A well-aged cheddar, a creamy brie, a funky bleu or a perfectly fried curd. If that doesn’t have you halfway out the door and headed north to one of Wisconsin’s many cheesemakers and creameries already, how about pairing it with a beer from one of the Badger State’s many craft breweries? Sounds like a road-trip-worthy experiment to us.
We’ve found a few places in close proximity where you can create your own perfect pairing of Wisconsin cheese and beer. So what are you waiting for? Jump in your car and head north of the Cheddar Curtain for these great spots.
Clock Shadow Creamery / Milwaukee Brewing Co.
Billing itself as “Milwaukee’s Original Cheese Factory,” you’d be forgiven for thinking Clock Shadow Creamery, 138 W. Bruce St., has been around since aging caves were lit by candle. Not quite. It actually opened in 2012 in the Walker’s Point neighborhood, just south of downtown. For only $3, take a quick tour of the production facility. Stop by on Wednesday or Friday to watch squeaky-fresh cheese curds get made.
From there you’re just a stone’s throw from the production facility for the Milwaukee Brewing Co., which offers weekend tours and open houses at 613 S. 2nd St., but we’d recommend the 20-minute walk north to their original Milwaukee Ale House brewpub, 233 N. Water St. The riverside spot offers a couple dozen options, with any from their O-Gii series of tea-infused witbiers coming highly recommended.
Renard’s Cheese Factory / Ahnapee Brewery
Not that you needed any particular reason to head to the Cape Cod of the Midwest, but fresh local cheese from a third-generation cheesemaker is a pretty good one. Folks who plan ahead can visit Renard’s Cheese Factory at 248 Highway 42 in Algoma for one of their factory tours (available only by appointment/reservation), while their deli in Sturgeon Bay is probably your best bet to drop in and find their aged cheddar, smoked Swiss, and of course, fresh curds.
Just a few minutes from both locations is Ahnapee Brewery, a small brewpub just steps from Lake Michigan at 105 Navarino St. offering beers ranging from session IPAs and brown ales all the way up to barrel-aged wheat wines, and even a beer made with mushrooms.
A bit further north up the peninsula, hit up the Schoolhouse Artisan Cheese store, 7813 State Highway, (one of the state’s 10 best places to try local cheese, according to Travel + Leisure) for even more cheeses from Renard’s, among many others, then quench your thirst at the Shipwrecked Microbrewery, Pub and Inn a mere one-minute walk away at 7791 Egg Harbor Road.
South Central Wisconsin
Edelweiss Creamery / New Glarus Brewing Company
Any beer-focused road trip in America’s Dairyland must include a stop at New Glarus, 2400 State Highway 69. One of the biggest craft breweries in the nation, but dedicated to hyperserving Wisconsin alone, beer lovers shouldn’t consider a trip to the state complete without bringing back a couple six-packs of Spotted Cow, Moon Man “no-coast” pale ale, or Serendipity, a rich, sticky, fruit beer with cherries, apples and cranberries.
From the New Glarus brewery, you’re just five minutes from the factory store for Edelweiss Creamery, a cheesemaker that’s been operating in the same location, 529 First St., since 1873 and turning out specialty cheeses like havarti, butterkase and their famed Emmentaler Swiss. The company’s plant, where they make their cheese using milk from entirely grass-fed cattle from just a handful of area farms, is also just 10 minutes south.
Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery / Red Wing Brewery
Originally formed by a group of farmers in 1910 to make and sell butter, the Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery, 232 N. Wallace St., branched out into cheese in 1966 and never looked back. Nowadays, the 450-farm collective makes literally tons of cheese curds every day — so you can see why Ellsworth is considered “the cheese curd capital of Wisconsin.” Located about 45 minutes southeast of St. Paul, Minnesota, the creamery’s retail store in Ellsworth sells nearly 300 different cheeses along with brats and burgers.
Just up the street at 193 E Main St. is Common Man Brewing, a brewpub with 22 taplines featuring their own creations along with other regional favorites like Central Waters, Capital and Surly. But make sure to save room and head just 20 minutes south for more brews, this time steps from the Mississippi and just over the border into Minnesota. Since 2011, the Red Wing Brewery, 1411 Old West Main St., Red Wing, has been making historical-style beers based off recipes from the town’s original brewery that date back to the late 1800s, while also creating more modern brews like an IPA, a farmhouse ale and a nitro oatmeal stout.
Hook’s Cheese Company / Brewery Creek Inn
Located in Southwest Wisconsin about a half hour from Platteville (relevant for old-school Bears fans with memories of training camp days), Hook’s Cheese Company, 320 Commerce St., is busy maintaining its global reputation for top cheeses like their World Championship-winning Colby. Hook’s has been earning that reputation since opening in 1976, with owners Julie and Tony Hook receiving awards from the American Cheese Society and the World Championship Cheese competition during their 40 years in business. Beyond the awards, people are willing to drop big money for Hook cheddar — in May 2015, they released a cheddar aged for 20 years that went for over $200 a pound.
If you’ve had enough of the road, a few minutes away is the Brewery Creek Inn, 23 Commerce St., which makes their own brews that include an American wheat, porter, a pale ale, and a shandy mixed with lemonade, and also offers bed-and- breakfast style accommodations.
GetCulture / Capital Brewery
We close our trip with a destination that’s a bit more hands-on. Rather than making cheeses for sale, the GetCulture store, 501 Tasman St., offers cheesemaking supplies and ingredients for customers to make their own dairy-based products — specifically cheeses and yogurts — at home. If you’ve ever found yourself in the market for fermented milk cultures, rennet and ripening mold, you might be familiar with GetCulture’s products — and if you have no idea what any of those are, maybe one of their cheesemaking classes is for you.
On the other side of Lake Mendota is Middleton’s Capital Brewery, 7734 Terrace Ave. They’ve been making Wisconsin craft beer for 30 years — long before it was cool — producing fan favorites like the Supper Club lager, the Wisconsin Amber and the Island Wheat. Brewery tours take place throughout the week and although it’s not the closest brewery to GetCulture — you’ll go past breweries like MobCraft (4539 Helgesen Drive), One Barrel (2001 Atwood Ave.) or Next Door Brewing Company (2439 Atwood Ave.) — it’s definitely also got culture of its own.