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Alemar Cheese Moves To Minneapolis;
Sister Company,
WM Cofield Cheesemakers,
Grows In California

Read the formatted article here.

Sister artisan cheese companies Alemar Cheese and William Cofield Cheesemakers are finding success operating as part of specialty food collectives in Minnesota and California, respectively.

Headquartered in Northern California’s city of Sebastopol, William Cofield Cheesemakers was thankfully spared from the recent outbreak of wildfires which have consumed land, homes and businesses throughout the state

“We’re doing well, all things considered,” said cheese maker and founder Keith Adams. “We lost power for several days, but other than that, we were unaffected.”
Cofield’s sister operation, Minnesota artisan company Alemar Cheese, has recently relocated to the former Lone Grazer Creamery location in northeast Minneapolis.
Alemar Cheese began in early 2009 in Mankato, MN, but is now situated in the Food Building and still going strong, Adams said.

The Lone Grazer Creamery closed in February 2017 due to a combination of distribution hurdles and a competitive market.

I’m friendly with Reuben Nilsson, the cheese maker there, and I’ve gotten to know co-owner Kieran Foillard, Adams said. After they closed, I asked Kieran if it might make sense for us to take over that space, and we just moved in July 1.

The new location allows for increased production. Ten years ago in Mankato, Adams began making cheese with a 200-gallon vat. That particular vat has since moved to California, and the Minneapolis location features access to three 500-gallon vats.

Alemar currently puts out roughly 5,000 pounds of cheese per week. Its newest cheese, Sakatah, is a partnership between Alemar general manager Tracy Drash and cheese maker Craig Hageman. Hageman sought to make a cheese similar in style to a Banon or Le Mothais that is aged in a grape, chestnut, or similar leaf – although Sakatah is made from cow’s milk rather than goat’s milk.

“Sakatah” is a native Dakota term meaning “singing hills,” and the name of a state park in southern Minnesota with a 41-mile trail that stretches from Mankato to Faribault, MN.

The Food Building also includes charcuterie from the Red Table Meat Company, and locally-milled flour and bakery items from Baker’s Field Flour & Bread.

Alemar’s milk supply continues to be sourced from a 100 percent grass-fed, certified organic dairy.

“It’s the same deal in California, except you can’t get away with 100 percent grass-fed because the nutrients aren’t as lush as they are in the Upper Midwest,” Adams said.
The rainy season in California is during the winter, and the grass doesn’t grow as robustly as it does in the summer in Minnesota, where there’s generally ample rain and lots of heat, he said. That makes for really robust grass with tons of nutrients.
Ergo, the cows that supply milk for William Cofield Cheesemakers also receive a small amount of silage.

“Organic, grass-fed milk are the two constants between Cofield and Alemar,” Adams said.

Keith Adams, co-founder of William Cofield Cheesemakers, is bringing “proper British style” cheese to Calfornia’s Sonoma county. Adams recently signed on with Whole Foods Market for increased distribution throughout Northern California.  

About 97 percent of the time, Adams lives and works at Sonoma county’s William Cofield Cheesemakers.

Like Alemar, Cofield is also situated in a artisan food manufacturing cooperative called The Barlow, a Bay Area outdoor market in Sebastopol that features local food, wine, beer, spirits and crafts made on-site by Sonoma county artisans.

Adams and co-owner Rob Hunter William officially launched Cofield Cheesemakers in December 2016 and business has been increasingly positive since, despite heavy flooding last February that resulted in a 15-day power outage.

Smaller than Alemar, Cofield makes about 1,000 pounds of cheese per week, including Blue, aged Cheddar and cheese curds.

“Cofield is a bigger plant, and cost a lot more to build out,” Adams said. “With Alemar,
I started on a shoe string and just boot-strapped my way until we got to a point where we could afford better equipment.”

“With Cofield, we got all that up front, including a beautiful facility,” he said. “Rent’s obviously considerably higher at The Barlow than in Mankato, so we’ve got to scale faster to break even.”

To that end, Cofield recently got approved by Whole Foods Market in Northern California. Overall sales have increased and the company is hoping by the end of the year, “we’ll be at break even,” Adams said.

Plenty Of Soft Ripened Cheese Already Made In Sonoma County
With a personal affinity for Brie and Camembert, Adams began his cheesemaking career in Mankato with soft, French-style cheese.

“I didn’t really know until later that it was a good choice, because there weren’t that many people at the time making soft ripened cheese in Minnesota and Wisconsin,” Adams said.

When I moved to California, my original mentor, Sue Conley from Cowgirl Creamery, continued to advise me, he said. There’s a ton of great soft cheese already being made in Sonoma county, and I thought it would be wrong to make soft cheese in the back yard of my mentor.

I started thinking about other cheeses I’d like to make, and my family heritage is very Anglo, Adams said. I lived in London for a couple of years growing up, and I’ve been back several times, noticing and falling in love with British style cheeses.

About five summers ago, I got back to England and was able to help make a raw milk Stilton style cheese, he said.

“We’re doing that here,” Adams said. “Then I went to Westcombe Dairy in Somerset and made Cheddar, among other cheeses. The idea was cloth-bound Cheddar and Stilton to start, and that’s what we’ve focused on.”

Consumer response has been overwhelmingly positive, although making any kind of cheese in Northern California has a unique set of challenges.

“With Alemar, I started on a shoe string and just boot-strapped my way until we got to a point where we could afford better equipment. With Cofield, we got all that up front, including a beautiful facility.”
Keith Adams, William Cofield Cheesemakers and Alemar Cheese

“It’s like making cheese in Wisconsin or Vermont – these are hotbeds for artisan cheese,” Adams said. “There’s so many options for people, so you really have to do your job and get the word out.”

“There’s such an abundance of really great cheese in the area, so you need to tell your story over and over again,” he said. “If you keep at it, eventually there’s this tipping point where enough people are aware of what you do and like what you do, and then you can make a living doing it.”

Cofield is among other area cheese companies offering fresh curd. It began as a cash flow idea while the company’s other cheeses were aging six to 12 months before they were ready to sell.

“About seven or eight years ago, I was lucky enough to visit Chris Roelli and we made curds together one Friday – basically, he made curds and I watched him,” Adams said.
“That was a great deal of fun, and I was able to learn from this famous cheese maker.”
We’ve had good response from local restaurants doing poutine, and it seems curds are catching on, Adams said. They’ll never be what they are in the Upper Midwest, though, but we’re still trying.

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