Widmer’s Cheese of Theresa had another impressive showing at the American Cheese Society Awards last month. The team at Widmer’s took home two first place finishes, one for aged brick cheese and the other for its brick spread, and a third place finish for the mild brick cheese. “My initial reaction [to winning] was gratification and a sense of pride, not only for Widmer’s, but also for Wisconsin cheese in general,” Joey Widmer said.
“There are a lot of different steps that need to be taken in order to run a successful cheese plant and I am thankful for the hard work from each of our employees, because we couldn’t be successful without everyone’s contribution.” Widmer said the key to making a quality product is keeping things the way they’ve been for nearly the past century.
“The key to making a quality brick cheese and spread, or any cheese for that matter, is not taking any shortcuts as far as ingredients and the make process is concerned,” he said. “We still follow the same recipe and make process that my great grandfather started using in 1922 and we have been successful with it since.
We are the only ‘true’ manufactures of brick cheese because we still use the original bricks my great grandfather used to press the cheese.” Using bricks to make brick cheese was how the cheese was originally invented and intended to be dating back to the late 1870s in Dodge County, according to Widmer.
Widmer said although they aren’t in the business for winning awards, it’s always nice to be recognized for making a quality product. “It is extremely gratifying because it shows that the company and everyone’s hard work is paying off,” he said. “The awards help serve as a benchmark for our company and shows that we are making a high quality cheese that judges are grading at a high level and that our customers enjoy.”
Joey attended the event and accepted the awards with his father Joe, which he said made the experience that much more memorable. “Being able to share these experiences with my family is a great opportunity and it is enjoyable to work alongside my father,” he said. “Not many fathers and sons get the opportunity to work together, so I am taking advantage of that right now.
I can also think back before my time to when my great-grandfather started the company and know that we are still using the same time honored tradition of hand crafting quality artisan cheese. I am sure that he would be proud of the direction the company has gone.” Being a Wisconsinbased company, Widmer said expectations are always pretty high whenever he and the staff attend events like this. “All of the Wisconsin cheesemakers take pride in the fact that we help represent Wisconsin as the dairy state,” he said. “Since Wisconsin is the dairy state, there are a tremendous amount of resources available to use from places like the Center for Dairy Research and the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.
Not to mention, it is hard to find people who really dislike cheese.” After winning three first place awards over the past two ACS events, Widmer said he is hopeful the trend will continue at next year’s competition in Pittsburgh. “I am confident that we will be able to win at least one award next year but perhaps more than one,” he said. “It is always good to remain hopeful and optimistic that we will be able to continue to win awards, as long as we keep doing what we are doing.”