Meet the 5 Tastiest Cheeses in The Country: 2023 ACS Award Winners
Last week, the winners of the American Cheese Society's 2023 Judging & Competition Awards were announced at the 40th ACS Annual Conference in Des Moines, Iowa! Entrants and cheese lovers alike were anxious to hear which cheeses would be crowned best in the country.
Each product entered into the competition is judged blindly by "select judges who possess the utmost levels of expertise, ethics, and reliability. ACS Judges are food professionals selected from academia and the dairy sciences industry, as well as culture manufacturers, food retailers, food distributors, and members of the food media."
The judges work in pairs--one assesses the technical aspects of each cheese while the other assess the aesthetic qualities. According to the American Cheese Society website, "Technical Judges deduct points for flaws and defects from a perfect score of 50; Aesthetic Judges award points for outstanding characteristics and qualities to a maximum of 50...Awards are given to cheeses and cultured dairy products which have achieved technical excellence and exhibit the highest aesthetic qualities."
Now that we know how they're judged, let us introduce the cheeses that were awarded the highest number of points by the esteemed judges.
3rd Place (3-Way Tie): Pleasant Ridge Reserve; Uplands Cheese
"This alpine-style cheese is the most-awarded cheese in American history, having won Best of Show in the ACS annual competition three times before (2001,2005, and 2010), and having also won the US Cheese Championships in 2003.
It is the only cheese to have won ACS Best of Show three times, and the only cheese to have ever won both of the major, national cheese competitions." - via Uplands Cheese
Uplands Cheese describes this decadent cheese as following: "Pleasant Ridge Reserve is an aged, alpine-style cheese. Like the coveted, alpage versions of Beaufort and Gruyere, Pleasant Ridge is made only in the summer months, while our cows are grazing fresh pasture.
The sweetness born from the grass-fed milk combines with the savory flavors developed by the cheese’s natural, washed rind. The resulting complexity – rich and salty, with a long, fruity finish – has made Pleasant Ridge one of the most distinctive and celebrated cheeses in the country."
3rd Place(3-Way Tie): Prairie Tomme; Green Dirt Farms
"This rustic, mountain-style, hard sheep cheese won a 1st place ribbon at the “Oscars of Cheese” (the American Cheese Society Competition) last year and won ACS awards for flavor and quality in 2016 and 2017. Prairie Tomme also won a “Good Food Award” in 2018. The Good Food Awards go to exceptional food crafters who not only top the charts in a blind tasting but also meet the Good Food Foundation’s environmental and social responsibility standards." -via Green Dirt Farm.
"Green Dirt Farm’s Prairie Tomme is our rustic, mountain-style, 100% sheep’s milk hard cheese. It’s similar to the sheep’s milk cheeses from the Pyrenees mountains, like Idiazabal and Ossau Iraty, but has its own unique character owing to the distinctive flavors imparted by the forages our sheep eat. Sarah first learned to make our version of this style of cheese in 2010 from a Croatian cheese maker who demonstrated the traditional techniques for making the fabulous but little-known Croatian sheep’s milk cheese, Paski Sir. Sheep on the Island of Pag, where Paski Sir is made, graze on wild grasses and herbs that flavor their sheep’s milk, just like our grasses and forbs flavor our sheep’s milk. Our cheese-making team continues to refine the recipe little by little each year to create the fantastic cheese we make today." - via Green Dirt Farm's blog.
3rd Place(3-Way Tie): Basket Molded Chevre; Pure Luck Farm & Dairy
"Working with 100 pampered Nubian and Alpine goats, this woman-owned business produces delicate and refined cheeses that have been recognized with numerous awards by the ACS. The fresh basket molded chevres, which come in plain, mixed herb, cracked black pepper, and anaheim red chili rank in every Dairymaid's top 10 list for their creamy versatility and clean, tangy flavor." - via Houston Dairy Maids.
To create this silky chèvre, the cheesemakers hand-ladle curds made from the farm's goat milk into basket molds to drain.
2nd Place: Cumberland; Sequatchie Cove Creamery
"Cumberland is a trusty Alpine-style cheese like Tomme de Savoie, but its remarkable rind and pleasing textures are an echo from the Tennessee forest. Tomme style cheeses have a straightforward way of capturing the places they represent, and Cumberland just keeps unfolding no matter how long you explore." - via Sequatchie Cove Creamery.
These wheels combine mild earthiness with nuttiness, a pleasing fermented tang and long lingering creaminess. - via Counter Cheese Mongers.
1st Place: St. Malachi; The Farm at Doe Run
"As a small farmstead creamery with only 20 cows (as well as a small herd of goats and sheep) the Farm at Doe Run produces a very limited amount of St. Malachi, so it may be difficult to find for sale.
The cheesemakers of The Farm at Doe Run wanted to create a cheese that would pay homage to Old World traditions but also be something distinctive that blended their production styles. The result was St. Malachi, a unique cow’s milk creation that has become a fan favorite." - via Culture Cheese Mag.
These cheeses are only the 5 best in show--there are hundreds of exceptional cheeses that were awarded at the competition! Check out the full list here. Congratulations to all of the winners! 🥳