Reflecting Its Roots: Lively Run Dairy’s Finger Lakes Reserve

Good things happen when cheese has the back of the region it’s created in.

Interlaken, NY-based Lively Run Dairy’s focus is on supporting family farms and using their milk to make original cheese. One of its most heralded is Finger Lakes Reserve, which won first place at the 2019 American Cheese Society (ACS) conference in the Goat Cheese Aged Over 60 Days category. It also was in the top 15 out of 1,700 cheeses for ACS’ top prize, the Best in Show.

“As a cheesemaker, I’m trying to tell the story of Finger Lakes and original recipes that are not European style copycats,” says Pete Messmer, Lively Run Dairy’s head cheese­maker. “Although the American artisan cheese scene has started to focus on this, it is still mostly dedicated to replicating European cheeses. We should create our own styles reflective of our regions, rather than regurgitating European stories.”

First created in 2012, Finger Lakes Reserve is the result of constant fine tuning and tweaking using goat’s milk from partner farms. The Regular version is three to four months old, while the Reserve is aged one to 12 months.

“When we worked with the recipe, I started thinking about the kind of milk and pastoral grassiness flavor notes,” says Messmer. “This is because farms generally grow their own feed and get grazing access at certain times of the year. This was the starting point.”

He worked with farms on milk components and hitting the right protein and butter fat notes, experimented with the aging process and brought everything together in a cheese that highlights the farms’ goat milk quality and the way these animals are raised.

Finger Lakes Reserve’s three dominant flavor notes are umami, bone broth and caramel, with an overall burnt sugar sweetness mixed with a grassy pastoral flavor. The texture for the younger cheese is creamy, and this is somewhat retained as it ages.

“Even as it dries out, we still retain the effect of fat,” says Messmer. “But as the cheese ages, it’s dryer and turns crumbly with crystals as well as having a more intense flavor.”

Pairing wise, this cheese is quite versatile. Messmer recommends Kona almonds, as their nuttiness accentuates the umami flavor. He also prefers coupling Finger Lakes Reserve with a dry, effervescent hard cider, as the acid and yeast qualities play well with the cheese. Lively Run Dairy has been working hard to build its Finger Lakes Reserve inventory to make it available year round. In addition to the dairy’s online store, the cheese is available at DiBruno Brothers in Philadelphia and Saxelby Cheese in New York City.        

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