Super Bowl of cheese: Cheesemakers compete at U.S. Championship Cheese Contest

The contest is held in Green Bay for the first time in 4 years
Published: Feb. 21, 2023 at 6:45 PM CST
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - Cheesemakers from across the country are in Green Bay to compete in the 2023 U.S. Championship Cheese Contest.

In total, there were 2,249 entries across 113 classes of cheesemakers from 35 states. The most entries coming from Wisconsin.

From 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. February 21 and 22 at the Resch Expo, anyone can come out and sample some of the contests while watching expert cheese judges examine and judge each cheese. On Thursday, February 23, a winner will be announced.

“Well I love cheese and all my friends know I love cheese,” said Assistant Chief Judge Tim Czmowski I have 185 cheese jokes and they’re all Gouda ones. Some are cheddar than others.”

Czmowski has been around cheese for nearly 50 years. He said the 42 judges at this competition are evaluating each cheese closely from a perspective of appearance, body, texture, and flavor. Two judges evaluate each cheese sample and score it separately. The average of the two scores is the cheese’s official score.

Czmowski said there are 113 classes consisting of cheese, whey, yogurt and butter. A best of class will be picked and the top 20 will be judged on Thursday February 23 to determine the winner. He said he looks for the natural flavors from the various kinds of milk being used to make the cheese. Each type of cheese has a particular flavor and that’s what he looks for.

“It starts with the most basic food on Earth…milk,” Czmowski said. “It was intended to bring us, to nourish us from a child, infant into adult hood. We get to fractionate that into very nutritious and various products over thousands of different products that people consume morning noon and night so to be the best at doing that is really something to be proud of and the people who have entered this contest they put their best foot forward.”

Mary Lindemann works at Pine River Cheese in Newton, Wisconsin. It was founded by her father-in-law 60 years ago. Like Czmowski, Lindemann said the best cheese depends solely on the milk used.

“We’ve been very fortunate to win a lot of awards in this contest both the U.S. and the world, the State Fair, the World Dairy expo and it starts with good milk from our farmers. I can’t say it enough. The good milk makes good cheese and good cheese makes good cheese spread.

Lindemann said everyone on her team working hard every day helps make a great product. She said receiving complements from the judges about their cheese is something special.

“We know we like our cheese spread,” Lindemann said. “We know we’re selling it because of our sales but when you have a judge that says with a trained pallet ‘yours is the best’ there’s just no…that says it all.”