In an age of corporate buyouts, it’s not uncommon to see small businesses go from artisan to corporate. But for the founders of Beehive Cheese Co., life took them in the opposite direction: from corporate to artisan.
Beehive began 12 years ago on a whim. Tim Welsh, then a partner in a software development company, called his brother-in-law, Pat Ford, then a real estate developer, with a daring proposition: To quit their jobs and make cheese instead. “We took a weeklong course at Utah State University,” Pat tells us, “and the rest is history.”
We caught up with Pat to learn everything from where Beehive Cheese is produced (and why it has a sense of place) to how the brothers-in-law came up with their most popular (and most unusual) cheese.
Tell us a little bit about where you are located. How do the characteristics of where you farm influence your cheese?
We are nestled between the marsh lands of the Great Salt Lake and the Wasatch Mountain Range. Our cows are right on the banks of the Great Salt Lake, and the mineral content in the soil is abundant—and it comes through in the milk. We have huge temperature swings from summer to winter as well, which allow for fun seasonal changes to the cheese.
What would you say most differentiates your cheeses from other cheeses on the market?
When we first sprang onto the scene in 2006 at the American Cheese Society, we quickly got the reputation as “those crazy guys from Utah that don’t know what they can’t do with cheese.” Case in point: Rubbing coffee on cheese! We quickly established ourselves as the pioneers in rubbed-rind cheeses that many companies have since followed.
Which of your cheeses is most popular?
Barely Buzzed, our espresso- and lavender-rubbed cheese and a mainstay at William-Sonoma for many years, is our most popular cheese.
Coffee and lavender-rubbed cheese doesn’t sound like it would work, but it absolutely does. How did you come up with that idea?
Tim is an amazing cook and has a great palate; this was his idea. He thought: You put cream in coffee, so why not put coffee in cheese? The lavender was a bit of an accident as we had a bag lying around.
What’s your personal favorite?
I think my favorite is our Promontory. It is a little older; it’s our first and base cheese from which we do all our cheeses.
If you weren’t making cheese, what would you be doing?
Working on the farm! My kids laugh—they say that when I get older, they’ll just stick me on my tractor and let me drive around. I love being out on the land.
What’s your preferred way to serve cheese?
I love cheese with a good bread, chocolate or fruit. But how about just cheese? What a great snack.
What’s one thing you wish consumers knew about cheese?
A friend of mine, Cathy Gaffney from Wegman’s, calls cheese “nature’s most nearly perfect food.” It is so good for you and tastes wonderful as well.