Grate expectations for national cheese conference

Wedge issues: Tyler Coenen stars in the American Cheese Society’s braggy video about Iowa.

By Michael Morain

Plans are firming up for the American Cheese Society’s 40th annual conference July 18-21 here in Des Moines. It’s the city’s second turn to host, following a successful debut in 2016.

The programs and exhibits at the Iowa Events Center are designed for cheesemakers and other dairy industry folks, but some of the sessions are so pungently intriguing that devoted cheese fans just might be willing to shell out the big bucks for a day pass ($425-$515 through June 26) or a full registration ($850 through June 26). This could also be an unusual Father’s Day gift for dear old, dairy-loving Dad.

Perhaps he’d like to attend “The Untold Stories of Brine” or a session titled “Cheese Your Own Adventure.” Or something more specific: “Two Approaches to the History of Ancient and Medieval Cheesemaking.” There are local tours, tastings, a 5K run and even a little something called “Cheese Parody Karaoke,” hosted by the Midnite Mongers.

The local host committee – Cheese Shop owner C.J. Bienert, Iowa State dairy professor Stephanie Clark and ACS-certified cheese professional Tyler Coenen with Hy-Vee – helped produce a video to encourage dairy producers from across the country to check out Iowa. In it, Coenen points out that Iowa ranks 12th in total milk production, has 24 cheese factories and is home to the world’s largest ice cream manufacturing facility, up in Le Mars.

“Can your state boast that it’s had a hand-carved, life-size butter cow at the state fair for 110 years? Probably not,” Coenen says with a few ounces of swagger.

At one point, he stands in front of Anderson Erickson’s iconic cow sculptures – Annie the cow and her calf Eric – and chugs some milk straight from the jug. “Des Moines is the No. 1 milk-drinking city of its size in the U.S.,” he says. “Come at me, bro.”

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