Ready for some gouda news? Mystic Cheese Company cafe/shop opens in Groton

March 16, 2019

Groton — Tucked away in the business park across from the airport, you can sit down on a Saturday afternoon to eat a cheese board — with cherry jam, Marcona almonds and more — while peering into the cheese cave where the Bowhead Blue is aging.

In a glass-walled room that is 52 degrees with 90 percent humidity, 1,500 pounds of blue cheese are ripening. The process started with 315 gallons of milk from River Plain Dairy in Lebanon and followed with pasteurization, salting and piercing 70 holes into each wheel.

Some of the cheese has been aging for about 45 days, so in 15 to 20 more, it will be ready for customers to buy at Mystic Cheese Company’s new café and cheese shop at the end of Leonard Drive.

Customers can now buy 25 varieties of cheese by other makers, from a Belgian gouda to Drunken Goat to one from Jasper Hill Farm in Vermont. They also can sit down to eat a charcuterie board or a taleggio grilled cheese sandwich with stoneground mustard and cornichons, with the option of adding apricot jam or speck, an Italian smoked meat similar to bacon.

Brian Civitello and Jason Sobocinski started Mystic Cheese Company in 2013 and, after growing out of their cheese-making operation in a shipping container in Lebanon, they opened the Groton spot five weeks ago.

Civitello said they will expand from just making the Bowhead Blue to making five different cheeses, such as a “more aggressive” blue cheese and one that is similar to Cantal, a French cheddar. Sobocinski noted that this is part of a transition for the company from mostly fresh cheeses to a greater variety.

The shop also carries wine, beer from Connecticut breweries, kombucha and a variety of packaged items that pair well with cheese, including crackers, chocolate, jam, honey and plum tomatoes.

There are also T-shirts branded with Mystic Cheese’s unique logo: a narwhal spearing a piece of Swiss cheese on its tusk.

When developing the concept for Mystic Cheese, the owners wanted to “bridge agriculture, the ocean, Mystic area and cheese,” Civitello said, “and I was stabbing a piece of Swiss cheese with a toothpick, and I had a vision of a narwhal jumping out of the ocean, stabbing a piece of Swiss cheese.”

So far, Mystic Cheese has held a cheese and sweets pairing class for Valentine’s Day, and a Cheese 101 class.

Without foot traffic or people driving by, the owners have relied on social media and word of mouth to draw people in, but that task is about to become easier: Next door, Beer’d Brewing plans to open its second location in May.

Asked if this means there will be beer cheese, Sobocinski said, “110 percent yes.”

“Cheese and beer are great friends,” Civitello said. “It’s much easier to pair than cheese and wine.”

The Mystic Cheese-Beer’d venture has been years in the making, and during the building process, it became apparent that the original plan of opening last summer wouldn’t happen. The two companies also planned for an adjoining tasting room but Civitello said issues with insurance and zoning stymied that idea.

Instead, Mystic Cheese will set up a kiosk inside the brewery so people can order grilled cheese to have bused over.

While it is currently open only on Saturdays from noon to 7 p.m., the plan is to open on Fridays for happy hour, and then mirror the hours of the brewery.

For the summer, Civitello envisions Mystic Cheese serving high-end hot dogs with cheese and making soft-serve ice cream on site.