Buyers seeking the American Cheese Society’s Best in Show cheese for their retail store will most likely be out of luck.
There’s only 23 16-pound truckles of Beecher’s Flagsheep, a sheep’s and cow’s milk clothbound cheddar.
“It is one of those things,” admits Kurt Dammeier, CEO and founder of the Seattle-based Beecher’s Handmade Cheese. “We have 23 wheels, and we could easily sell 100 times that now. I wish we had more of it.”
Because of the extremely limited quantity, Beecher’s is only selling Flagsheep, which Dammeier describes as "a caramel-ly, farmhouse cow/sheep cheddar," to its handful of wholesale customers that are already buying it. To date, most of the cheese has been sold at its two stores: in Pike Place Market and at its New York location at 20th and Broadway. “We like to have some for bonuses for people coming to our own stores,” Dammeier explains.
Beecher’s started making Flagsheep three years ago. The mixed-milk cheese was born out of Dammeier’s appreciation for sheep’s milk cheese of which he is a self-proclaimed “giant fan,” especially Bellwether Farms’ San Andreas.
Pictured left: Flagsheep received first place in the Open Category for sheep’s and mixed-milk cheeses and was named Best of Show at ACS annual competition. This year, 1,711 cheeses were entered from the United States, Canada and Mexico.
Thanks to a connection made at ACS about four years ago, Beecher’s sourced the sheep’s milk from the Wisconsin Sheep Co-op. The cow’s milk is from Beecher’s own herd.
“We determined rather to make one that was all sheep’s milk was a bigger risk since we don’t have the sheep, Dammeier said. “We didn’t want to start from scratch.”
It is made in same make process as Flagship Reserve, one of the company’s award-winning, cloth-bound cow’s milk cheddars. Because of the higher fat content of the sheep’s milk, Flagsheep is aged about 18 months while the Flagship Reserve is aged 13 months.
Only 3,000 pounds of Flagsheep was made this year. With a Best in Show nod, Beecher’s is planning to up the production to 10,000 pounds per year. “That’s still pretty limited,” he admits. Beecher’s will source sheep’s milk from Willapa Hills Farmstead and Artisan Cheese, based in Doty, Wash., a local sheep’s milk supplier. For its own cheese, Willapa Hills received an ACS first place award in the natural rind, blue-veined cheese category. “It’s a great cheese that we’ve been selling a couple of years now,” said Dammeier.
This year was Beecher’s second time receiving ACS Best in Show accolades. In 2007, Beecher’s received a second Place - Best in Show for its Flagship Reserve after it received a first-place finish in the Cheddar Aged 12 to 24 Months category. Among the cheese company's many awards, Beecher’s Marco Polo Reserve received a first place this year and in 2011 in the Cheddars Flavored with Sweet, Savory, Jalapeno, Chipotle, Red, Green Peppers; Black, White, Green Peppercorns; Garlic, Onions category.
More bad news for retail buyers: Beecher’s has an even smaller inventory of Marco Polo Reserve available, Dammeier said.