There's something special about a Wisconsin cheesemaker. Maybe it's the dedication – spending years studying the delicate chemistry of cheese artistry. Perhaps it's the patience it takes – waiting months or years to see your handiwork mature into award-winning cheese. But most likely, the thing that puts the twinkle in your eye if you're a Wisconsin cheesemaker is the knowledge that you are part of a long and honored tradition of making the tastiest, most award-winning, highest-quality cheese on the planet.
Here in Wisconsin, we put our cheesemakers on a bit of a pedestal. Not that you'd know it from talking to them – they're pretty much the humble, hard-working, salt-of-the-earth type. But when you love cheese as much as we do, you gotta give props to the people who work day in and day out to deliver the world's best cheese to your kitchen counter.
So, thank you, Wisconsin cheesemakers – you'll always be heroes to us.
Wisconsin cheesemakers have spent decades mastering recipes for everything from gouda and muenster cheese to parmesan and provolone, blue cheese and burrata, and hundreds of other traditional cheeses. But even as they produce cheese that rivals the greatest cheeses of Europe and Mexico, Wisconsin cheesemakers have also been busy innovating new cheeses of their own.
Here are a few of our favorites:
Wisconsin is home to roughly 1,200 different cheesemakers, who make 3.42 billion pounds of cheese each year.
You need a license to become a Wisconsin cheesemaker. The licensing process takes one to two years, about $3,000 in fees, 240 hours of time as an apprentice under a licensed cheesemaker, and there's a written test to boot.
Wisconsin has the only master cheesemaker program of its kind outside of the one in Switzerland. To enter the three-year program, cheesemakers must have a minimum of 10 years' experience making cheese in a Quality Assured plant, and at least five years' experience making the cheese varieties for which they seek a Master certification. In addition to three years of education and apprenticeship, master cheesemakers must pass a rigorous final examination.
Immigrant cheesemakers from Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Holland, France, and Scandinavia settled in Wisconsin in the 1800s, drawn to the fertile land and the high-quality milk it produced. In the generations since, Wisconsin cheesemakers have helped the state become a cheese powerhouse, making 600+ types of cheeses and representing one quarter of the nation's cheese production.
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When you're a Wisconsin cheesemaker, you are part of a cheesemaking tradition that goes back 175 years, before Wisconsin was even a state. You're also a cheese pioneer and innovator – after all, no place makes more styles, varieties, and flavors of cheese than Wisconsin.
As a Wisconsin cheesemaker, you also have a license – we're the only state in the country that requires it. (We don't believe in letting just any anyone and their uncle Ole make something as precious as cheese.) And you've probably won a bunch of awards – Wisconsin cheesemakers have won 5,552 cheese awards altogether, more than any other state or country on earth.
But mostly, when you're a Wisconsin cheesemaker, you have the knowledge that you're making some of the best cheese in the universe. And who wouldn't want to be part of that club?
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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In Wisconsin, we make more flavors, varieties, and styles of cheese than anywhere else in the world. We believe in tradition, producing everything from Italian classics, like parmesan and ricotta, to swiss cheese and cheddar varieties. But every Wisconsin cheesemaker is an innovator as well, which is why we have so many Wisconsin originals, like colby and muenster. Whether it’s a grilled cheese sandwich, potatoes au gratin, or a charcuterie board, Wisconsin cheese makes every dish and recipe tastier.