Gros-Chêne cheese farm
Artisan Daniel Cloots has nurtured a passion for cheese for over thirty years. The story behind his Gros-Chêne cheese farm in Méan is marked by courage and perseverance. The outcome? Delicious, authentic cheeses that are famous throughout (and beyond!) the region.
In the 70s, Daniel Cloots decided to give up his studies in medicine and tend to a small herd of goats instead. He wanted to return to nature, to live like a hippie, somewhat on the edge of society. He got by as best as he could, by selling his cheeses. “I made my first cheese after reading an article in a women’s magazine on how to make your own goat’s cheese,” he admits. Everything Daniel Cloots knows today is self-taught, thanks to numerous trips and science books.
A social cheese farm
In 1981, a family crisis turned his world upside down. After moving to Méan with his wife, Michèle Pommier, and his goats, Cloots continued to sell his cheese on local markets as best he could. “It was a pretty dark time, but my customers offered me a lot of support and encouraged me to keep going,” Daniel explains. In 1989, he and his wife decided to stop making their own milk and dedicated themselves entirely to cheese. They left the goat farming behind to invest in a small cheese farm, where they worked with milk from local farmers. In 1997, the couple turned their family business into a social co-op. This type of company proved a perfect match for their philosophy: to carry out an industrial activity where profit is not the sole objective, but instead becomes a way to accommodate farmers in search of diversification, as well as consumers looking for higher quality produce.
High quality, local produce
After a couple of difficult years, the Gros-Chêne cheese farm is now doing very well, thanks to a team of six passionate artisans. They produce no less than 30 different cheeses, each one more tasty than the next: cream cheese, bloomy cheese, blue-veined cheese, blue cheese…all made of either sheep’s milk, cow’s milk or goat’s milk. As Cloots supports the local economy, he has decided to only use milk produced within a 70 km radius. The cheeses are also only made with unpasteurised milk, because even though this implies a stricter, more complicated production process than using pasteurised milk does, it preserves the natural flavours. True added value for the taste buds!
Gros-Chêne cheeses are meant to be savoured on their own, naturally. Daniel’s favourite? The blue cheese, as “it’s difficult to get it right. You need gassy curd for this. It’s a tricky technique that requires a little intuition and a lot of expertise,” he explains. For the aperitif, Mamé vî blue cheese tastes wonderful with Leffe Ruby. On the one hand, there’s the sugary, acidic flavour of the beer, while on the other there’s the bitter and salty flavours of the cheese…<