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Local cheesemakers take home plenty of world awards
cheese stock

MONROE — No local cheesemakers made the coveted top 25 of the World Champion Cheese Competition in Madison this week for the 2024 contest. But when the results were announced, locals still took home a big shopping basket of awards. 

Such awards mean a great deal to any cheesemakers, and some of the local heavyweights like Klondike and Decatur Dairy continue to make plenty of cheese history and marketing magic each year with their winning entries. But for Chalet Cheese of Monroe, a second-place victory in a category in which they were just starting to try innovative flavors, means the world to the 22-employee, farmer owned co-op.

When the awards were announced in Madison, Chalet bagged second in the pepper flavored cheese/mild heat category, a new category for the company that in 2022 also managed to win best in class — first place — for its Baby Swiss entry.

“It really means a lot to win in this category because we are trying new things and trying to be innovative,” said Mike Hlubek, Chalet’s general manager. “We were very happy to hear (the news) … it lets us know we are on the right track.”

The 2024 World Champion Cheese competition, held every other year, saw other area big winners, too. Klondike won best in class — first place — for its high-protein cow’s milk yogurt for Odyssey Labneh. Representing the Latin American side of cheesemaking, the Browntown plant owned by V&V Supremo took best in class in the open class/shredded cheese category for its Chihuahua with jalapeno shredded quesadilla cheese. 

Full contest results will be published in a future edition of the Monroe Times.

Among its awards, Decatur Dairy in Brodhead took home the top prize in the open class cheese curds bracket for its Munster Curd. A neighbor to the south in Illinois also was recognized in the contest — Deerland Dairy of Freeport was named best in class for its 100% Jersey non homogenized whole-milk plain and vanilla yogurts.

The 2024 event marks the 35th biennial World Championship Cheese Contest hosted, as it is each, year by the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association. Wisconsin entries dominated the domestic competition, in which there are more than 140 separate categories.

And that makes sense because cheesemakers and dairy farmers like the Chalet co-op’s members know you can’t have champion cheese without starting with the best milk. 

“This award for our farmers will mean a lot, it’s a nice reward for all of their work,” said Hlubek.