New Wisconsin Cheeses Debut at 2015 ACS

Cheese Camp for cheeseheads is in full swing this week at the annual American Cheese Society conference in Providence, Rhode Island, where more than 1,000 cheese folk have gathered to celebrate a theme of Craft, Creativity and Community.

And, like usual, it takes me traveling halfway across the country to discover a half dozen new Wisconsin cheeses I never knew existed, many of which made their official debut to the world at tonight’s Meet the Cheesemaker event.

1. First up: a yet-to-be-named cheese from Landmark Creamery made in a Reblochon style – an oooey, gooey, stinky French cheese we Americans can’t get in the United States because it’s made from raw milk and aged less than 60 days. At six weeks old, the newbie pasteurized cow’s milk cheese from cheesemaker Anna Landmark and her sales partner, Anna Thomas Bates, is washed in mead from Bos Meadery in Madison, Wis.

“We washed batches in brine, mead and nut brown beer, and liked the mead wash the best. It adds a touch of sweetness that was missing in the others, particularly near the rind,” Landmark says. She’s right – her new cheese is stinky, sticky and meaty in true washed-rind form, with just enough tangy bite near the finish to make it particular interesting without being overly funky. Look for this new cheese on the retail market in a few months.

2. Buried in the midst of a mountain of Grand Cru at the Roth Cheese table tonight was a construction-orange wheel of aged cheese with no name tag and zero marketing materials. Turns out the cheese is based on an aged Mimolette and will be named Prairie Sunset. Aged six months, the cheese is riddled with eyes and boasts a crumbly texture with a creamy mouthfeel. No word yet on what date the cheese will be released to retail – stay tuned!

3. From our friends in Brooten, Minnesota (who I’ve officially adopted as close-enough-to-Wisconsinites), Alise and Lucas Sjostrom of Redhead Creamery debuted their new Little Lucy  tonight. Made in a small, tall 4-ounce top hat, and aged six weeks, this adorable little brie is – say it with me – amazing. It’s the perfect size to consume in one sitting with a baguette and glass of champagne.

“There are three types of people in Minnesota,” Lucas explains, in what would have been a Fargo-movie-worthy “up nort” drawl if it hadn’t been cultured up a bit from the couple’s spending a few years living in Vermont and Wisconsin. “You’ve got cheese curd people. You’ve got aged cheddar people. And you’ve got brie people. So those are the three cheeses we make.”

Little Lucy is, of course, named for the Sjostrom’s daughter, aged 2-1/2. Early indications lean toward her being a redhead like her mama. The little brie joins Lucky Linda in the Redhead Creamery line-up. Named for Alise’s mom, Lucky Linda is an aged cheddar crafted in two ways: first, as a clothbound cheddar, and, second with a natural rind. Alise says so far, the clothbound is more popular, so she will likely be making more wheels in that style as time goes on. All cheeses are produced and aged on the family farm in Brooten.

4.  Because there are only a handful of cheese plants in Minnesota, and because all seven of them are just so darn nice, I’m including a second “close enough to Wisconsin” company in this line-up: The Lone Grazer Creamery, a brand new urban cheese factory in northeast Minneapolis. Cheesemaker Rueben Nilsson, former cheesemaker at Caves of Faribault; and Sales Director Seamus Folliard, a former English teacher who discovered his calling in sales, first at 2 Gingers Whiskey, and now in cheese, debuted two cheeses tonight: Hansom Cab and Grazier’s Edge.

Hansom Cab is 4-inch disc of stinky goodness, washed in the aforementioned Irish 2 Gingers Whiskey and smoky Lapsang Souchong tea. The result is a milky, meaty cheese with grassy notes of asparagus. Grazier’s Edge, meanwhile, is an 11-inch, taller wheel, washed with St. Paul’s own 11 Wells Rye Whiskey. It is milder, more buttery, with an open texture and melt-in-your-mouth consistency.

Milk for both cheeses comes from two nearby dairies, both of which pasture their cows: Sunrise Meadow in Cokato, Minn., which milks 25 Brown Swiss and Milking Shorthorns, and Stengard Dairy, near Wadena, Minn., which milks Swedish Reds and Milking Shorthorns. The result is a unique milk profile with distinct grassy notes that Nilsson expertly turns into two fabulous cheeses.

