What’s the best way to explore Wisconsin’s cheese-making tradition? Visit a historic cheese factory for a tour, a taste and some tasty cheese to bring back home and share. Watch cheese curds being made and ask real cheesemakers about their passion for the craft. These six small and family-owned cheese shops have showcased Wisconsin’s distinctive dairy for a century or more. Plan to visit early in the morning to taste the freshest samples with friends, and be sure to wear closed-toed shoes for the factory tours.
Union Star Cheese Factory – Fremont
For the ultimate cheese-making tour experience, visit Union Star near Appleton. You’ll get to walk through the tiny factory to learn how milk from local dairies becomes squeaky cheese curds. Union Star was founded in 1911, and it remains family owned and operated. Locals return for the fresh curds, aged cheddar and flavored Muenster cheese.
Travel 30 minutes south to Berlin for a tour of where the family’s artisan cheeses are made in the Willow Creek Cheese facility. Here you can sample master cheesemaker Jon Meitzig’s Red Willow cheese that’s aged and washed in a beer and salt mix that adds a satisfyingly meaty flavor. Yum!
Weyauwega Star Dairy – Weyauwega
The fourth-generation, family-owned Weyauwega Star Dairy cheese factory is off the beaten path, nestled in the small town of the same name. This detour is definitely worth taking for the chance to try their tangy feta and nutty parmesan cheeses. Their famous string cheese was even featured in the Guinness Book of World Records for the longest ever — it stretched 1.5 miles long and strong volunteers carried it through Weyauwega on their shoulders! At the store, you’ll find a satisfying selection as well as local goods beyond cheese, like beef sticks, sausage, Lakeside Mustard, Rose Cottage Jams and gift baskets.
Brunkow Cheese - Darlington
The oldest cheese factory on our list “finely aged” over 120 years, Brunkow Cheese excels with traditional, spreadable and deliciously crispy baked cheeses. After a tour, you’ll want to take home their Brun-uusto Baked Cheese with either garlic or jalapeno. If you can’t make it to the store itself in the Driftless Region, stop by their tent at the Dane County Farmer’s Market to sample all of their tasty varieties.
Widmer’s Cheese Cellars - Theresa
Tradition is essential at Widmer’s Cheese Cellars. This family-owned cheese factory from the 1920s still makes brick cheese with actual bricks from decades ago to separate the whey from the cheese. You and your family and friends can watch the whole process from the observation window, ask cheesemakers questions about their craft, and sample their award-winning flavors.
Cedar Grove Cheese – Plain
For a small-scale, 100-year-old cheese factory, Cedar Grove exemplifies sustainability. Your tour will not only focus on the organic, hormone-free cheese-making process, but also on Cedar Grove’s commitment to environmentally friendly practices. Call ahead for a tour and look forward to trying their award-winning artisan cheese varieties like the Faarko, a semi-soft mix of cow’s and goat’s milk and the Donatello, a rich cheese made from goat’s milk.
Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery - Ellsworth
Ellsworth is all about the cheese curd – it’s considered the “Cheese Curd Capital of Wisconsin” and it hosts the annual Cheese Curd Festival. The Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery is famous for their classic white cheddar cheese curds, but you’ll find other fun curd flavors too like taco, garlic and ranch. Check out their new factory store in Menomonie for the deep-fried version and other local wines, beers, desserts and more.
The possibilities are endless when it comes to tasting fresh cheese in Wisconsin. Explore more cheesy destinations!