Like its sibling, Edam, Gouda has been bastardized by industry.
A few artisanal makers remain, however. A tradition-minded version will make you understand what all the fuss used to be about.
A matured farmhouse Gouda has a slightly citrus-like tang to it, like a sweet orange. The pale yellow paste will be somewhat firm, though not dry, and contain randomly sized holes. The longer it ages, the sweeter it gets, like toffee or butterscotch.
Look for tradition-minded Dutch cheesemakers, like Boerenkase. For a Gouda-style made in Ireland, try Coolea, from County Cork.
PAIRINGS: If you pick up a good farmhouse Gouda, try it with some interesting Belgian ale, such as De Koninck, a medium-bodied brown ale from Antwerp. For food, it’s good with salty ham, or with cranberry sauce and roast turkey.