On a 50-mile stretch from Brodhead to Shullsburg in southern Wisconsin, State Trunk Highway 11 offers scenery, small town charm, and many options for a variety award-winning, locally-made cheeses… some right out of the vat! Check out these 6 great cheese shops along this stretch of Highway 11, which can be driven in an hour… but you’ll want to make stops.
It’s no secret that we love our cheese in Wisconsin. And while cheese can be found in supermarkets everywhere, going to specialty cheese shops and the cheese factories where they’re made ups the game SO much more. You’ll find a wider variety of cheeses, unique concoctions, dazzling flavors, and great pairings with other foods and beverages that make the cheese experience that much more heavenly.
Wisconsin has plenty of cheese factories and shops, but you’ll find quite a few just touring down and near one road: Highway 11. This long route from Racine to the Mississippi River opposite Dubuque, Iowa goes through cities and towns known for their cheese… especially around Monroe and Shullsburg. Here are some great cheese factories and shops to check out while you’re enjoying a drive on Highway 11 in Wisconsin:
This factory and store is just off Highway 11 in Brodhead, about three miles west via on County F, offers some beautiful farmland just out of town before you suddenly see some shiny stacks, indicating that a heavenly cheese factory and store is emerging right before your eyes. They just won “Best in Class” for their unflavored cheese curds at the World Cheese Championship Contest in Madison in 2022.
Opened in 1942, Decatur Dairy stands out amidst beautiful, hilly farm fields along County F by County OK. Their cheese stands out, too, with Decatur’s Steve Stettler standing as the first – and currently only – Master Cheese Curd Maker in the state. Decatur’s Grand Champion Havarti is one of many Havarti-style cheeses that have repeatedly won national and international awards. Their Muenster, Dill Havarti, Pepper Havarti, Flavored Havarti, and Brick have all been honored. You can find plain and flavored fresh curds ready to go, get a delicious little sandwich made right before your eyes, buy cheese in bulk, or even get a custom, well-adorned cheese tray or platter made up. Decatur Dairy offers fresh ice cream too, if a cone is the preferred dairy for the kids – or you!
Wisconsin Foodie stopped by Decatur Dairy and did a profile on their Master Cheesemakers in a show just released in 2021:
Right along Highway 11 a little west of where Highway 81 joins in, the Maple Leaf Cheese Store opened in 1995 as part of Juda Oasis, which also offers gas and a convenience store next door. Maple Leaf offers up over 150 cheese varieties including most of Green County’s locally-produced offerings, including the famed Limburger from Chalet Cheese (under the brand name “Country Castle” and those produced at Maple Leaf’s own cheese factory, which lies just a few miles to the south. Maple Leaf’s English Hollow Cheddar is a Gold Medal World Champion, and their Cranberry White Cheddar is extremely popular. They also feature Yogurt Cheese, with a different take on the cultures involved, and plenty of varieties from all over. Maple Leaf also offers fudge and maple syrup; the best day for fresh, squeaky curds is Thursday. They’re open seven days a week, 8am – 6pm Monday – Friday, 8am – 5pm Saturday, and Sundays 10am – 4pm.
The Alp & Dell is owned by Tony & Esther Zgraggen, Swiss immigrants who were naturally drawn to Monroe. Tony not only sells amazing varieties of cheese, but he’s quite the yodeler; if you see him, he’ll happily top anything you’ve heard on the mountainsides of Switzerland or in a Ricola commercial. Along with a huge variety of Wisconsin cheeses, they sell a bevy of imports too, including Swiss fondue and fondue cheese blends, Swiss & French Raclette cheese, and more. They have generous selections of samples, too!
Alp & Dell is complemented by the attached Emmi Roth cheese factory, and tours are offered on the regular. You can even see Emmi Roth’s 2016 World Championship Cheese belt! It’s literally steps away from Highways 11 & 81, the north bypass around Monroe, at the Highway 69 north exit.
A Wisconsin classic, Baumgartner’s opened in 1931 and has been a staple of Monroe’s beautiful town square ever since. It was a cheese shop from the very beginning and has lasted to become Wisconsin’s oldest cheese shop. The opportunity to expand came about when some of the delivery drivers kept asking where they can get lunch or a beverage. They started stocking drinks and making sandwiches, and the tavern half of Baumgartner’s was born.
