Food and Drink

Meet the Man Who Changed Laws in the Name of Good Cheese

The roquefort rebel.

Le Marquis ChĂšvre De La ForĂȘt

His name is Will Studd and he is the cheese dad of Australia.

Let us fill you in.

If you’re a soft cheese lover, especially of the French variety, there’s a very good chance that you’ve devoured some Will Studd-selected Brillat Savarin, Le Marquis ChĂšvre De La ForĂȘt, Le Dauphin Petit Double-CrĂšme or perhaps all of the above.

Starting out in delicatessens in the 1970s because he was “broke and needed a job”, he quickly formed a love of great cheese, which he passionately wanted to share with others.

MORE: 10 Kinds of Cheese You Didn’t Know Were Made in Australia

Not only does the taste of cheese transcend time for Will, but it’s also all about history too.

“Cheese is primordial. It is one of the world’s oldest naturally fermented foods—to put that in context it predates writing by 3000 years” he tells Thrillist Australia.

“How and where cheese is made has constantly evolved and the raw milk benchmarks connect us to centuries of cheesemaking tradition.”

So, not only are we eating pure heaven, we’re also experiencing history. To have a favourite cheese is nearly impossible when you factor in its historical significance.

“I couldn’t pick just one,” Will says, “it’s like trying to pick a favourite child.”

Originally from the UK, Will moved to Australia, in 1982 and wished to bring his favourite cheeses with him to share with a whole new market. But when he got here, he realised it was a bit more complicated than you’d think.

“Artisan Cheese started as a interest, grew into a passion, and then became a cause,” he says.

Provided.

“It was only after migrating to Australia that I realised I could make a  contribution to the future of local artisan and farmhouse cheesemaking.”

While he was able to bring many French favourites to Australia, such as creamy cheeses like Brillat Savarin and hard cheeses like Comte, his beloved Roquefort Blue was another story entirely.

Over two decades ago, Australian authorities announces that regulations allowing the sale of raw milk cheese would be changed, from a 90 day holding period to a national food code ban, which banned the sale and local production of all raw milk cheese.

Raw milk cheese is literally just cheese that comes from raw milk, which means that the milk used is unpasteurised. Many kinds of cheese are made with raw milk, such as types Camembert, Brie, Washed Rinds and Blue… so this was a pretty restrictive ban.

The reason for the ban was that raw milk can carry dangerous bacteria such as Salmonella, E. coli, Listeria, Campylobacter, and others that cause foodborne illness, which can be hard to regulate.

So, when Will created the â€˜Will Studd Selected’ range in 2000, with the aim of hand-selecting the highest quality cheeses and sharing them so that others can experience and savour the world’s finest benchmark cheeses, there was one main contender missing: Roquefort.

Aptly named the ‘Roquefort Rebel’, Will fought to get this cheese into Australia.

“Defending the right to a choice of artisan cheese is important,” he says.

“Banning these cheeses have profound implications on the environment, the land, the family dairy farms, animal welfare and the flavours and textures that make cheese so fascinating.

“A shared belief in the need for artisan cheeses from like-minded cheese professionals around the world has encouraged me to follow this passionate fight in Australia, despite the intimidation and threats.”

And fight he did.

He saw that the repercussions for the “future of “real” cheese in Australia” were huge and so he mounted his own challenge, using Roquefort as the test case.

“Roquefort is the most popular raw milk blue cheese in France and it had been freely available before the changes.” Will writes, in an article in Culture Cheese Mag.

Roquefort.

“If tested, it would meet the microbiological standards outlined in Australia’s Food Standards code, satisfying the “equivalent level of bacteria reduction” exemption.”

“In February 2002, a special consignment of 80 kilograms of pre-tested Roquefort arrived in Melbourne. It was immediately stopped at the border by import police who ordered its destruction by deep burial (or re-export) because it did not meet Australian Food Standards. A request to have the offending cheese tested by a recognised government laboratory at my expense was also rejected. It was time to start legal proceedings and appeal.”

In 2004, Will lodged two applications to review the food standards for raw milk cheese. It took over a decade for Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) to announce their strict new domestic standards for raw milk.

