Wisconsin may be known for as the land of Cheeseheads, but that doesn’t mean it’s cornered the market on making or selling cheese, glorious cheese. In fact, it should come as no surprise that a state with well over 1,200 dairy farms, there is in fact, a Michigan cheese trail.
If you are a cheese lover, then this is a road trip for you. Michigan’s cheese trail is on the sunrise side. There you will find whimsical statues, freshly-made cheese, imports from around the world, and even the town for which a very popular cheese was named. You may have guessed by now that we are talking about a region with Pinconning, Michigan’s Cheese Capital, at the center of it.
Our first stop on the Michigan cheese trail, if you’re coming from the south, is in Linden. The Williams Cheese Company prides itself on being a 100% natural producer of cheese. There are amazingly flavorful spreads like Buffalo Blue, Horseradish, and Spicy Cheddar Beer to name a few. The cheese curds are a spectacularly fresh treat. Be forewarned that if you open them in the car, they may never make it home. Perhaps one of the biggest reasons to make this stop is for the trim. When a block of cheese is cut and packaged, you are left with what is called trim. It’s sort of like the leftovers, with perhaps an odd shape, but fresh and just as tasty. What’s available depends on the day. You may find Colby, Havarti, Pepper Jack, or any number of other flavors.
Continuing north on M-13 for a little over six miles, will take you to the state’s oldest cheese shop. It was established in 1939, and is of fairly good size. In addition to a gigantic wall of cheeses, you can also find just the right complements. For example, there are crackers, pretzels, chips, sausages, fudge, and candy, much of which is locally-made. There’s also a nice selection of Michigan wine. Surprisingly, you can even find non-food items like hand sanitizer and gifts. Expert advice is available if you’re not sure what cheese to select, or which wine to pair it with. Kids will love this locale too, not only for the giant mouse statue, but the scrumptious ice cream selection. After all, there’s more than one great dairy product on the Michigan cheese trail.
If you’ve never tried chocolate cheese, then this is a good place to give it a go. That shouldn’t come as a surprise considering they include both cheese and fudge in their name. You’ll also find lots of smoked cheeses along with spreads, curds, and string cheese. Among the more unique offerings are High Temperature Cheese and Amish Roll Butter. The former of which is specially made so it will not melt when cooked under normal temperatures. While the latter is a silky, hand-churned roll of butter packaged in old fashioned paper wrapping. This shop is also an excellent stop on a hunting trip. They carry an ample supply of sausages and jerky, but also have a deli counter where you can get a sandwich or even a hot beef pastie. Then, of course there’s homemade fudge, which is nearly irresistible.
Last, but by no means least, on our cheesy adventure is this rustic looking shop. To get there, head back south on M-13 and then west on Pinconning Road. If it turns out you are headed up north or down south along I-75 with time for only one quick stop then this may be your best option, as it’s located right off the highway. The handsome exterior features wooden pillars and attractive stonework with an adorable mouse. Inside is a scene with ginat elk, and lots of space to house the cheese impressive cheese selection, including Swiss, Brie, Havarti, Gouda, Jarlsburg, Provolone, Legruyere, and even Limberger. Plenty of Michigan-made products abound as well like jerky, sausage, jams, honey, snacks, and a solid selection of wine. This may also be the best place for the kids to capture a mouse selfie too.
Regardless of whether you make it to each store on the Michigan cheese trail, or only one or two, don’t miss out on trying the infamous Pinconning Cheese. It is a Colby-style cheese that was first made by Daniel Horn on his nearby farm in 1915. It is also available as cheese curds.
After the Michigan Cheese trail, you can take a picturesque drive north toward Tawas City. Then visit the lighthouse at Tawas Point State Park. Continue a little further north toward Oscoda and you’ll find the eastern entrance to the River Road Scenic Byway, which is full of attractions. If, on the other hand, you are headed south, then consider a visit to nearby Frankenmuth. The town is home to another superbly cheesy destination in the Frankenmuth Cheese Haus. Be sure to check out their cheese spreads and try some Frankenmuth Cheese.