Windsor cheesemakers bring Midwestern staple to the Front Range (video) | TheFencePost.com

Windsor cheesemakers bring Midwestern staple to the Front Range (video)

Kayla Young | Editor

Marc Pfister flips loaf after loaf of white cheese, helping press out whey and excess fluid from the young cheddar at his workspace in Windsor, Colo.'s Longview Creamery.

About two-thirds into the cheesemaking process, the rubbery blocks still lack flavor. By the end, however, Pfister and head cheesemaker Caille Gash will send out text messages to eager customers across the Front Range to inform them that fresh cheese curds are ready for snacking.

The Midwestern staple has created niche appeal for the artisan creamery. As a small cheesemaker on a large market, the ability to stand out with a specialized product has been important for Gash.

"People just get a kick out of eating them because they're squeaky and salty," Gash said. "We're the only people producing them in the Front Range right now, so we're excited."

Gash and husband Pfister took over the creamery, previously Cozy Cow, in 2011, relocating from work on sheep and goat dairies in Nebraska.

The move fulfilled a life-long dream of cheesemaking for Gash, who recalls the awe she felt as a child watching cheesemakers at work on a family vacation to Vermont.

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Now with her own line of cheeses, ice creams and milk, Gash finds production much simpler than marketing.

While she does not consider major operators like Leprino direct competition, she sees opportunity for Colorado's small cheesemakers to come together and build their product.

"We're all working together to promote artisan cheese," she said." But we could be stronger as a group in Colorado."

Neither the U.S. Department of Agriculture nor the Denver-based American Cheese Society maintain statistics on artisan cheesemaking in Colorado.

Regarding cow milk production, Colorado ranks 14th in the nation, while Weld County ranks first in the state, according to the 2012 Census of Agriculture.

How much of Colorado's milk goes to cheese production, whether artisan or commercial, is unknown.

Based on observation, however, the American Cheese Society's Rebecca Orozco said she has witnessed greater interest in local cheese consumption and production.

The society's annual conference has grown from 150 attendees to 1,000 last year, the communications director said. And the annual cheese competition has grown as well, from 89 entries in 1983 to 1,600 in 2014.

"It's a real sign of growth and indication of diversity," Orozco said.

On the consumer end, interest has also grown in understanding food and how it is made, increasing the appeal of local, accesible producers like Longview Creamery.

"We certainly are seeing more and more consumers interested in where their food is coming from," she said. "They want to know the story."

While Longview Creamery offers tours and a viewing window of the cheese room, Gash is focused on reaching out and educating the public beyond her shop.

She jokes that she has her eye on world domination, but speaking seriously, she wants to see Colorado's cheese community join forces for the greater good.

A Colorado cheese guild, for example, could help artisan producers pool resources and information, Gash said.

"There's no reason we shouldn't be coming together more, like the brewing community does," she said.

She has a short, memorized list of who the local cheesemakers and dairy producers are. She knows this community through informal networking, rather than industry organization.

Networking is how Gash developed Funkwerks Cheddar, a blend of Longview Creamery's aged cheddar and Tropic King beer from Funkwerks Brewery in Fort Collins.

"They came to us with the idea," chapter manager Kipp Powell said.

Powell said the company took a risk on the cheese, but it has done so well, it is now sold not only at the brewery, but at other shops around town as well.

Longview Creamery has done well reaching out to local breweries and bars, offering its cheese curds as a ready-made snack.

In Greeley, the creamery's cheeses can be found at Crabtree Brewing, Patrick's Irish Pub, The Kress Theater and The Tavern.

Longview Creamery now sells more of its cheeses through vendors and restaurants than at its on-site shop, Cozy Cow, 28607 Weld County Road 17, Windsor.

As Gash and Pfister transition their brand from Cozy Cow into the newly launched Longview Creamery brand, the cheesemakers hope to land their product in more local shops and kitchens.

"I'm hoping the cheese business will continue to grow and we can develop some other cheeses beyond cheese curds and cheddars, and grow the sheep's milk business," Gash said. "I see more of our cheeses in local stores and restaurants in Colorado, and then (we'll) move beyond Colorado." ❖

For more information

For fresh cheese curds, text CURDS to (970) 805-4269 and Longview Creamery will send out a text when curds are coming out of the vat.

To contact Longview Creamery, email info@cozycows.com or visit the Cozy Cow shop in person at 28607 Weld County Road 17, Windsor. The company’s website is http://www.cozycows.com.