Buy online or visit the farm to taste, dine, learn or stay
Awassi Cheesery in the Lockyer Valley specialises in sheep milk products and home to the unique Grantham Cheese. You can visit for farm gate shopping, classes, tastings, tours, cheesemaking, meals in the avocado grove and farmstays, as well as order many of their products online through their shop.
The name of the cheesery comes from the type of sheep they use, the awassi sheep. This breed originated in the deserts of Syria and Arabia and is a popular breed throughout the middle east. Not only is it a hardy breed, able to thrive in dry and arid climates, but it is also a good wool-producing sheep and tastes delicious. For a cheesery, its most important characteristic is that it is great for milk production.
The awassi breed thrives in Australia. Their short but fat tail helps them through lean times and makes them resistant to flies, so they don't need to have their tail docked. In addition, their long floppy ears keep dust and flies out of their eyes.
Don't worry, they don't the ones that they give names too
The purpose-built cheesery wasn't established that long ago, but is owned and operated by Di Piggott, who is a second-generation cheesemaker. Raising a breed of sheep that is not common in Australia and making sheep milk products for the Australia market has meant a lot of experimentation and development with the product. The results have included the unique Grantham Cheese as well as experiments with drunken cheese which involve bathing cheese in wine. Apparently the process they use is very traditional, involving drinking a lot of the wine beforehand to ensure that it tastes nice.
You can visit to buy from the farm gate or do a tour. They welcome tour groups, able to accommodate tours of from 4 to over 70 people. Tours can involve learning about the farm, the sheep and cheese making with a bit of cheese tasting, or a meal of cheese and lamb in the avocado grove. These tours are great for all ages, and kids love to get up and personal the sheep. Don't worry, they don't eat any of the ones that they name. Ideally call beforehand for whatever purpose you are visiting.
They have a number of products that you can buy from the farm or via their website. The obvious products to buy are the sheep's milk cheeses. These mildly flavoured cheeses are worth trying. While I normally go for stronger flavoured cheeses, I appreciate the subtly of their offerings and the cheeses can be enjoyed by themselves. As already said, their signature cheese is the Grantham and the Chilli Grantham, as well as drunken cheeses.
They also sell a number of beauty products, such as sheep's milk soaps, lotions and balms. In Asia, sheeps based beauty products are eagerly sought for the natural restorative fats, something people in Australia are just beginning to discover.
The Awassi Cheesery is a great welcoming place to visit, demonstrating how people in the countryside are keen to innovate, experiment and develop new products, while also maintaining their traditional values. Go for a meal at the Awassi Cheesery, they will tell you to stay as long as you like, even after they have returned to their farm house. Just don't forget to turn off the light and shut the gate when you leave.
The author visited the Awassi Cheesery as a guest of Tourism and Events Queensland