Fromagerie Fritz Kaiser Crafts Swiss Tradition Just Over the Québec Border | Québec Guide | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Fromagerie Fritz Kaiser Crafts Swiss Tradition Just Over the Québec Border


Published June 21, 2023 at 10:00 a.m.

Cheese assortment - CAROLINNE GRIFFIN
  • Carolinne Griffin
  • Cheese assortment

Vermont is renowned for its cheese. Cabot Creamery, Jasper Hill Farm, Vermont Creamery and von Trapp Farmstead regularly win awards. So why would local cheese lovers risk the potential hassles of an international border crossing and wait in an hourlong line to buy it at Québec's Fromagerie Fritz Kaiser?

A trusted friend had promised that the cheeses were "so fresh, so affordable." Plus, Fritz Kaiser products are not available in the U.S.; making the trek was my only way to try them.

I hit Interstate 89, zigzagged through the Champlain Islands to the Alburgh point of entry and crossed into Canada. Amid expansive fields dotted with silos, the gleaming cheese shop popped up unexpectedly just five minutes over the border in the quiet town of Noyan.

As soon as I entered the shop, I was catapulted to Europe. It felt distinctly Swiss: spotless and organized. The enormous glass case was stacked generously with wheels in a spectrum of red, orange and golden hues. The piquant aroma whet my appetite immediately.

I asked the neatly dressed associate behind the counter to select a range of cheeses for me. She made fresh cuts into several as I perused shelves loaded with local and imported jams, olives, pickles, sausages, and Swiss chocolate.

My midweek morning visit proved advantageous. On a typical Saturday, the fromagerie serves 200 to 300 customers. "Two weeks before Christmas, it's a three-hour wait," said owner Fritz Kaiser, 64, who is still very hands-on after 40-plus years.

Québécois make the pilgrimage for the "factory store" prices. At an average $13 Canadian per pound across 25 varieties, Kaiser said, the prices are roughly one-third lower than what they'd pay at their local cheese shop. In Noyan, they can also taste and choose from the cheesemaker's full line.

  • Carolinne Griffin
  • Fritz Kaiser

Born and raised in Switzerland, Kaiser immigrated to Québec in 1978 to join his family's new dairy operation after completing a four-year cheesemaking apprenticeship.

"I came to stay and help on the farm," he recounted. "But then I said, 'I know all these things. Might as well use them.'"

Starting small with 50-gallon batches, Kaiser used Swiss techniques and fresh milk to make his artisan cheese. He soon found success with his pitch-perfect raclette, the famous Swiss cheese that is heated, melted and scraped (racler means "to scrape" in French) onto steamed potatoes, gherkins and other vegetables. The seven-time award-winning raclette has nearly replaced European imports to the province, he said proudly: "It's 90 percent us and 10 percent import."

The fromagerie still uses milk from the Kaisers' herd of about 400 cows, supplemented with milk from 10 more regional farms. Cheeses include Canadian Cheese Grand Prix winner Le Douanier, an earthy Morbier look-alike with an ash center line and a name that cheekily references the border patrol down the road. Rich, buttery L'Empereur bears the French equivalent of the family surname (German kaiser translates to "emperor"). And Noyan — a semisoft cheese with a nutty flavor — is named for the place it's made.

"We give things a local twist," Kaiser said.

While it would have been legal to bring my cheese home, I couldn't resist eating it immediately. After paying $19 for five paper-wrapped wedges, a crusty baguette and a large bottle of sparkling water, I practically skipped across the street to a cluster of shaded picnic tables.

With a view of fields, I nibbled fresh bread and morsels of creamy cheese and marveled at my morning of international travel.

Fromagerie Fritz Kaiser, 459 chemin de la 4e Concession, Noyan, Québec, 450-294-2207,

The original print version of this article was headlined "Destination Cheese | Fromagerie Fritz Kaiser crafts Swiss tradition just over the Québec border"

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