The U.S. Championship Cheese Contest, long noted as the nation’s largest technical cheese, butter, and yogurt competition, has broken previous records with an 11 percent increase in the number of overall entries compared to 2017, the last year the biennial Contest was held. Judges will evaluate 2,555 entries at the Contest, set for March 5-7 at the Lambeau Field Atrium in Green Bay, Wisconsin.
The Contest has been held biennially since 1981, making this the 20th U.S. Championship Cheese Contest hosted by Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association (WCMA).
“The U.S. Championship Cheese Contest has grown steadily over the past two decades,” said Kirsten Strohmenger, WCMA Events Manager. “We’ve added several new classes this year as a way to reflect the emerging trends in the industry and that’s part of the reason we’re seeing an increase in entries.”
More states are represented in the 2019 U.S. Championship Cheese Contest than ever before, with entries from 35 states, including California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin. The Contest will also see entries from 29 first-time competitors.
“This Contest is very important to the cheesemakers vying for these prestigious awards.” Strohmenger added, “Not only do all the entrants receive valuable feedback from the judges, but winning a national competition is significant for brand awareness and marketing, not to mention great bragging rights.”
New in 2019, the U.S. Championship Cheese Contest features classes for traditional waxed cheddars, natural rinded cheddar, other hard cheeses with natural rinds, burrata, along with dried dairy products. Entries in a total of 116 classes will be judged on technical merits, including a product’s flavor, body, texture, salt, color, finish, and packaging. A single gold, silver, and bronze medal is awarded to top products in each class.
In 2017, the last time the biennial Contest was held, Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker Mike Matucheski won the title with Sartori Reserve Black Pepper BellaVitano, besting a record 2,303 Contest entries from 33 states.
The public is welcome to view the judges at work on Tuesday, March 5 and Wednesday, March 6 from 9 a.m.- 3 p.m. in the Lambeau Field Atrium in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Admission and samples are free!
WCMA also invites the public to join in Cheese Champion, the Contest’s pinnacle event, on Thursday, March 7, from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the KI Convention Center in Green Bay, at which a new U.S. Champion Cheese will be named. Cheese Champion features more than 50 Contest cheeses and a unique, guided tasting experience from Contest judges. Wisconsin cheesemakers will offer samples of their specialty products. A limited number of Cheese Champion tickets are available now, at a cost of $30 per person, at USChampionCheese.org.
“The Contest is a must-see for cheese fans,” said Strohmenger. “Learn how our world-renowned judges evaluate cheese, explore the variety of our nation’s rare and exceptional cheeses, and experience the thrill of the big announcement of the winners. Cheese Champion is a hot ticket in Wisconsin. Please be sure to reserve yours today!”
Live and taped video, digital images, and real-time results will be available on the U.S. Championship Cheese Contest website and its social media pages. Visit USChampionCheese.org for more details.