I’ve never felt compelled to adopt a puppy, since puppies don’t tug on my heart strings in the same way that they do for most of my friends. But Alpine cheeses are a true love of mine. So when renowned importer of fine Swiss cheeses Caroline Hostettler launched her Adopt-An-Alp program in 2013, I couldn’t resist jumping in. In an effort to highlight and help preserve the centuries-old tradition of transhumance, Hostettler paired with six Alpine dairies around Switzerland who still make the annual summer pilgrimage up the mountain once the snow has receded and the pristine pastures are alive. By adopting an Alp, Bi-Rite is doing our own small part to maintain these fine cheese-making traditions – and to ensure that truly excellent Alpine cheeses remain available here in San Francisco.
Thanks to Caroline, we’re partnered with the Barmettler family in Nidwalden in North Central Switzerland and have received periodic updates about their season. Each year, the Barmettler family leads their small herd to an elevation of 4,600 feet above sea level atop our adopted mountain, Alp Bleiki. The diverse and pristine pastures on which the cows graze there give their milk an exceptional quality and flavor that the Barmettlers transform into an exquisite summer Alpine cheese. Five generations of the Barmettler family have owned this property since 1869, and this year they took twenty-six cows and ten calves up the mountain where they grazed on fifty acres between late May and early October. Though it sounds idyllic, life at high altitude away from the creature comforts of home is very hard work and certainly not for the weak of heart. Weather at high altitudes is unpredictable and can vary greatly, but word from the Barmettlers is that this summer was nearly picture-perfect. Said Paul Barmettler, “With the weather being so gorgeous, the environment was ideal for cheesemaking and the quality of the milk is outstanding.”
After a summer of grazing, milking and cheesemaking, the cows descended Alp Bleiki between October 3rd and 5th. Now this delectable cheese, straight from “our” Alp, has arrived on our shelves and is ready for you to try. We’re the only retailer in the new world currently selling this fine Swiss cheese, so cheese enthusiasts take note – it’s easy to enjoy, hard to find and not to be missed.