In simple terms, Roquefort was able to be sold here, but under strict standards that Will still reckons is one big con.

“They deliberately limit what local cheesemakers can make, and effectively ban soft, blue and high moisture cheeses.

“They also tightened restrictions on the  import of raw milk cheese and there is a legal question mark over whether it is now a criminal offence to sell Roquefort in Australia.”

So basically, Will has single-handedly managed to persuade Australian authorities to lift the total ban on un-pasteurised cheeses, so that Roquefort can be sold here. But it’s not all sunshine and rainbows.

While he has been successful in that particular pursuit, he remains adamant that “we’re deprived of genuine cheese choices by short-sighted bureaucrats dancing on the strings of paranoid state authorities” as there are still strict regulations in place that stop many actually safe raw milk cheeses from being imported, produced or sold here.

Provided.

This has had a huge impact on local dairy farms.

“It’s a huge shame,” he says. “Over the past 40 years, 75% of  Australian family dairy farms have disappeared, which is all the more reason to support passionate cheesemakers making a difference.”

We totally get the hint, but we didn’t need it. If you’re unfamiliar with the Will Studd Selection, it’s not too late. You can check it out here or look for his name on your next trip to a delicatessen.

Honestly, I’m ashamed to not have known all the backstage battles that were being had to allow some of the most delicious cheeses to grace our cheese boards here in Australia. I’ve been sitting here, devouring my Roquefort and Brillat Savarin without any idea of the fight behind making these cheese available for me.

Will has seen the cheese evolution that has happened in Australia within the last few decades. Whether or not it has something to do with his influence (we think it does) he doesn’t say, but he does think our palette is definitely broadening.

“There has been a consumer-led cheese revolution,” he says.

“Australians have become aware that cheese does not have to be boring and predictable and only come in plastic-wrapped slices with little or no flavour.”

Thank God Will decided to come to Australia in the ’80s, or we’d still be living on slices of “tasty” cheese in our sangas and know no different.

There really is a cheese God and his name is Will Studd.

Get the latest from Thrillist Australia delivered straight to your inbox, subscribe here.

Food and Drink

The Best Ways to Dress Up Your Summer Beers

From micheladas to shandies to fruit infusions, the power is in your hands-and kitchen.

Photo by Cole Saladino for Thrillist
Photo by Cole Saladino for Thrillist
Photo by Cole Saladino for Thrillist

Today, just about any flavored beer a person could dream up already exists in a can, from micheladas to shandies to, yes, pickle beers. But there’s still much to be said for the DIY versions of these dressed-up beers.

For one, they’re fresher (you could squeeze your own lemonade for a shandy right this instant). For another, they’re customizable: spiciness, fruit choice, how strong you’d like the final drink to be-all those are in your hands. And perhaps more importantly, they’re fun. Whether you want to spend two minutes constructing a beer-lemonade shandy or spend an hour infusing your IPA with real chunks of pineapple, there are plenty of ways to get creative in gussying up your beer this summer.

Embrace red beer

A brunch staple across the western half of the U.S., “red beer” is essentially a stripped-down michelada: just your preferred light lager of choice, plus tomato juice. But the devil’s in the details-folks can get mighty particular about their red beer specifications.

My preference is Coors Light with just a splash of Campbell’s tomato juice. It’s a pet peeve of mine when bartenders go too heavy on the tomato juice; it’s called red beer after all, not tomato juice. To make this yourself, start with your light lager of choice, then add just a splash of tomato juice so that the beer has a strong orange hue. Sip, taste, and add more if necessary.

Upgrade your salt rim

Another component of some micheladas, salt rims are more versatile than they might seem-and they complement several styles of beer. Just coat the rim of a beer glass with lime juice or water, then dunk the glass in a shallow dish of salt. Try the following combos:

‱ Mexican lager with a Tajin rim: Try substituting Tajin seasoning for straight salt for a bit of a chilli-lime kick. Pair this with a red beer for a michelada-like vibe.
‱ Gose with a herbal-salt rim: Goses are a beer style with a light salinity already, so pouring them in a glass rimmed with a rosemary salt or basil salt can add an additional flavour that doesn’t clash. Try mixing and matching fruited goses with herbal salts-how about a watermelon gose with a basil-salt rim?
‱ Dark lager with a smoked salt rim: Smoked salt is a surprisingly versatile ingredient because it’s way less powerful than liquid smoke. Try a dark lager (like Modelo Negro or a bock) in a glass rimmed with smoked salt for a subtle campfire vibe.

