An annual gathering of American cheesemakers, mongers, retailers, distributors and “cheese enthusiasts” took place in Madison, Wisconsin, last week for the 30th anniversary of the American Cheese Society’s annual conference. Along with arranging classes, lectures, tastings and educational panels, ACS organizes a world-renowned competition where cheeses are graded and judged by technical and aesthetic experts as part of the conference activities.
With over 1700 entries, a hard-won award ribbon is coveted by the practitioners of the dairy arts in attendance. This year, some of our finest mid-Atlantic artisan cheese makers stepped up to the podium to claim prizes. These local cheese makers included Firefly Farms and P.A. Bowen Farmstead of Maryland, and Everona Dairy, Meadowcreek Dairy and Caromont Farm of Virginia.
Along with the judging and the educational components of the conference, we experienced the lighthearted conviviality of visiting with our beloved cheese chums while circling Madison’s capitol dome. The Thursday night Pub Crawl offered a serial sampling of Wisconsin’s magnificent craft beers, tasty cheeses and spicy regional brats and bocks.
Next year’s conference will take place in California’s capital city, Sacramento. We’ll be close to Yolo County’s rolling vineyards, so we will discover wine and cheese pairings reflecting the bounty of that region. Did you know that Sacramento calls itself the “Farm to Fork Capital of the World?” Who knew?
While waiting for the next conference, we invite you to come taste this year’s award-winning cheeses from local producers (and other 2013 award winners) at our Cowgirl Creamery shops in DC and San Francisco and at cheese counters across the country that feature American artisan and farmstead cheeses.
Sue Conley is the co-founder of Cowgirl Creamery, a cheese-making and distribution business in Northern California. Along with co-founder, Peggy Smith, Sue has built this business from the ground up. The two partners have just finished their first book, Cowgirl Creamery Cooks, which will be released by Chronicle Books in the fall. For updates from Cowgirl Creamery in DC, follow the shop on Twitter via @CowgirlCheeseDC.