4 January 2023

Coolamon Cheese Co revives a small town with world-first artisan produce

| Oliver Jacques
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Keiran Spencer standing at cheese counter

Keiran Spencer has been the general manager of Coolamon Cheese Co for four years. Photo: Oliver Jacques.

Who are you? Keiran Spencer. I grew up in Ardlethan and then moved to Griffith and Wagga, where I worked as a winemaker. I’ve been the general manager of Coolamon Cheese Co for four years.

Where, when and why did Coolamon Cheese Co begin? Coolamon Cheese Co was created to stimulate the economy of the town. To buck the trends of small towns deteriorating. The whole idea was that a number of local people put some money in. It was to create jobs and bring people into town so that the other businesses in town will also benefit from them. The store in Coolamon opened in 2016.

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What do you produce? We’ve got two business arms. We’ve got cheese production, which includes wholesale cheese, as well as our retail area. Our front-of-house really focuses on showcasing local produce, not just cheese but also condiments and jams.

We also want to introduce people to the concept of artisan cheesemaking. We like to think we are progressive in thinking of new cheese types while also honouring traditional cheesemaking.

We are one of the first Australian companies to produce lactose-free cheese. We are the only ones in the artisan space doing it. It took around 18 months to get it right.

Jennifer Nestor, our amazing cheesemaker, works with the milk and knows exactly what to do to manipulate it to get it right. We have a number of different cheeses that are lactose-free: brie, haloumi, feta, a soft blue and a hard blue. We pretty much make all our soft cheese lactose-free and we don’t tell everybody.

People have been eating lactose-free cheese and they don’t know about it. People shy away from having fat-free products because they think it tastes different. When you have our cheese, you don’t feel as if you’ve missed out on something.

Three cheeses on a table

A selection of Coolamon Cheese Co cheeses. Photo: Oliver Jacques.

Where can we buy your products? Apart from our store in Coolamon [87 Cowabbie St], we are at a number of markets in Canberra and Wagga. In Wagga, we are also at retail outlets like Knights Deli, Foodworks Lake Albert, IGA Wagga on Bourke Street, and Wagga Fruit Supply. In Griffith, we are at Broomes Fruit and Veg and Yarran Wines. We also have a presence in Tumut and the Snowy Mountains.

What should we buy for gifts? I’d be looking at two or three different styles of cheese and put them together with a few condiments we have that complement the cheeses, like our artisan crackers.

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What’s your favourite product that you make? The rock blue vein cheese. It’s a blue that’s not aggressive in the blue mould that’s in it. It’s got a really good complexity and intensity and a good mouthfeel. I also like the Merlot flour brie, which we have done in collaboration with a winery. It’s extremely popular.

How would you promote the Riverina? The diversity of products. We are a major food bowl. You can get everything from grapes and oranges throughout the MIA up to the mountains, where you can get truffles and blueberries. We’ve got our products here, which are unique.

Racks of condiments

Coolamon Cheese Co offers far more than just cheese. Photo: Oliver Jacques.

What’s your favourite coffee spot? I enjoy the coffee from The Coffee Peddler in Tumut. Our coffee is also pretty good.

Coolest local thing you’ve ever bought? The Merlot Brie because it’s the only one in the world, or an aged muscat from McWilliam’s Wines in Griffith. I’m biased because I used to work for them.

Who is another local producer/business you admire? Spoon Gourmet Foods from Wagga. They have beautiful condiments that are well received everywhere we take them. I also like Yarran Wines from Griffith, they’re innovative and offer great-value products.

Region Riverina is committed to celebrating our local producers and creatives and encourages everyone to buy locally.

If you’re aware of someone who’s making something amazing, let us know!

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