We all know I love brewery tours. I’ve written 25 posts about breweries on this blog over the past year and a half. Sounds like I spend a lot of time at breweries… Okay I do. And you know what goes well with beer? Cheese! You were probably going to say football weren’t you?
While driving along Highway 101, Boomer and I passed through Tillamook where the Tillamook Cheese Factory is located (imagine the confusion if the Tillamook Cheese Factory was not located in Tillamook).
I made a stop at the factory even though a friend of mine had given it a not so favorable review. Luckily I decided it would be worth checking out for myself. And although the rainy weather would have solidified my stop at the factory, I would have been glad to stop even on a sunny day.
The factory is a self-guided tour giving you a bird’s eye view of the production line. The production line reminded me a lot of a brewery production line. There were several stainless steal vats that hold up to 53,500 pounds (24,267 kg) of fresh milk, producing 3 batches of cheese per day. That is approximately 167,000 pounds (75749 kg) of cheese made each day and 130 million pounds per year (58,967,008 kg). I personally contribute to the consumption of some of that 130 million pounds per year!
The cheese starts with it’s milk base and the cheese maker pitches a starter culture (bacteria) into the milk. The starter culture is stirred until the whey starts to separate from the cheese curds. The curds are then moved on to the next cheese making process. Salt is added to the cheese curds and the curds are then pressed into blocks of cheese.
The blocks of cheese are approximately 42 pounds of cheese and are commonly referred to as “40’s”. Admit it, you know what a 40 in beer is.
The cheese then moves on to the aging process where it ages from 60 days to 3 years. After the cheese has reached perfection it is then moved to the packaging line. The 40’s are carried along a conveyor belt and cut into 1 pound cubes of cheese, or their more popular 2 pound cubes commonly referred to as the “baby loaf”.
After I had toured the factory it was now down to business. Cheese tasting. I stood in a brief line waiting for my turn to taste test the different cheeses: squeaky cheese, classic cheddar cheese, sharp cheddar, extra sharp and pepper jack. As I paused to taste each cheese I could not help but get this overwhelming feeling to… shove the kid next to me. He was behind me in line and obviously impatient. He kept pushing against my arm to reach in front of me to get to the next cheese sample. Just as I was about to kick his “baby loaf” back to the end of the line I realize it wasn’t his fault. He liked cheese. I know I have pushed people on “accident” when I’m in line for beer tasting.
So I refrained from child abuse and moved on from the cheese tasting. Although I did think about going for another round, one because it was free cheese and two “baby loaf” wouldn’t be in line next to me this go around.
Located next to the cheese tasting is the gift shop and cafe, which was buzzing with people. The cafe was a hot spot, offering up classic diner options with an impressive grilled cheese sandwich selection. It was a cheese factory, would you imagine anything else? There was also a selection of Tillamook Ice Cream (and while there or if you see this in your local grocery store, pick some up now, specifically the peanut butter and chocolate… OMG people! You’ll high five yourself after the first bite).