August 17th, 2006
Name: Mt. Townsend Creamery
Owners: Matt, Ryan, Will
Location: Port Townsend, WA
Animals: They get their milk from two dairies that have 50 cows each. Primarily Jerseys, some Holstein and Brown Swiss. No hormones and pasture fed as much as possible.
Cheeses/Products: Seastack, Trailhead, Cirrus
More Info: www.mttownsendcreamery.com/index.html
So our friends Matt and Milissa got married in southern Washington the last weekend in July. This meant that we had a few “free” days to explore the Oregon coast north of Rivers Edge Chevre and areas of Washington beyond Seattle. Lucky for you, we got a tip off from Kurt D. (Beecher’s) about great cheesemakers in his home state. While at a farmers market in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle we confirmed this by tasting and then purchasing some of Mt. Townsend Creamery’s signature cheeses- Seastack and Trailhead. We forced our business cards on them and a few days later we received a phone call welcoming us to stop on by if time permitted.
Port Townsend is beautiful. All the routes you can take to get to Port Townsend are beautiful too; a ferry from Seattle, or maybe a scenic drive wrapping around the Olympic Peninsula like we did… The town is at the tip of the Peninsula that faces the Seattle area and Mt. Townsend creamery is about one mile from the center of town. When we arrived we were greeted by Will, one of the three partners in the business. All three men bring valuable skills to the cheesemaking “table”: Will worked for years running an organic farm (his wife still runs their pick-your-own blueberry business), Matt has an MBA in financing, and Ryan was a process engineer for the micro-brew company New Belgium in Colorado. They met each other through social circles of sorts and realized they had a common interest in artisan cheese.
Dairying used to be BIG in this area of Washington- second only to timber on the peninsula yet today there are only three dairies left. Will’s original goal was to try to form an on-farm partnership so that he could produced a farmstead cheese. Regulations and zoning were insurmountable for that so he took a step back and once he met Ryan and Matt the plan for a creamery came together. In their search for milk sources they looked for farmers who pasture fed and used no hormones. He found two small farmers willing to work with him, and they are committed to having close involvement with the farmers. Mount Townsend picks up milk from each farm three times (soon to be four) weekly in their own milk truck. They are pasteurizing all of their milk because the majority of their cheese is sold under 60 days.
Will walked us through the packaging room and back to the two maturing rooms and cold storage. There is one maturing room for the tomme style cheese (Trailhead) and another for the bloomy or mold-ripened cheese (Seastack). There is also a small drying room which is accessible from a corner of the make room- this is where the Seastack goes after it is adequately drained. After our tour we watched Will and Ryan scoop Trailhead curd into the forms and then set them up on the press where they will be flipped and pressed with slightly increasing pressure at least overnight.
Mount Townsend has only been selling their cheese for four months and already they are somewhat in demand. Their creamery illustrates a new model for cheesemaking- the three owners invested considerable capital and years of planning to hit the market running and they have hit it on the mark. They are selling out locally at farmers markets and have small retailers clamoring for their products. If you want to taste you’ll have to head west. I know- like you need another reason to go west.