The decor at Baumgartner’s is a marvel in itself: in the back half, which is the tavern side, you’ll find a huge wall map of Swiss cantons. Monroe’s history is heavily Swiss, of course – their high school teams are called the “Cheesemakers” – and many people from Switzerland and Germany visiting Wisconsin make Monroe, as well as Baumgartner’s, a stopping point. A world map on the same wall is buffeted with push-pins, indicating locations across the world where visitors have come from. Signs full of personality line the ridge above the back bar and prep area. The ceiling almost looks like bats are sleeping up there; it’s actually seas of dollar bills, tossed up there by staff using a “secret” trick – which we promptly showed on YouTube:
Limburger. Only ONE creamery in the United States still makes Limburger cheese. The Chalet Cheese Co-Op, just north of Monroe, still cranks out the scented stuff and has been since 1885. You can buy Limburger in stores all over, but Baumgartner’s is one of the very few places that will make you a Limburger sandwich, right on the spot! They serve thick slides of it on rye with onions and mustard – and one Andes candy to theoretically take care of any breath issues afterwards.
Their other sandwiches, all fresh-made, can include other local favorites like sausages, Wisconsin brick cheese, hot dogs, and the like. One of our favorites is the salami and brick, pictured here. They’ll also make up a cheese and sausage plate, sell you some locally-made Landjägers, and of course pour you the beverage(s)of your choice. Their menu will expand further in 2021, as Baumgartner’s is busy adding a kitchen in the back.
Meanwhile at the front, Baumgartner’s offers around 30 varieties of cheese from Cheddar and Swiss varieties to the more adventurous Bleu and Washed Rind cheeses like Domestic Danish Blue, Smoke Blue, English Stilton, Smear Brick, and of course the aforemenioned Limburger.
You’ll find the Roelli Cheese Haus right along Highway 11, a stone’s throw east of its intersection with the southern end of Highway 23 in Lafayette County. Roelli’s history goes back over 100 years; the fourth generation of the family continues their cheesemaking tradition, cranking out about 135,000 pounds of cheese each year. In their retail store, they offer their own produced cheeses along with a nice variety from other Wisconsin cheesemakers around the state.
Roelli lays claim to being the “Home of Dumbarton Blue,” an original and unique style that one cheese shop in New York City playfully called “blue cheese heresy.” It was created by Master Cheesemake Chris Roelli using a process that inhibits the typical mold growth of a traditional Blue cheese; this results in a version that blends French Bleu and English Cheddar flavors.
Roelli also has an extensive selection of Wisconsin craft beers, drinks, snacks, gift boxes, and more. Stock up, there isn’t much else around on this stretch of Highway 11!
This lovely town with a long mining history has several cheese factories, and the Shullsburg Cheese Store & Gift Stop offers everything straight from its adjacent creamery right in the historic downtown area. They’ve been here since 1934 and offer a variety of fresh and aged cheeses, smoked meats, sauces, spreads, party trays, and fresh butter. You can buy their cheese in bulk or the artisanal wedges, and a variety of ways in between. Shullsburg’s Colby Jack Longhorn recently took home the Gold in the U.S. Championship Cheese Contest. One of the best things to do before or after a visit is to check out the restoration of so many downtown buildings in this quaint Victorian-esque old mining town.
There you go! Six great cheese shops, all either right along Highway 11 or just minutes off the mainline, on a 50-mile stretch. More to come, since a lot of routes offer great selections of fresh (or aged) Wisconsin-made cheeses! Meanwhile, get to Brodhead, Juda, Monroe, and Shullsburg to take advantage. Oh, and when you’re done in Shullsburg, head just south of town and check out the legendary Gravity Hill!
Side Trips: Klondike Cheese, just northwest of Monroe (via Highway 81 north) and Zimmerman Cheese, Wayne (via Highway 78 north) are just a few miles off Highway 11 but also worth considering for a visit if you just can’t get enough cheese! And really, we can’t…