Brunkow Cheese in tiny Fayette, Wisconsin, launched a line of artisan English cheeses about a year ago after third-generation owners Karl and Mary Geissbuhler realized their family-owned plant might not be around for another 100 years if they continued only making 40-pound blocks of commodity cheeses.
"We were fighting for pennies two years ago on the 40-pound block market, and now we're wholesaling artisan cheese for $7-$8 a pound," Karl told me during a visit last week. "That's a big change for us."
A mighty big change, indeed. Not only is the Geissbuhler's new "Fayette Creamery" line of four English-style cheeses putting them back in the black, it's also putting them on the map of Wisconsin award-winners. On Sept. 15, Progressive Grocer Magazine will feature Brunkow's Avondale Truckle as one of it's "Editor's Picks" of the year out of 200+ product entries.
The Avondale Truckle is absolutely a beautiful cheese. The Geissbuhlers worked with Neville McNaughton, a New Zealand native and world-renowned expert cheesemaker, to create the recipe and a special mold for this elegant, tall, drum-shaped cheese. A cloth-wrapped cheddar, it is aged in Brunkow's hand-dug cellar for 6 to 18 months and is made from raw milk sourced from Lafayette County dairy farms.
Round and buttery in its youth, Avondale Truckle develops a full, layered flavor and wild, earthy aromas as it matures. It goes great with a full, fruity red wine, dark beer or brown ale. Its label is absolutely beautiful, as well -- as are all the labels for Brunkow's English-style line-up that includes: Little Darling, Pendarvis & Argylshire -- all named after area landmarks and all aged in the Brunkow cellar.
All are pictured above -- from left, that's Karl Geissbuhler holding a 20-pound wheel of Pendarvis, cheesemaking partner Greg Schulte with the 1.5-pound Little Darling, cheesemaker and marketing manager Joe Burns with the 35-pound Argylshire, and Mary Geissbuhler with the Avondale Truckle.
Demand for these Brunkow English-style cheeses has been so great, in fact, that the Geissbuhlers are building a new 21 x 50 foot cooler in which to store their cheddars, colbys, and flavored cheeses they've become so well-known for over the years.
The new cooler will also hold the Brunkow's new favorite: Brun-uusto, a baked cheese patterned after Juustalepia, commonly enjoyed in Finland and Sweden. The cheese is baked to form a tasty crust similar to toasted bread and carries a mild buttery flavor. It's great as an appetizer (you can warm it on a griddle in front of your guests) and I've even heard of people dipping it in their coffee or serving with jam and maple syrup at breakfast. (Brunkow sells 700 pounds of this cheese every week at farmer's markets in Madison and Chicago, lest you doubt its consumer appeal).
All of Brunkow's cheeses, including its English-style line-up can be found in their retail store and at the Dane County Farmer's Market in Madison, Wisconsin on Saturdays. The Geissbuhlers are slowly building up inventory (have patience - amazing artisan aged cheese takes time) and are working with a couple of Midwest distributors to hopefully garner the cheese some more national exposure.
Bottom line: if you're lucky enough to find any of their cheeses in a store near you, snap them up. They won't last long.