Age Requirement // Christian Hansen crafts artisanal Jersey Cow’s milk cheeses in Travelers Rest. The grandson of two Danish dairymen uses local beer from Swamp Rabbit Brewery and Birds Fly South Ale Project to infuse his wheels with exceptional flavor. Local restaurants such as American Grocery, The Anchorage, and Swamp Rabbit Café & Grocery serve Hansen’s cheeses, which range from mozzarella and fromage blanc to Tomme, Camembert, blue, and more.
Inside a former auto body shop tucked off US-25 in Travelers Rest, rounds of cow’s-milk cheese cool their wheels in two small temperature- and humidity-controlled rooms. A surprising place to find cheese, perhaps, yet this nondescript structure holds the longtime aspiration of cheesemaker Christian Hansen.
Born in Denmark, Hansen was working in computer-software sales in Austin, Texas, when he relocated to Greenville six years ago. His métier may have been sales, but the grandson of two Danish dairymen ached to be what he calls a “hippie farmer.”
When he lost his job in 2015, it freed him to pursue his true vocation, making artisanal cheese. He found the space in Travelers Rest a year ago, and built a commercial kitchen inside it with the help of a friend. He then set to work finding a local source for milk from pasture-raised cows at Southern Oaks Jersey Farm in Abbeville. “Jersey cows are the Mercedes of milk cows,” asserts Hansen. “Their milk has a high percentage of milkfat, which is perfect for making cheese.”
Hansen strives for creativity over consistency, preferring to “geek out” with his pungent experiments. To make Reedy Red, for instance, he steeps the curds in Marzen German-style pilsner from Swamp Rabbit Brewery before pressing them into molds, to infuse the end product with hints of malt and barley. For Migration, a collaboration with the Birds Fly South Ale Project, Hansen washes the rinds daily in beer to encourage the growth of native yeasts.
At the moment, he is crafting six different aged cheeses and two fresh cheeses, mozzarella and fromage blanc. Blue Ridge Creamery’s bloomy-rind Eastatoee resembles a French Morbier with its layer of ash, and soft, peppery Little Pee Dee is Hansen’s riff on Camembert. Nutty and mild with grassy notes, Jocassee Tomme is his best seller, but the cheesemaker alleges that his personal passion lies in the washed-rind “stinkers,” like his flagship Blue Ridge Blue.
Hansen is stacking up kudos for his products, which express the flavor of local milk as it changes with each season. “The restaurant feedback has been phenomenal,” declares the self-taught cheesemaker, who does everything by hand, from paddle-stirring the curds to washing the rinds. American Grocery and The Anchorage feature his Jocassee Tomme on their charcuterie plates, while Swamp Rabbit Café tops their pizzas with his mozzarella, and Farmhouse Tacos in Travelers Rest uses his fromage blanc.
So far, the demand for Hansen’s cheese has been so high that he has not been able to age anything for longer than three months. “My goal,” he says, “is to be able to reserve two wheels from every batch and age it longer to see what happens.” And although his chosen calling eats up an average of 60 hours a week in order to churn out 150 gallons of cheese, he doesn’t seem to mind. “Cheese ties my passion for great food to my hobbyist bug,” Hansen muses. “I’ve finally found that thing in life that I was meant to do.”
Where to buy Blue Ridge Creamery cheese:
Hansen hopes to have a retail counter and tasting room in place by the end of the year. Until then, look for Blue Ridge Creamery cheeses at various restaurants, and this summer at area farmers’ markets in Travelers Rest, Greer, Simpsonville, Taylors, and the Hub City Farmers’ Market in Spartanburg. For more info, check out blueridgecreamery.net.