A conference and festival celebrating all things cheese is coming to Denver for the first time next week.

The American Cheese Society's Festival of Cheese is more or less the GABF for cheese-lovers. Samples of more than 2,000 different varieties of cheese are available to attendees along with Charcuterie, chocolates, cider, craft beer and more.

"It is a great chance for those who know cheese to discover new cheeses that they may never see in their local stores. And a chance for newbies to learn about the many varieties of cheese out there – there really is something for everyone," Nora Weiser, the Executive Director of the American Cheese Society said in an e-mail.

American Cheese Society's Annual Festival of Cheese  (Photo: ACS)

Ahead of the festival, some of the best cheese and specialty food producers from around the country are gathering for the 'Cheese with Altitude' conference and competition.

The same cheeses that will later be sampled during the festival will be competing for the "Best of Show" title.

So what makes an award-winning cheese?

Judging cheese during the American Cheese Society's Annual C onference & Competition (Photo: ACS)

"Really it starts with the land and the animals. If those are well-cared for, you’ll get great milk, and it takes high-quality milk to make the types of high-quality cheeses that win awards in our competition. And that level of care and craftsmanship does not end when the cheese is made," Weiser explained. "Affineurs, experienced cheese-agers, watch over cheeses as they mature and continue to care for them for months or years to bring them to perfection."

This is the first time the festival and conference has been held in Denver. Weiser says they chose the city because it's easy to get attendees to want to come and because there is an interest in local, artisan foods. It also helps that the ACS is based in the city.

But, she says it's not likely to be back again soon.

"The Festival of Cheese moves around the country each year. It has never before been in Denver, and it could be a decade before it ever comes back. If someone loves cheese, this is the place to be!", Weiser said.

American Cheese Society's Annual Festival of Cheese  (Photo: ACS)

At the festival, there is also a cheese sale, so those who find a new cheese they cannot live without can take some home for later.

The conference will be held at the Sheraton Denver Downtown Hotel July 26 - 29. The Festival of Cheese is on Saturday, July 29 from 7:00 - 9:30 p.m. Tickets to the festival are available to the public for $65 here: http://bit.ly/2u1uI2U.Volunteers are also needed and get a free ticket to attend!