If we ask you to think of Wisconsin, we bet one word comes to mind: cheese. One of the only states in the U.S. to offer a Master Cheesemaker Program, Wisconsin has a rich history in cheesemaking. In fact, they have been making cheese since before they were even declared a state. If you are looking for a short weekend away, head up on the cheese trail this summer and discover these award-winning and uniquely-Wisconsin spots along the way.
Please take care while in public places and check each business for operating hours and social distancing measures. Many of these businesses happily ship further afield, too!
15982 WI-11, Shullsburg, WI
Chris Roelli’s family has hand-crafted specialty cheese for 100 years. He is now one of Wisconsin’s distinguished Master Cheesemakers, and expertly makes small batches of award-winning original recipe cheeses such as Dunbarton Blue and Little Mountain. Roelli is also known for his fresh cheddar curds, cellar-aged cheddars, Farmhouse Colby-style, Monterey Jack, Goudse Kaas, Havarti and Cheshire inspired cheese. If you plan to visit the Cheese Haus, come hungry, as there are ample cheeses to try.
Don’t miss: Roelli Crown Jewel, a collaboration between Roelli Cheese and Crown Finish Caves in Brooklyn, New York. Aged a minimum of 6 months, it was awarded Best in Show by the American Cheese Society in 2016, and has a complex and balanced profile of butterscotch, buttered toast and fresh fruit, with an herby and grassy aroma.
7002 Rangeline Rd, Athens, WI
Get your fill of woodfired, fresh and seasonal cheesy pizzas at Stone Acres Pizza Farm and Brewery, where ingredients are sourced directly from their third-generation certified organic family farm. The casual outdoor dining experience, grassy lawns and cold brews make it the perfect summer spot on Friday and Saturday evenings, where you can explore their farm and shop their Farmer’s Market full of produce, meat and eggs. What happens if it is raining? No worries, as they also have a heated indoor beer hall.
Don’t miss: Dairyland Delight pizza, a simple but amazing cheese pizza, or their Ramona the Pesto pizza, chock full of garlicky pesto and parmesan.
200 W. Liberty Drive, Thorp, WI
In the small Northern town of Thorp lies the most delicious gouda cheese, made by Marieke Penterman, who was born and raised in The Netherlands. When she couldn’t find the Dutch cheese she missed desperately, she decided to get her Wisconsin Cheesemaking license, working with a local cheesemaker and traveling back to Holland to train. There, she learned how to make authentic Dutch Gouda cheese. The results are an award-winning line of cheeses, along with her very own 350 cow dairy farm that supplies the farmstead-fresh milk for her cheese. The milk is piped directly from Penterman Farm into the cheesemaking vat after the first milking of the day, making its freshness unrivaled. From there, the cheese is carefully aged on imported Dutch pine planks in temperature and humidity-controlled aging cellars, resulting in rich and full-flavored cheese, with a subtle bite and caramel notes.
Don’t miss: Marieke® Gouda Mature, which took the 2013 Grand Champion of the U.S. Championship Cheese Contest. It is aged 6-9 months and is the best Gouda found stateside.
12 S Carroll St, Madison, WI
Plan to stop in Wisconsin’s beautiful capital city Madison, and while you’re there, don’t miss Fromagination, an iconic cheese shop that carries an amazing variety of cheese from the state, fine foods and Wisconsin-inspired gifts. Founded in 2007 by Ken Monteleone, Fromagination encourages guests to fully experience the cheese: see, smell and taste, and learn about how and where it is made.
Don’t miss: Ask the staff for their favorites of the day, they are the pros! Recommended to us was Carr Valley Master’s Reserve Cheddar, made in La Valle and Uplands Cheese Pleasant Ridge Reserve, made in Dodgeville. Both did not disappoint, and Monteleone says he even starts his days with Carr Valley cheese for breakfast.
New Glarus, WI
In the small and adorable village of New Glarus, also known as America’s Little Switzerland, lies one of Wisconsin’s most popular destinations for beer lovers: New Glarus Brewery. The brewery is infamous for the wheat beer that you can only get in state, Spotted Cow, which is frequently recommended as the perfect pint to pair with cheese. Although the brewery and its Bier Garten and museum are closed due to COVID-19, you can still purchase a six-pack at a number of village stores (or pretty much any shop in Wisconsin).
Don’t miss: The New Glarus Cow Parade, which features 16 Swiss-imported cows around town that were decorated by area artists. Can you spot them all?
Start at the Lake Geneva Library, 918 W Main St
It’s time to work off all that cheese, beer and pizza. No road trip through Wisconsin is complete without a stop in Lake Geneva, which offers shopping, dining and a unique 26-mile walking path around Geneva Lake. Along the path you can take a peek at historic lakefront mansions, popular resorts and beautiful yards. It’s the perfect way to end your Cheese Trail experience, and enjoy the summer weather.
Don’t miss: a stop at the Cheese Box for more cheese before you head home, who have been in business since 1940. 801 S Wells St
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Macaire Douglas lives in the Chicago suburbs with her husband and two sons. She proudly supports Save Abandoned Babies Foundation, a Chicago-based nonprofit organization that works tirelessly to prevent the illegal abandonment of newborns nationwide. Since its inception in 2000, more than 3,600 newborns have been safely surrendered and adopted into loving homes.