Green County in south central Wisconsin is the specialty cheese capital of the United States. It is also the Swiss Cheese Capital, and the Limburger Cheese Capital of the United States. In short cheese reins king in this county. There is no better place for a tour of cheese factories.
There are thirteen cheese factories operating in the county. Not all of them provide tours or have retail facilities. I have laid out a two-day route which will take you to six cheese factories, all have retail facilities and some even have tours. At the end of the route is a factory cheese outlet just in case you need to buy some more cheese or missed a variety which you were looking for.
The route starts at the National Historic Cheesemaking Center located at the junction of State Hwy. 69 and 21st street in Monroe, Wisconsin 53566. This welcome center is housed in an old train depot. Inside is a cheese museum where you will learn the history of cheesemaking in Green County. Admission is $3.00 per person. Hours are 9:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M. daily.
The first cheese factory is just down the block on the north end of Monroe. The Alp and Dell Cheese Store located at 657 2nd Street. Look for the large yellow cow on the lawn. The cheesemaking tradition here goes back to 1863 in Uster, Switzerland. There is a viewing room where you can watch the cheese being made and an informative video. They make several varieties of Swiss but my favorite was the 6 Month Buttermilk Bleu Affinee. Hours are 9:00 A.M. to 6:00 P.M. Monday through Saturday and 10:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. Sundays.
Next you want to take State Hwy 81 to County Road N north about four miles to the Chalet Cheese Co-op . This is the only remaining cheese factory in the U.S. that manufactures Limburger. This poignant flavored cheese is undoubtably the stinkiest cheese made. You either love it or hate it; however, take a sample and you just might love it. Hours are 7:00A.M to 3:30 P.M. Monday through Friday and 8:00 A.M. to 10:30 on Saturdays. Tours arranged for four people or more. Call 608-325-4343.
Continue to drive north on County Road N until you reach County Road C. On your right under that big oak tree is the Edelweiss Town Hall Cheese Co. Established in 1873 this cheese manufacturer has been in constant operation at this location ever since. They make the Edelweiss Emmentaler Cheese here. This is a sharp tasting Swiss made in 180 pound wheels. Mark Workman is one of forty-three Wisconsin Master Cheesemakers. To earn that distinction you must make delicious cheese. Hours are 9:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M. Monday through Saturday.
Your first day is coming to an end. Continue north to County Road NN and turn right. You will be driving through the beautiful forests of New Glarus Woods State Park. There is camping available here as well as several miles of hiking trails. You might want to just take a rest from driving and have a spread of wine and cheese at the picnic grounds.
When you leave the state park turn left on State Hwy 69, just below you is the town of New Glarus, or Little Switzerland. This town was settled by the Swiss and kept its Swiss character. Here you will find several Bed and Breakfast, and a full service resort, Chalet Landaus Inn. This is the perfect place to spend your night. Stroll through the historic downtown and choose from one of the many fine restaurants. Top off the night with a slice of fudge at the Maple Leaf Cheese and Chocolate House.
I am trusting that you had a yummy cheese omelette for breakfast and now its time to set out for today’s selection of cheese manufactures. Take State Hwy.69 south to the town of Monticello, turn left onto Coates Ave. Next to the fire station is the Swiss Heritage Cheese Inc. They make Brick and Muenster cheese here but best thing you can buy is Brick Cheese Curds. Hours are 8:00 A.M. to 3:00 P.M. Monday through Friday and 9:00 A.M. to 11:00 on Saturdays.
Before you leave Swiss Heritage ask for directions to County Road EE. Once on EE drive east about four miles and on your right hidden behind a growth of bushes is the Silver-Lewis Cheese Factory. This is one of the oldest continuously running cheese factories in the country. It started operation 112 years ago and just completed a major expansion doubling its size.
Walk around the side and through the plastic strips to find the retail entrance. Don’t expect to find a fancy store. What you have here is a cooler and a chalk board with cheese names and prices. First, the prices were the absolute lowest we found at any of the cheese factories we visited. Second the cheese we bought here was the best of the best.
Our favorite was a veggie cheese made from Farmers Cheese with all kinds of vegetables. I have used it in cooking, sandwiches and for just plain old snacking. It is delicious. Then there was the Muenster. Theirs is the creamiest I have ever tried. This is the place to stock up before you travel on to the next stop.
Drive east on County Road EE to County Road E turn right to State Hwy 59 take 59 to County Road F turn left or south and stay on F. You will come to a T in the road. Take the T left on County Road F toward Brodhead. About a mile after you turn, you will be at Decatur Dairy Inc. I assure you the ride here will be worth your trouble. Steve Stettler is another Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker and has developed some interesting new cheeses.
The first cheese to sample is the Colby Swiss Marble and then try the Stettler Swiss both of them are award winners and developed by Steve Stettler. Hours are 9:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. Monday through Saturday.
Take County road F West to County Road OK South to State Hwy 11 and turn right or west for about two miles. On the right-hand side of the road is the Maple Leaf Cheese Factory Outlet. I include this as the last stop on our tour just in case you have not got enough cheese yet. Here you will find cheese from the factories in Green County which do not have retail outlets. My favorites are the Mexican Cheeses.
Traveling west on State Hwy 11, you will return to Monroe and the end of our tour. Monroe offers many options for lodging and restaurants. It is a fine place to end the tour.