Seven mornings a week, “Big White,” a chunky tanker truck pulls up to the back door at Beecher’s Handmade Cheese in Seattle to deliver 1,000 gallons of fresh cow’s milk. Collected from small family farms just outside the city, the creamy milk is destined to be transformed into one of Beecher’s award-winning artisan cheeses.
The visionary behind this downtown cheesemaking enterprise is Kurt Dammeier. A cheese lover since childhood, Dammeier says he “couldn’t understand why Seattle didn’t have its own cheese.”
Being a successful entrepreneur with a number of food-related businesses, he set about to correct the situation. Beecher’s Handmade Cheese—named for his grandfather—opened its doors in November 2003, or one could say, opened its “windows.”
Visitors walking into Beecher’s store look through huge interior windows to see cheesemaking operations in full swing. They can also taste fresh squeaky curds, grab a sandwich or servings of Beecher’s legendary Mac & Cheese at the café, and buy cheese while they watch cheesemakers drain whey, mill and turn curds, and fill cheese forms.
Managed by master cheesemaker Brad Sinko, a veteran from Bandon Creamery in Oregon, Beecher’s cheeses are made using a traditional hands-on process that demands expert control and craftsmanship at each step.
—By Judith Dern