makes delicious cheese, on a short drive from Glenbeigh, right on the Ring of Kerry. I decided to park the car at Kells Bay Beach and take a short – but very steep – walk up to Brian’s house and cheese production unit.
The view is just spectacular, we can see Dingle Bay from here and Inch Beach is just around the corner. We take a moment to take it all in – and feel very lucky and grateful for living in a special place where the sea and the mountains get all into a nice frame.
‘’It is the fusion of the sea and uplands which helps create our unique, handcrafted farmhouse cheese.’’
I love talking to the local food producers – you can hear how passionate and enthusiastic they are for what they do. Brian is a pure gentleman, a pure lover of good cheese and he produces delicious hard cheese here in Co. Kerry. We get to have a lovely chat and a taste of his cheese.
He collects milk once a week from local dairy farmer Mike Quirke, Foilmore, in Cahersiveen for his dillisk cheese and once a week from farmer Colm Murphy in Dingle for his Kerry cow milk cheese. The Kerry Cow is a breed of cattle that originated in County Kerry and is known as the first breed ever bred solely for dairy. It is quite rare nowadays and surely produces delicious milk, which is also much easier to digest because it has smaller fat globules than other breeds.
Brian tells me that he learned how to make cheese from Maja Binder, German cheese maker well-known here in Kerry for her cheese and for opening the Little Cheese Shop in Dingle – which is now ran by Mark Murphy – and the Cheese Shop and Cafe in Tralee, where she now sells Irish, French and Italian cheeses together with delicious vegan salads, dips, and lots of artisan local produce.
A day of cheese making here at Kells Bay Cheese, starts early in the morning. After bringing in 700 litres of milk twice a week, he fills his tank and starts pasteurization.
The milk is then cooled down to the perfect temperature at which point rennet is added, to separate the curds. The cheese molds are filled and left to sit. They will be turned several times and pressed down to extract excess whey. The cheese is aged in its aging room where adequate humidity and temperature levels are maintained.
Brian set up his cheese production unit in 2015 and now stocks his cheese in various shops around the county. He runs his business on his own and loves to experiment with various aging times. He is very generous and brings out on the table various cheeses matured at different stages for us to taste. 12 months is the ‘’youngest’’ one – firm, clean, delicious – and I feel very lucky to taste some of his 32 months old: a nice delicate and clean flavour, with cheese crystals breaking down at every bite. I could still taste the freshness of the milk.
Next up is his Dillisk Cheese. Dillisk is one of the most common edible seaweeds in Ireland, and one that is rich in healthy protein, vitamins and minerals. Historically, this seaweed would have been harvested and eaten as part of daily diet in Ireland. The monks of Skellig Michael harvested Dillisk and incorporated it into their diet.
The dillisk seaweed in Kells Bay cheese gives it a different taste and texture. This was a finalist at Blas na hEireann food awards in 2019, and won a silver medal at Blas 2020 for his Cheese with dillisk and most recently won a Gold Award at the Melton Artisan Cheese Fair Awards, competing with cheeses from across the UK & Ireland.
Some shops & restaurants stocking & serving Kells Bay Cheese in Kerry
SuperValu Caherciveen, SuperValu Killarney, Mace Waterville, Skellig Meats Waterville, Eurospar Killorglin, Leaf & Larder Killorglin, Jack’s Bakery Killorglin, Krd. Smoked Salmon Killorglin, The Cheese Shop Tralee, Spa Seafoods Tralee, Kingdom Fine Foods Tralee, The Little Cheese Shop Dingle, Ventry Post Office Siopa Ui Luing, Ardfert Potatoes Farmshop, Kelly’s Bakery Sneem, Golden’s of Kells, Skellig Six 18 Caherciveen.
The Europe Hotel & Resort Killarney, The Killarney Plaza Hotel, Celtic Whiskey Bar & Larder Killarney, Lagom Restaurant Kenmare, O’Carroll’s Cove Caherdaniel, The Smugglers Inn Waterville, Croi Restaurant Tralee, Ballygarry House Hotel Tralee, The Charthouse Restaurant Dingle, Dingle Bay Hotel.