Every two years, the United States Championship Cheese Contest is held in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The “Dairy State” has hosted the biennial competition since 1981, where entries are evaluated by judges from across the nation. While Wisconsin cheesemakers had an impressive showing this year, taking home 54 “Best of Class” awards, the most prestigious honor of U.S. Champion Cheese was earned by Bantam, Connecticut’s “Arethusa Farm Dairy” for its Aged Gouda.
This was the 21st biennial US Championship. World championships are held in alternating years, typically in Madison, Wisconsin. The event celebrates the best in cheese, as well as categories for butter and yogurt. The contest, hosted by the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association, includes 2,249 entries in 113 classes from 35 states, meaning there is a lot of competition. Entries are evaluated on flavor, body, texture, salt, color, finish, packaging and other attributes. The 100 expert judges come from across the country.
Wisconsin cheese has won best in show 14 times, the last coming in 2017. While this year’s winner, Arethusa Farm Dairy, might call Connecticut home, the cheesemaker that created the championship Aged Gouda is a proud Wisconsin native. Eric Schmid, head cheesemaker at Arethusa, says he was influenced by master cheesemakers in his home state. Schmid noted his Wisconsin roots after his win, which he said was a “welcome surprise.”
The next two top spots were won by Wisconsin cheesemakers. The first runner-up, with a score of 98.61, was Vintage Cupola American Original Cheese, a hard raw milk cheese made by “Door Artisan Cheese Company” in Egg Harbor, Wisconsin, for Red Barn Family Farms. The Cupola cheese was actually developed with the Center for Dairy Research at UW-Madison. The second runner-up was a medium Cheddar made by Dillon Sylla for Associated Milk Producers in Blair, Wisconsin.
The 2019 US champion was a baby Swiss wheel produced by Guggisberg Cheese of Millersburg, Ohio, Guggisberg’s second win in three contests. The previous four winners were:
2017: Reserve Black Pepper BellaVitano from Sartori Cheese in Antigo, Wisconsin
2015: Swiss Wheel from Guggisberg Cheese in Millersburg, Ohio
2013: Gouda Mature from Holland’s Family Cheese in Thorp, Wisconsin
2011: Evalon from LaClare Farms Specialties in Chilton, Wisconsin