Widmer's Brick Cheese

Widmer's brick cheese: A Wisconsin original

When you take a bite of Widmer's brick cheese, you're tasting a true slice of Wisconsin cheese history.

Brick cheese was created in 1877 by a Wisconsin cheesemaker seeking a milder version of limburger, the famously pungent German cheese. Now, 150 years later, Widmer's Cheese Cellars is one of the very few cheesemakers producing brick cheese in the same traditional style. Widmer's cheesemakers handcraft their brick cheese in small batches to ensure excellent quality. They use traditional washed-rind techniques to give the cheese its aromatic flavor and actual bricks to press and drain the whey from the cheese forms.

The result: a semi-soft cheese with a sticky rind, a powerful aroma, a sweetly pungent flavor, and a lingering finish that makes stinky cheese lovers swoon.

Traditional cheesemaking at Widmer's Cheese Cellars

Joe Widmer, Widmer's Master Cheesemaker, knows a thing or two about tradition. As a third-generation cheesemaker who's been involved in cheesemaking since the age of six, he still uses the same open vats in the 12,000-square-foot facility that his grandfather established in 1922. As the only cheesemaker in the country producing brick cheese with real bricks, Joe relies on the same well-worn bricks that his grandfather used 100 years ago.

Producing 360,000 pounds each year, Widmer's is one of a few cheesemakers that produce true brick cheese – most other cheeses bearing the name “brick” are mild-flavored, mass-produced cheeses that have little in common with the original other than the name.

Along with classic aged brick cheese, Widmer's makes a mild specialty brick, and a brick infused with caraway seeds or jalapeno peppers. Widmer's most recent innovation is an aged brick spread that's made with a blend of aged brick and white cheddar.

Part of Wisconsin's history of innovation

Wisconsin cheesemakers like Joe Widmer have been perfecting Old World recipes and inventing new varieties for the better part of two centuries. Today, alongside Widmer's brick cheeses, you'll find new varieties like SarVecchio Parmesan from Sartori; Ewe Calf to be Kidding from Hook's Cheese, the first triple-milk blue; Dunbarton Blue, a cheddar blue from Roelli Cheese Haus; Wood River Creamery Cheddar Gruyere from Burnett Dairy; and Uplands Pleasant Ridge Reserve, a washed-rind, Alpine-style cheese that's the most awarded cheese in the country.

All about brick cheese

Who invented brick cheese?

A Swiss-born cheese maker named John Jossi invented brick cheese in 1877. After running limburger factories in Wisconsin and New York, Jossi set out to create a cheese with curd that was dryer than limburger and with lower levels of Brevibacterium linens, the bacteria that gives limburger its distinctively pungent aroma. To press the cheese forms and drain the whey, Jossi settled on using bricks, which gave the cheese both its shape and its name. Jossi shared the recipe with a dozen other Wisconsin cheesemakers, helping the popularity of brick cheese to grow quickly.

How is brick cheese made?

Widmer's brick cheese is made using real bricks to press the whey from the cheese. After pasteurizing the cheese by heating it to 162° and cooling it to 90°, cheesemakers pump it into stainless steel vats, add a starter culture of lactic acid and bacteria, then curdle it with rennet. The wet curd is cooked for 40 minutes before the whey is drained, and the curds are moved to stainless steel hoops on drainage tables, where they are covered and weighed down with bricks to drain more whey. Eventually, the cheeses are placed in a brine of salty bacteria for 12 hours, then left to rest in a warm and humid curing room where the cheese forms are washed and turned each day to encourage bacterial growth on the rind.

What does Widmer's brick cheese taste like?

A well-aged brick cheese has a sweet, pungent, and fruity flavor with a lingering aftertaste. The texture is semi-soft, with a sticky rind that's edible.

How is Widmer's brick cheese different from limburger?

Like limburger, brick is made with a washed-rind technique. After the cheese is formed, it's regularly washed with a salty solution that helps the cheese mature and encourages bacteria on the rind to grow. However, brick is a firmer cheese with less moisture and less orange-brown mold on the rind, giving brick a milder flavor than Limburger.

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What to sip and savor with Widmer's brick cheese

Brick is best enjoyed with food and beverages that complement or contrast this cheese's strong flavor profile.

Choosing beverages for Widmer's brick

Widmer's brick cheese appreciates bolder, salt-of-the-earth brews and wines. If you're drinking beer, you'll find that a hearty bock, stout, pale ale, weiss beer, porter, semi-sweet cider, or brown ale all go down well with brick. If you have a glass of wine in mind, try a chardonnay, champagne, riesling, sauvignon blanc, pinot gris, or grüner veltliner when pouring white, or a pinot noir, merlot, or beaujolais if a red is in order.

What to serve with Widmer's brick cheese

With an earthy, sweet flavor and a semi-soft texture that is easily sliced, brick can be enjoyed as a table cheese or as a flavor bomb in a variety of sandwiches and dishes. For a classic pairing, try a slice of brick on a dark bread like sweet pumpernickel, along with thinly sliced ham or liverwurst, fresh onions, and a dollop of mustard. Melted brick makes a great topper for a burger or a flavorful addition to pasta or potatoes au gratin.


What is a washed-rind cheese?

A washed-rind cheese is a pungent variety that's washed with a brine of salt and bacteria after it's pressed to allow the cheese to ripen and to encourage bacterial growth on the rind. In addition to limburger and brick, cheeses like muenster, fontina val d'osta, beaufort and gruyere are well-known washed-rind cheeses.

What is Brevibacterium linens?

Brevibacterium linens is a bacterium that is commonly used in cheesemaking. It gives certain cheeses a strong and pungent flavor and serves as a barrier against certain unhealthy fungi and pathogens. Brevibacterium linens may be added to cheese by introducing it in the vat, washing it onto the rind in a salt solution after brining, or mixing it with wine and other liquors when washing the rind.

Craving award-winning aged cheddar, pining for parmesan, or searching for a new cheese to try? The world’s best cheese is just a click away! Explore our directory of Wisconsin cheesemakers and retailers who offer online cheese shopping and get cheese shipped right to your door. What are you waiting for?

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