But what first hooked me was the history of the place. At that meeting, Jeff described how the caves were first used to store beer in the 1800’s because the temperature is a steady 54 degrees (not great for ice-cold beer but perfect for curing and aging blue cheese). In 1936, after Prohibition and refrigeration, a World War I veteran named Frederiksen, with a taste for the Roquefort cheese he had sampled in France, decided the American palate was ready for Blue Cheese if he could find a place to produce it. Apparently, the St. Peter limestone deposits found throughout southeastern Minnesota are perfect for curing Blue Cheese and as he searched the region he stumbled upon the old abandoned beer caves along the Straight River in Faribault. The Treasure Caves were born.
Well, like many American businesses, the Treasure Cave business was sold and re-sold a few times until the 1990’s when corporate conglomerate, Conagra, owned it and decided it was not profitable enough. Enter our hero Mr. Jirik who creatively acquired and resurrected the business to international acclaim and economic success in the early 2000’s. In fact, the story continues and although the caves still produce world class cheeses with Mr. Jirik at the helm, the business is currently owned by an Iowa cooperative - Swiss Valley Farms.
Jeff’s version of all this is far more compelling than mine but as he tells it, his passion for the variety of cheese that now come out in waves from the caves – Bleu Cheese, Gorgonzola, Gouda, and Fini, to name a few – is palpable.
All I can say is now I crave the stuff. Cheeseburgers and chicken wings can only be eaten with blue cheese. And many cheese plates have been passed and sampled with friends and guests on summer evenings relaxing on our wrap-around front porch. We even have a Blue Cheese soufflé that we serve our guests wanting to experiment with breakfast.
So, whether you’re an overnight guest or just passing through Faribault, consider stopping at the Cheese Cave retail store on Central Avenue in Faribault. Get a few wedges of cheese, grab your favorite wine pairing and stop by the Historic Hutchinson House B&B for a quiet, relaxing moment on the porch.
For a virtual tour of the Caves lead by Jeff Jirik himself, click on this link:
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