Minnesota cheesemakers form statewide guild

Watch out, Wisconsin. Minnesota cheese makers are organizing.

Nine artisan cheese makers have just formed the Minnesota Cheese Guild in an effort to share knowledge and resources and to get the word out about their work.

“Cheese making is by nature an isolating profession,” said guild president Jodi Ohlsen Read of Shepherd’s Way Farms. “And when I started 15 years ago there were hardly any other small scale companies out there, aside from Eichtens.”

Ohlsen Read says the guild will provide cheese makers with a forum for sharing information on new food safety regulations and will organize seminars on such topics as “affinage” (the aging and ripening of cheese), working with distributors and getting into farmers markets.

Keith Adams, founder of Alemar Cheese Company in Mankato
Photo by Judith Lazar

Members of the guild will be showcasing their cheeses and offering tips on how best to enjoy them at the second annual Minnesota Cheese Festival in September.

A few of them were on hand to show off their delectables last night at Heidi’s restaurant in Minneapolis. Among them was Keith Adams of Alemar Cheese Company in Mankato. Adams, who named the company after his two daughters, started making cheese five years ago after first working as a baker. He says it pays to be slightly obsessive and to not shy away from long hours and grunt work.

Alemar Cheese Company’s latest product is “Good Thunder,” made from Cedar Summit milk, washed in Surly beer, and hand rubbed in sea salt.
(Photo by Judith Lazar)

Adams has produced three cheeses since starting his business: “Bent River” (a Camembert style cheese), a fromage blanc, and most recently “Good Thunder,” a Reblochon inspired cheese washed in Surly beer and hand rubbed in sea salt.  He gets his milk from Cedar Summit Farm in New Prague.

Alise Sjostrom, founder of Redhead Creamery, is the newest cheese maker in the guild; she and her husband Lucas presented their first-ever wheel of aged cheddar for tasting last night. But Sjostrom doesn’t lack experience. She grew up on a dairy farm, studied cheese making at the University of Minnesota, and worked at both Grafton Village Cheese in Vermont and Crave Brothers Farmstead Cheese in Wisconsin.

Alise Sjostrom and her husband Lucas, of Redhead Creamery, stand by her very first wheel of aged cheese, an ash-rubbed cheddar.
(Photo by Judith Lazar)

Sjostrom currently ages her cheeses at the University of Minnesota, but is working on building a modern “cave” on her parents’ dairy farm.

Eventually the Minnesota Cheese Guild plans to create a “cheese tour,” encouraging enthusiasts to enjoy a road trip to their various factories around the state.