I never thought visiting a cheese factory would be very high on my list of things to do.
Until it was.
While I was researching what to do along our drive down the Oregon coast, one thing kept on popping up. Everyone was raving about their visit to the Tillamook Cheese Factory.
I hadn’t even heard of Tillamook, much less the cheese factory. Plus, I’m lactose intolerant so who cares? (secret: I still eat cheese occasionally because I love it too much. My body hates me after though)
So I did some research.
Turns out Tillamook is a massive brand and it has much more than just cheese. Things like ice cream (yum), yogurt (mmm), sour cream (yes please!) and butter (mmm makes everything taste better!). Plus, they had so many varieties of cheese! They haven’t made it up to Canada yet so no wonder I had never heard of them.
The Tillamook Cheese Factory is farmer owned, made up of almost 100 farms in and around the Tillamook County. As you’re driving through the area, you indeed see farm after farm filled cows. Once the milk arrives at the farm, it gets turned into cheese within 24 hours. From there, depending on the cheese they’re making, it gets aged. Anywhere from 60 days for Medium Cheddar to 3 years for their Vintage White Extra Sharp Cheddar. Crazy!
What exactly is there to do at a cheese factory?
Apparently a lot.
You can take yourself on a self guided tour and learn about the cheese making process.
You can grab a bite to eat at their cafe.
Wash it all down with a scoop or two of ice cream. There are 28 flavours to choose from!
There are plenty of photo ops.
As well as cheese samples. There is no one regulating the samples so in theory you could just go back and line up for more, but really, how much cheese can one eat in one go?
And of course, take some home.
While I was perusing their their website, I stumbled upon a question about lactose. It turns out because of the way they make their cheese, much of the lactose is left in the liquid whey, meaning their cheese is almost lactose free. Darn, if only I knew this before, I could have had more!
The whole time I was wandering around the factory on the self guided tour, I couldn’t help but wonder how the worker’s felt about being watched. The glass was tinted so I don’t think they could see us, but knowing that there were people behind it watching them, must be so strange and uncomfortable.
Even by me watching them, I felt uncomfortable. Like I was at a human zoo. Kind of strange, but also fascinating at the same time. It’s not every day you get to watch cheese being made.
You can only see a small portion of the factory on the tour and I think much of it is the packaging process. The actual building stretched far beyond what is open to the public. I wonder if the workers trade off who actually works in front of people so they’re not always being watched.
Every year over a million people visit this factory. That’s a lot of people! It can get pretty busy, and it was busy while we were there, but at no time did I feel suffocated.
I love everything that the company stands for: a quality food, locally sourced and naturally produced. It does seem a little strange to visit a factory while you’re traveling through, but our visit turned into the perfect stop. We were able to get out and stretch our legs, have a bit to eat and also discover a really cool company. Now if only they started distributing to Canada…
Have you ever visited a factory in your travels? Have you seen how cheese is made before?
Good To Know
The factory is right on Highway 101. You can’t miss it so there is no worry of getting lost.
They’re open year round, closed only on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Their hours vary depending on the season so it is best to check on their website.
Make sure you go hungry! The cafe and ice cream options are very reasonably priced and this makes the perfect stopping point along the drive down the Oregon Coast.