An Old Wisconsin Cheese Factory Is Now a Hotel for Dairy Lovers

The historic cheese landmark also boasts a restaurant serving butter boards, hand-cut cheese curds, and butter-basted beef.

Seven Acre Dairy

Courtesy of Seven Acre Dairy

Dairy devotees can now spend the night inside a true slice of American Dairyland history. Just south of Madison in Paoli, Wisconsin, Seven Acre Dairy Company recently opened inside a refurbished cheese factory with an eight-room boutique hotel, restaurant, and café, plus a micro-dairy churning out butter and soft-serve ice cream

Built in 1888, the 21,000-square-foot factory is on the National Register of Historic Places. While it operated for nearly a century, at its peak in the 1950s, it was one of the state’s biggest dairy manufacturers. 

“We want guests to feel and sense that history from the moment they drive onto the site and step into the business,” says Nic Mink, chief restoration officer and proprietor of Seven Acre Dairy. “This place has been so important to the food of the region [as a cheese and butter factory] that we loved the idea of continuing that legacy. “

Run by Landmark Creamery — a local operation specializing in artisan and small-batch cheeses — the on-site micro-dairy isn’t the only nod to the factory’s past. “The design vision for the property is centered on this building's history,” says Mink. The Creamery Room features an eight-foot circular window where a cream tank was once stored, and the Swiss Room is an homage to the 200-pound wheels of cheese that were made in the factory for more than 25 years and aged in caves located directly below the room. 

Seven Acre Dairy

Courtesy of Seven Acre Dairy

But while the inn’s rooms and suites were named to honor the building’s former life, the design and amenities were given the modern treatment. Spacious rooms are filled with local art and custom furniture made using the original building’s reclaimed wood, and bathrooms are stocked with products from a nearby spa. 

Dining outposts — including the Kitchen restaurant and the Dairy Cafe — are inspired by traditional farmstead cooking and draw on ingredients from southern Wisconsin’s Sugar River Valley. The common menu theme is, of course, dairy, with local, family-run farms supplying the milk and cheese.

At the Kitchen, there are recipes steeped in history, “including a remarkable reinvention of the Swiss cheese pie that our factory manager's wife made for staff here in the 1930s and 1940s,” says Mink. “We also have some newer takes on dairy on the menu — butter boards, obviously,” says Mink, as well as whey-braised carrots, hand-cut cheese curds, and butter-basted beef. The menu also features pickles and preserves like horseradish-pickled beets and carrot honey, “a honey substitute that was often used by farm women in the region,” he says. 

At the Dairy Cafe, guests can find quick service breakfast and lunch, and the micro-dairy’s soft-serve ice cream. The milk comes from neighboring Fischerdale Farm, run by third generation dairy farmers. “Soft Serve provided the best way for us to go directly from farm to cone, with no steps in between,” says Mink. “It's an incredible product and you can taste how amazing the milk is.”

Seven Acre Dairy

Courtesy of Seven Acre Dairy

Wisconsin is serious about ice cream, and the version at Seven Acre is no exception. Developing the recipe took almost a year, and flavors include farmstead vanilla, chocolate, coffee (made in a partnership with local roaster Rusty Dog), and wild rice — a cereal grain that grows near lakes and river beds in the Midwest. Just for the frosty Midwest winter, the property also has winter dining globes, where a group can dine inside a transparent dome overlooking the Sugar River. Guests also get fire pit kits in the winter and use of bikes to pedal around the seven-acre property’s gardens and trails in the warmer months.

Whatever time of year, though, a visit to Seven Acre promises an immersive look into America's Dairyland. That, and plenty of ice cream and fresh butter.

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