The aptly named Red Barn Farm in Stonington, Maine is nestled unassumingly at the end of a residential driveway. Its doors are a gateway to one of the most delightful experiences one might have Down East. Donna Brewer is a woman of many talents; her primary skill had been upholstering, as advertised on the roadside sign. Her husband, Marsden, is a lobsterman. But how did an upholsterer and a fisherman become consummate cheesemakers?
For 20 years Donna and Marsden kept goats on their farm as pets. The Brewers hadn't discovered their taste for chèvre until they bought some from a friend who is also a goat farmer. Not long thereafter, the couple decided to take advantage of their natural resources by using the milk of their own goats to make cheese. They made chèvre for themselves and their friends the first few years, but after Donna and Marsden received their state certification in 2012, their avocation officially became a business.
Red Barn Goat Cheese sells some of the finest fresh chèvre it has been our pleasure to sample. Made with milk from Anglo-Nubian goats, it hits all the marks: a tangy sweetness embodied in a texture that is neither too dry nor too moist. And it's available with a wide variety of harmonious seasonings. For example, a taste of the seemingly unusual combination of peperoncini and goat cheese reveals a match made in chèvre heaven: the sourness, heat, and tang of the peperoncini comprise the perfect foil to the creamy richness of the mild cheese—which, of course, has a tang of its own. The garlic-and-herb remains my favorite, however; its bold flavors—similar to those of Boursin—satisfy all that may ail my palate.
We loaded up with five pounds of Red Barn's cheese, which we hope will tide us over until we visit again next year. (We order a few days ahead, and, by having the chèvre wrapped in bulk, we receive a discount.) Once home, we rewrap the cheese into smaller portions; not only does this chèvre freeze well, it freezes beautifully. Eleven-and-a-half-month-old specimens are virtually as tasty as fresh ones.
Donna has expanded her ever-increasing variety of goat milk offerings to include yogurt, feta, and even soap. The soap comes in a wide variety of scents, is creamy smooth, and feels quite nourishing on the skin. Reasonably priced and packaged aesthetically in fabric and ribbon, it makes a lovely gift.
Of course, what cheese-and-upholstery operation in Maine would be complete with a lobster tank? Yes, Red Barn sells live lobsters, too. (Donna is happy to steam them for those wishing to save a little time.) Some say that the Brewers sell some of the best lobsters on the island—quite an achievement considering they belong to the largest lobstering fleet in the United States!
Despite the level of accomplishment on offer at the Red Barn, the true reward of a visit here is Donna Brewer herself. Unassuming and exuberant, knowledgeable and compassionate, she is one of the most delightful people we've met in these parts.
Alas, having been in somewhat of a hurry, we did not sample Donna's two newer wares: yogurt and feta. We'll certainly try them next year. And since guests are welcome to visit the goat herd, we'll be sure to head out back and thank the ladies for their role in the production of such a delectable cheese.
Red Barn Farm
88 N Stonington Rd
Stonington, ME 04681-3531 (map)