I’ve never met a strange, niche museum I didn’t like and the National Mustard Museum just outside of Madison is no exception. With more than 5,500 varieties of mustard and a fantastic sense of humor, the museum is the world’s largest collection of prepared mustards.
We made a quick afternoon stop at the museum before heading back to Iowa and were delighted not only by the large collection of mustards to admire (and to sample) but also by the interactive, hilarious nature of the space. Find your perfect mustard and pick out some apparel from the museum’s fictional university—Poupon U—to send home to your, well, less mature friends.
So why a museum about mustard?
The museum’s founder and “mustard curator” Barry Levenso began collecting mustards on October 27, 1986. Distraught over the Boston Red Sox World Series loss to the Mets, Barry found himself wandering the aisles of a grocery store late at night when, according to the museum’s website, “Barry heard a deep, resonant voice as he passed the mustards: ‘If you collect us, they will come.'”
So he grabbed a dozen bottles of mustard off the shelf and decided that to distract himself from his baseball heartbreak, he would attempt to amass the world’s largest collection of prepared mustards. In 1991, Barry left his job as the Assistant Attorney General of Wisconsin to pursue his love of mustard full-time and on April 5, 1992 the original Mustard Museum opened in Mount Horeb, Wisconsin.
After outgrowing its space, the museum moved to its current location in Middleton, Wisconsin in 2009. Today the museum’s ever-growing collection consists of 5,624 mustards and hundreds of items of other mustard-themed items.
If you visit the National Mustard Museum
The National Mustard Museum is free to visit and a great stop, regardless of if you consider yourself a mustard enthusiast or not. After wandering around the lower level of the museum, head upstairs and taste some mustards to take home for a collection of your own.
I opted for the Slimm & Nunne Sweet Hot Mustard—one of the museum’s best-sellers—(which I made amazing breaded chicken with) and the Delicae Gourmet Mango Cilantro Mustard (which I can’t wait to try). Plus, when you make a purchase, you get to honk the mustard horn and who doesn’t want to do that?
The museum is open seven days a week, 10 am to 5 pm, excluding a handful of holidays and special events.
National Mustard Museum, 7477 Hubbard Avenue in Middleton, Wisconsin