5. Meanwhile, back in Wisconsin, the folks at LaClare Farms tonight debuted their new goat’s milk yogurt in plain, vanilla, strawberry and blueberry. The yogurt has just started production, with no date set yet for a retail launch, other than “soon,” says farm matriarch Clara Hedrich. Prototype cups sport attractive arty labels, and the yogurt will be available in 6-ounce and 24-ounce sizes. The yogurt has a richer consistency than many goat yogurts, with a crisp, clean flavor.

6. Klondike Cheese in Monroe is seeing success with their new Adelphos Greek Yogurt Dips, which I tried for the first time tonight. The savory dips are made with the company’s Odyssey Greek Yogurt and are available in four flavors: Cucumber Garlic, Southwest, Red & Green Bell Pepper and French Onion. My favorite was the French Onion, which cheesemaker and yogurt maker Adam Buholzer helpfully explained has 25 percent less sodium, 50 percent less fat, 50 percent less cholesterol and three times the protein as a conventional French Onion dip. That’s good – this way I won’t feel so guilty when I consume the entire 12-oz. container in one sitting.

Last but not least, a hearty shout-out to two new products from Wisconsin cheesemakers: Marieke Gouda Truffle, which debuted in April, and Crave Brothers Farmstead Cheese Curds, because in Wisconsin, we never have enough squeaky curd. Thanks to all of these fine folks for doing cheeseheads proud.

All photos by Uriah Carpenter. 

Tickets Now on Sale to Wisconsin Cheese Originals Festival

The party has officially started! Tickets to the Fifth Annual Wisconsin Cheese Originals Festival went on sale to the public bright and early this morning, offering attendees the chance to meet more than 40 artisan cheesemakers through two days of tours, seminars, dinners, and the popular Meet the Cheesemaker Gala at Monona Terrace.

Hosted by Wisconsin Cheese Originals, the theme of the Nov. 1-2 festival is “The Arrival of American Artisan Cheese.” Cheesemakers and national speakers from across the country are helping us celebrate our fifth year, and as usual, about 1,000 people are expected to trek to Madison for the event. Tickets are available online at

Here’s what we’ve got planned for this year:

On Friday morning, Nov. 1, three all-day tours kick off the event and motor to nine different cheese factories and dairy farms, giving attendees a backstage pass to Wisconsin’s growing dairy artisan community and food culture.

Then on Friday night, the Meet the Cheesemaker Gala moves into the ballroom at Monona Terrace and is ticketed in two time slots, from 6 to 8 p.m., and 8 to 10 p.m. Each session is limited to 300 attendees, allowing everyone to personally meet and greet cheesemakers in a relaxed and enjoyable setting. Attendees should come ready to taste and then purchase their favorite cheeses at the expanded Metcalfe’s Marketplace inside the Gala. More than 40 cheesemakers and food artisans from four states will sample 200 different cheeses and foods.

On Saturday, the festival switches into educational mode with an all-day seminar track, kicking off with a 10:30 a.m. keynote by national cheese expert Laura Werlin. Following lunch with a cheese and chocolate pairing in the Grand Terrace, attendees will enjoy an afternoon seminar and tasting session of Wisconsin original cheeses vs. European traditional cheeses. Attendees may also choose from two different afternoon sessions pairing cheese with craft beer and fine brandy.

On Saturday night, the festival concludes with the festival’s signature cheesemaker dinners at three different Madison restaurants, where each chef prepares an exclusive three-course dinner featuring Wisconsin cheese. Attendees join the featured cheesemaker in a private room set for 30.

For the first time ever, we’ll even have t-shirts for sale, featuring the super awesome logo that Leah Caplan and the folks at Cricket Design Works created for me.

I’d like to say a HUGE thank you to all sponsors of the Fifth Annual Wisconsin Cheese Originals Festival, who without your support, this festival would not continue. Please take a moment to thank the following companies when you see them out and about:

  • Marquee sponsor: Emmi Roth USA
  • Platinum sponsor: Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board
  • Gold sponsors: Sartori Foods and World Import Distributors
  • Silver sponsors: BelGioioso Cheese, Klondike Cheese and Organic Valley
  • Bronze sponsors: Arla Foods, Carr Valley Cheese, Crave Brothers Farmstead Cheese, Dairy Connection Inc., Fromagination, Roelli Cheese, Saputo Specialty Cheese, Sugar Brook Farms and Uplands Cheese 
  • Supporting sponsors: Hook’s Cheese Company and Widmer’s Cheese Cellars

See you all in November!