Marcos Elihu Castillo Ramirez/iStock/Getty Images
Marcos Elihu Castillo Ramirez/iStock/Getty Images
Marcos Elihu Castillo Ramirez/iStock/Getty Images

No shame in a shandy

Radlers and shandies are often used interchangeably to refer to a light-coloured beer blended with fruit juice (typically lemonade or grapefruit). Packaged versions exist, but with so many fruit-flavoured non-alcoholic beverages on the market, it’s worth playing around with some creative combos in your own kitchen. A good rule of thumb is to start light with the base beer, either a pale lager, cream ale, blonde ale, or (if you’re really a hop head) a pale ale. From there, most people blend in a splash of their favourite juice.

But here’s my preference: Use a fruit-flavoured soda. I find that adding straight fruit juice to beer often makes it too sweet and a bit flat. A high-quality fruit-flavoured soda, like the ones from Sanpellegrino, adds carbonation and fruit flavour with too much sweetness. Also, go easy on the ratio of soda to beer to start, because you can always add more soda. I find a ratio of about one part soda to three parts beer is ideal.

Infuse your beer with fruit

Your French press isn’t only for coffee-it can also act as a device for infusing fruit or other flavours into beer. If you end up with a bumper crop of strawberries or melons from the farmer’s market, this is a great way to use them.

1. Start with a new or perfectly clean French press to avoid coffee flavour leaching into your beer (unless that’s what you’re after).
2. Pour in your beer of choice. Almost any style could work here: light lagers, blonde ales, saisons, IPAs, even porters and stouts. Pour the beer into the French press, leaving a couple inches empty at the top.
3. Add some cut-up fruit. The possibilities are limitless: porter and raspberry, IPA and pineapple, blonde ale and mango, wheat beer and oranges, saison and cherries

4. Allow the fruit to infuse. How long to leave the beer in contact with the fruit is up to you, knowing that the longer the mixture sits, the more pronounced the flavours will be. Start with 10 minutes, push the plunger down slightly, pour and taste some of the beer, and wait longer for a more intense flavour.
5. Push the plunger down all the way. Pour your infused beer into a glass and enjoy!

Make a mighty michelada shrub

Micheladas are typically a mixture of Mexican lager, lime juice, tomato juice, and salt. But recently, premixed michelada shrubs (like those from Pacific Pickle Works and Real de Oaxaca) have popped up, adding some vinegar tartness and other ingredients like Worcestershire sauce and spices to the mix.

A shrub combines vinegar with fruit or, sometimes, vegetables, and they’re easy to experiment with at home. Michael Dietsch, author of Shrubs: An Old Fashioned Drink for Modern Times, suggests that if you’re creating a shrub to mix with beer and tomatoes, beginning with a base of apple cider vinegar or malt vinegar (to match the malt in beer) plus lime is a smart start. From there, savoury additions like soy sauce will lend a Bloody Mary feel-just be sure to use a light hand with those umami-packed additions. Because vinegar and soy or Worcestershire sauce are tangy and savoury, Dietsch notes that you may want to add just a pinch of sugar to your shrub for balance.

From there, the sky’s the limit. Swap apple cider for white balsamic if you’re feeling bold, or add orange juice as well as lime. But regardless of what ingredients you use, Dietsch says it’s important to let a shrub sit and mellow for a couple days before using it. That time will let the intensity of the vinegar mellow and will ensure all the flavours meld together in perfect harmony. Once the shrub has sat a few days, give it a taste, then add a few splashes of it to your favourite Mexican lager.

Get the latest from Thrillist Australia delivered straight to your inbox, subscribe here.

Kate Bernot is a certified BJCP judge and freelance reporter whose work regularly appears in Craft Beer & Brewing, Thrillist, and Good Beer Hunting. Follow her at @kbernot.

Related

Our Best Stories, Delivered Daily
The best decision you'll make all day.