While there is an entire California Cheese Trail (complete with an app), the quaint and classy, San Francisco Cheese Fest makes it easy to quickly explore some of the state’s finest samplings. This annual benefit for the California Artisan Cheese Guild is now in its third installment and took place over the weekend at the historic Social Hall, filling the space with delicious aromas and bearded cheese makers from all over the Bay.

If you missed the very cheese-tastic event, no worries! We sampled our way to the top 5 most intriguing cheese brands you’ll need to put on rotation. Pronto! Here they are, in all their addictive glory.

 

Bellwether Farms

This small organic creamery from Sonoma County does dreamy sheep yogurt and has perfected the art of mixing cow and sheep’s milk. At the festival, their mesmerizing new Blackstone cheese stood out. Thanks to the incorporation of black peppercorns, this cheese is literally black on the outside, rich and complex on the inside,  Our new favorite hard cheese is here.

Fiscalini

Out of Modesto comes this artisanal creamery, whipping up anything from Lionza to Scamorza. The creamery caught our attention with its fiery, spicy Habanero Cheddar, nutty and sharp and oh so delicious. While it’s technically from Central Valley, this cheese, in all its attitude and strength, belongs in San Francisco.

Chevoo

One might wonder, who doesn’t already love soft goat cheese? But for those individuals, they’ll soon be convinced upon trying Chevoo, the Healdsburg brand which perfects the already gorgeous Chevre cheese by blending it with olive oil and spice infusions. Flavors like Dill Pollen and Garlic, and Smoked Sea Salt and Rosemary, make a great companion for crusty bread, but we won’t tell if you just eat it out of the jar.

Cypress Grove

The home of Humboldt Fog and Midnight Moon, this Arcata-based creamery graced the festival with sophisticated, mild cheeses ideal for endless munching. Besides the atmospheric names, the soft-ripened varieties are particularly delicious. From the Bermuda Triangle to the rich Truffle Tremor, these cheese pack an indulgent texture and a welcomingly rich aftertaste.

AOP chèvre au lait cru. Not coming back. #kthxbye #cheesegoals #pasauxÊtatsunis

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Stepladder Creamery

Located, according to their website, ‘somewhere in the mountains, Cambria’, this small newcomer is excelling at goat milk cheese. Standouts include the impossibly creamy Ragged Point, a  triple crème cow’s milk cheese, and pale yet mighty Rioly Run, a washed-rind cow’s milk cheese.

 

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