Cheese cubes hang from the ceiling in this creamery’s newly renovated Visitors Center, which also features such memorabilia as a 1927 butter churner and a stamp used to authenticate packaged blocks as pure Tillamook cheese. Most impressive is the view of the factory floor, where chunks of cheese as big as milk crates roll down a conveyor belt and “Cheddar Master” vats process up to 15,000 pounds of cheese at a time.
Each day, as if to defy the stillness of the nearby Tillamook State Forest, the Tillamook County Creamery Association (TCCA) processes one million pounds of milk and churns out at least 170,000 pounds of cheese. The creamery is both a marvel of cheese engineering and a slice of cheese history.
Tillamook County’s first cheese factory opened in 1894, and 32 more would quickly follow suit. Undeterred by the cosmopolitan glare, a Tillamook cheese even won the grand prize at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair. The local cheese-making talent consolidated in 1909 to form a co-op, which still operates today as the Tillamook Creamery and uses a cheddar recipe first developed in the 19th century.
The spirit of excellence, evidently, has not waned. In 2017, TCCA took home first place in the category of “Mature Cheddar Aged over 48 Months (All Milks)” from the American Cheese Society.
Cheese enthusiasts can check out Tillamook Creamery to see part of the cheesemaking magic in action. At the visitor center, you’ll snag a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the production and packaging process via a viewing gallery that overlooks the production floor. There’s also a classic ice cream counter, wood fired pizza oven, and of course, cheese samples.