Located in Waterloo, Wisconsin, Crave Brothers is a family owned farm and cheesemaking business, operated by four brothers: Charles, Thomas, Mark and George.
The siblings, who all grew up on their family’s 40 cow dairy in Wisconsin have arranged the division of labor so that each brother has an area of responsibility best suited to their interests and skills. Tom manages the crops and equipment upkeep, Mark is responsible for milking operations, George oversees and manages cheesemaking and Charles oversees bookeeping.
Having originally rented a farm just west of Madison in the early 1980's, where they milked just under 60 cows, the brothers later purchased 300 acres of farmland in Waterloo, a move which allowed them to farm on a much larger scale, construct a new dairy, and grow their own animal feed.
For years they sold fluid milk, until milk prices fell and the brothers needed to think of ways to add value to their milk. In 2001 they decided to go into cheese production.
Today, the farm milks 1,100 Holsteins that George proudly describes as “the Cadillac of dairy breeds”. The cheesemaking operation is located across the road from the barns and milking parlor, and milk is pumped directly to the cheese room via a pipe laid under the road.
In addition to making cheese, as with many modern cheesemaking operations, the farm is on the edge of environmental stewardship. As such, the Crave Brothers’ facility is carbon negative, a result of utilizing the waste from the cows by channeling it into an computer-controlled anaerobic digester. This produces methane gas that powers an internal combusion engine, in turn generating enough electricity to power the farm, cheesemaking facility and 300 area homes.
Crave Brothers produce a variety of fresh and aged cheeses from their three cheesemaking vats. Three vats are designed to each hold 26,000lbs of milk and these are primarily used for production of fresh and part skim mozzarella. A fourth, smaller vat holds 5,000lbs and is used to produce Les Frères and Petit Frère.
Literally translating as “The Brothers” in French, production of Les Frères is the most delicate process of the cheeses made at Crave Brothers. Cheeses are hand-ladeled, washed regularly with brine and matured for a minimum of three weeks on site. The construction of a larger "cave" underneath the cheesemaking facility has helped improve the maturing process.
Reflecting the brothers' French-Irish heritage, Les Frères is a semi-soft, washed rind cheese styled after Reblochon, Muenster and Gubbeen.
When young, flavors are milky and clean, with notes of citrus. With age, Les Frères can become quite assertive, with complex flavors best described as fruity, tangy and earthy.
Les Frères pairs well with Rieslings and Pinot Gris. For beer drinkers, it is a great match for stouts or Belgian-style ales. It makes a welcome addition to any cheese course or served as part of a mushroom bake with crusty bread.