Wisconsin Cheesemaker

All hail the Wisconsin cheesemaker

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: greatest hits

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:

  • BellaVitano®. This award-winning Wisconsin original has a nutty, fruity flavor and a texture like a young creamy cheddar with the crystalline crunch of a premium farmstead parmesan. It often comes hand-rubbed or soaked in flavors like Black Pepper, Espresso, and Chai.
  • Canaria™. This deliciously intense, nutty, and robust olive-oil-cured cheese is made with a blend of sheep, cow and goat milk and is aged for at least two years.
  • Chandoka™. This cave-aged, mixed-milk cheddar has a unique flavor profile, with wheels that have an earthy aroma with vegetable undertones and a rich, dense fudgy interior with butter, citrus and grass notes.
  • Cupola. This award-winning, semi-hard Wisconsin cheese, with caramel notes and toasted pineapple flavor, gets its name from the small wooden pinnacles that top traditional Wisconsin barns.
  • Dunbarton Blue. This potent yet approachable blue has the bite and flavor of a patiently aged cheddar and teases of delicious blue veins. Even the most hardcore blue skeptic will love this earthy, slightly sharp blue cheese.
  • EWE CALF to be KIDding. This bright and flavorful cheese is the first triple-milk blue crafted in the U.S.
  • GranQueso®. This manchego-inspired beauty is orangey-red on the outside, amber on the inside with wheels that are hand-rubbed in a blend of cinnamon and paprika, and textured in a beautiful basket-weave rind.
  • Liederkranz®. An American cousin to German-style limburger, Liederkranz® is a specialty cheese that has a similar texture and aroma but is distinctly robust and buttery.
  • Pastorale Blend®. This creamy, earthy and paprika-dusted mixed-milk cheese was inspired by the wide world of Italian farmstead sheep's milk cheeses.
  • The Blue Jay. This quintuple cream blue cheese – yes, you read that right – has piney notes derived from juniper berries that are crushed and infused into it.
  • Roth Private Reserve. This small-batch alpine-style cheese is a raw-milk treasure, with curds cooked in copper vats and wheels that are cellar-aged and regularly washed, turned and flipped for six months or more.
  • Brick. Wisconsin cheesemakers first crafted brick cheese in the late 1800s and named it matter-of-factly after the bricks cheesemakers were using to press the curds. Young brick is deliciously mild with a hint of nuttiness but becomes pungent and even tangy as it ages.
  • Colby. This perfect melter was created by Wisconsin cheesemakers in the late 1800s and is considered a milder form of cheddar.

Videos: Discover Your Next Favorite Cheese

FAQs about Wisconsin cheesemakers

How many Wisconsin cheesemakers are there?

Wisconsin is home to roughly 1,200 different cheesemakers, who make 3.42 billion pounds of cheese each year.

What does it take to be a Wisconsin cheesemaker?

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.

What's involved in becoming a master cheesemaker in Wisconsin?

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.

Why are there so many cheesemakers in Wisconsin?

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.

Why are Wisconsin cheesemakers so primo?

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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