May 12, 2023
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LaClare Creamery’s fresh goat’s milk makes quality, award-winning cheese

Photo courtesy of LaClare Creamery
FRESH CHEVRE — LaClare Creamery significantly increased its capacity for fresh goat cheese in 2019. Today most of the cheese LaClare produces is Chèvre, which is available in Original as well as 10 different flavors, including its popular Rolled Blueberry Vanilla. 

Photo courtesy of LaClare Creamery
VISITOR EXPERIENCE — LaClare Creamery has hosted visitors since it built its original plant in 2013. In addition to a retail center and self-guided tour for people to see the cheesemaking up close, the company also offers cheese board making classes and opportunities to interact with its goats. 

By Rena Archwamety

MALONE, Wis. — The secret to LaClare Creamery’s success isn’t all that hard to decipher: The finer the milk that goes in, the better the cheese that comes out.

When consumers think about Wisconsin — a state that takes its milk so seriously, it proudly declares itself “America’s Dairyland” — their first thoughts, unsurprisingly, evoke cows, cows and more cows.

In 2019, however, LaClare successfully broadened the field when its milk — produced exclusively by locally sourced goats — captured the top award in the fluid milk category at the Wisconsin State Fair.

“We wanted to take that same awesome milk and put it in the hands of more consumers with our cheeses,” says Alex Coenen, president, LaClare Creamery. “Our original fresh goat cheese (Chèvre) stands out — there’s not much to hide behind. We start with fresh milk and pair it with the right cheesemaking passion. The milk, we believe, really is key to our difference and why our Chèvre is so fresh.”

LaClare Creamery procures its goat’s milk from its own farm as well as the Quality Dairy Goat Co-op, which has been instrumental in founding many of today’s standards for goat milk quality. The majority of LaClare’s milk comes from less than 10 miles from the plant, and its cheeses are made with 100% local goat’s milk that arrives fresh to be used right away in the cheesemaking process.

That strategy has paid huge dividends for a dairy that originated in the late 1970s as a small hobby farm for Larry and Clara Hedrich (their names combined for “LaClare”). To keep pace with the emerging — and rapidly expanding — domestic cheese market, LaClare eventually joined the Mosaic Meadows family of creameries. Today, LaClare is a nationally distributed maker of both aged and fresh goat cheeses, drawing visitors from across the country to its destination cheese plant, goat farm and visitors’ center in Malone, Wisconsin.

“What’s most important about LaClare is the passion we have for making high-quality goat cheese — the freshness of the milk, the team we have in place to make it into a great product and a laser-focus on customer satisfaction,”says Coenen. “We’re super passionate about goat cheese, we love what we’re doing and we want to make sure customers have a great experience with us.”

After launching its own hard goat’s milk cheeses, LaClare built a cheesemaking facility in 2013, and in 2019 the company expanded its plant to significantly increase its capacity for fresh goat cheese.

• Favorite flavors

Most of the cheese coming out of LaClare’s plant is now Chèvre, and in addition to Original, the business offers 10 different flavors. Original fresh goat cheese is the most popular of its branded items, and LaClare also has seen strong growth in its recently launched Rolled Blueberry Vanilla log.

This summer, LaClare Creamery plans to introduce two new flavored fresh goat cheese varieties: Mediterranean and Chile Lime. Additionally, there will be a seasonal pumpkin flavor launched this fall.

“When developing new flavors, soft goat cheese is a great canvas to start on,” Coenen says. “We brought nine sample flavors to the Winter Fancy Food show to get feedback on what people preferred. It came down to this trio: Mediterranean is an awesome flavor punctuated by olives and savory herbs and spices. Chili Lime offers a sweet and bright flavor profile along with some tangy accents. Seasonal Pumpkin offers a rich, autumn tone. These were the three favorites, and we’re really excited to introduce them.”

These new flavors will join savory LaClare varieties such as Garlic & Herb and Everything Bagel, as well as sweet options like Fig & Honey and Cranberry Cinnamon.

While many goat cheese companies offer Chèvre varieties, Coenen notes that LaClare’s hard and aged goat cheeses are a little more unique to the company. Raw Goat Milk Cheddar and Goat Milk Mozzarella are among its most popular, while the company also makes Goat Milk Feta and Jack, as well as varieties like Pepper Jack and Smoked and Aged Cheddars. LaClare also continues to win awards for its Evalon, mixed milk Chandoka and Cave Aged Chandoka trademarked artisan cheeses.

LaClare won awards this past year for both hard and soft goat cheeses. At the 2022 American Cheese Society Judging & Competition, the company’s aged raw goat milk cheese Evalon earned a third-place award in the American Originals Open category. At the 2023 U.S. Championship Cheese Contest, LaClare’s Fig & Honey Goat Cheese won first place in the Soft Goat’s Milk Cheeses Flavored with Sweet Condiments category.

“One thing we love doing is our tastings and samplings,” Coenen notes, adding that such opportunities — such as a recent sampling event at Fromagination in Madison, Wisconsin — allow the LaClare team to receive direct feedback from consumers. Along the way, they have picked up more than a few new fans.

“Some people are so accustomed to cow milk, they may be reluctant to try something new,” he notes. “That’s why sampling is so important to us. Once our customers have tasted a really good goat cheese, we’ve won them over.”

• Sharing the experience

To assist in marketing and distributing its cheeses on a national level, LaClare in 2018 combined forces with two other artisan cheesemakers — Wisconsin-based Saxon Creamery and Pennsylvania-based Lamanga Cheese Co. — to form Mosaic Meadows, which allows each creamery to expand its product lines while sharing resources in marketing, service and sales capabilities. Coenen notes that this is part of what has helped LaClare expand its national distribution — which is now in all 50 states — as well as increase its fresh Chèvre production.

“By centralizing some of these business roles, our cheesemakers can focus on what they do best,” he explains. “In addition, our sales people and brokers — who represent different products at different meetings — can cross-pitch other products.”

LaClare has never lost touch with its roots. Both of the founding Hedrichs remain involved along with a second generation, their son Greg Hedrich, serving as the Chèvre plant manager.

When LaClare Creamery built its original plant in 2013 and expanded its fresh Chèvre operations in 2019, the business focused on welcoming visitors. In addition to a retail center and self-guided tour for visitors to see the cheesemaking up close, the site also includes a greenhouse and a 26-foot-tall goat climbing tower where visitors can watch and interact with the dairy goats. Visitors to the dairy, which is near the east shore of Lake Winnebago an hour north of Milwaukee, range from families, to people coming up from Chicago to Door County, to locals looking for something nice to do on a spring day.

“We’ve always had a policy to educate people on goat cheese and where it’s coming from,” Coenen says. “We hold events like goat yoga, baby goat snuggles and cheese board making. There are so many events to try to get people to stop by LaClare and give people a reason to sample and try our product.”



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