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Chällerhocker: The Cheese With A Name, And A ‘Face’


Chällerhocker

“Is that a zombie?”
Walter Räss was near a window of his tiny Tufertschwil, Switzerland-based dairy when he overheard a young boy ask the question. Strolling down the street with his father, the boy had seen the Chällerhocker cheese label on the outside of Räss’ wooden building.
The Swiss maker was startled. When he first developed the extra-aged Appenzeller-style wheel in 2002, he asked an architect friend to sketch a label. It was intended to depict a happy scene: A child poking his head outside of a cheese cave, as if to declare: “The cheese is finished! The cheese is aged!”
While the image has caused confusion among village passersby, the unease it provokes has rendered it a cult classic among irony-appreciative Americans. That’s in part because the team at Columbia Cheese (Chällerhocker’s exclusive importer) has embraced it, creating stickers reading “HOLLA” (a reference to its pronunciation), creepy masks for #Challerween, and an online face swap that superimposes the kid’s face onto yours—and yours onto the wheel of cheese. Jonathan Richardson, Columbia Cheese’s national sales manager, says the swag is meant to catalyze mongers and hardcore turophiles around the small brand. Take the “HOLLA” sticker. “For normal human beings, that means nothing—it has no context,” Richardson says. “But for our weird little group, it’s amazing.”

Jonathan Richardson, Columbia Cheese’s national sales manager, says the swag is meant to catalyze mongers and hardcore turophiles around the small brand. Take the “HOLLA” sticker. “For normal human beings, that means nothing—it has no context,” Richardson says. “But for our weird little group, it’s amazing.”

Initially surprised by the Chällerhocker label craze, Räss has come to understand its relevance. “What’s most important is the cheese itself—the taste,” he says. “But the cheese with the name and the label—together, it’s a very strong theme.”

Of course, one has to wonder what the maker truly thinks of the image. Innocent, smiling boy or member of the undead? “Not a zombie,” Räss says. “A zombie is not possible. But…” he hesitates, pondering the face as he has so many times before. “Not so much smiling. A little bit…different.”

Photo Courtesy: Columbia Cheese

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