4. Crown Finish Caves
Just next door to the popular beer hall Berg’n, in an 1850s-era tunnel under the former Nassau Brewery, cheese is aging thirty feet underground. Opened in 2014, Crown Finish Caves is a licensed New York State dairy plant aging cheeses from places near and far. There are cheeses from the Hudson Valley, Vermont, Wisconsin, even Italy. The tunnels, which can be visited during special events, were originally excavated to age lager beer, but the brewery closed in 1914.
The tunnel that Crown Finish Caves currently uses can hold 22,000 pounds of cheese, amidst a state-of-the-art renovation that keeps temperatures at about 50 degrees Fahrenheit and humidity at optimal levels. Crown Finish Caves ages the cheeses using the process of affinage, an old practice that involves dozens of steps to get each cheese to its most perfect state.
The young cheeses, known as “green cheese” arrive at Crown Finish Caves when they are between one and fourteen days old. Aging can take over a year, but the time taken depends on the type of cheese. In addition to the batch aging, Crown Finish Caves is helping producers experiment with new types of cheeses in small batches. They also do testing within the affinage process, like bathing the cheeses in beer and cider, and washing them in salt brine. Crown Finish Caves hopes to eventually use all five tunnels they have underground, increasing its capacity to around 100,000 pounds of cheese.
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