What is Beer Cheese?

Bar snacks are served to encourage people to stay a little longer in bars and order a few more drinks. Some of these snacks are buffalo chicken wings, popcorn, and jalapeno poppers. But aside from that, there is another popular bar snack in Kentucky which is the beer cheese.

Beer cheese is a cheese spread that is commonly found in Kentucky. This cheese spread is not widely distributed but you can find similarly named cheese products in other regions of the United States. The product is nearly everywhere in Kentucky and there are a number of different brands that are popular and most of them are similar in taste and texture.

People who are fans of beer cheese usually have each of their own favorite brand. There are also many homemade versions of beer cheese that use a wide variety of ingredients to add personalization.

The commercially produced beer cheese are usually made of processed cheese base with a sharp cheddar flavor. Homemade varieties on the other hand are made with sharp cheddar cheese. Enough beer is added to the cheese base which provide flavor and texture. Other ingredients include spices such as dry mustard, horseradish, garlic, and cayenne pepper. It usually comes in two varieties which are mild and hot but both have strong garlic flavor.  You can pick your style and flavor of beer to see how the cheese taste is impacted.

Beer cheese is a cold spread and it is most often served as an appetizer. Traditionally, it is served with saltine crackers, but it can match other kinds of crackers and crudités as well.

History of Beer Cheese

According to legend, beer cheese started in the late 1930’s on the banks of the Kentucky River near Winchester. A unique salty, spicy spread was created by Chef Joe Allman for his cousin Johnnie, an owner of the Driftwood Inn. He served the spread created by Chef Joe to his customers as a complimentary snack to increase their appetite for beer. However, Johnny allegedly lost the restaurant along with his recipes in the early 1960’s. Since that time, a debate has raged about who has the original recipe of beer cheese.

Sliced vegetables are traditionally used for dipping. Today, beer cheese became more of a cheese spread appetizer that is served with hard or soft pretzels, crudites, as well as a condiment on everything even for burgers and fries. In 2013, Clark county was officially recognized by the Commonwealth of Kentucky as the birthplace of beer cheese.

In the present time, the popularity of beer cheese reaches far beyond Clark County. It is now included on restaurant menus from South Carolina to California. Most of the beer cheese today are served with unique twists.

In fact, Even the Queen of England, Queen Elizabeth II, is a fan of beer cheese. She was seen boarding a plane in Lexington with several tubs of beer cheese in tow after her recent visit.

Beer Cheese Festival

There is a beer cheese festival held every 2nd Saturday of June in downtown Winchester, Kentucky which is the county seat of Clark County. It is considered as the one and only beer cheese festival in the world.

The beer cheese festival started in 2009 and it has quickly grown into a favorite. Every year, thousands of people go to Beer Cheese Boulevard to taste beer cheese that came from all over the country. You will be able to sample varieties of beer cheese from any vendor in the festival.

Aside from beer cheese tasting, there are also 2 music stage where 10 live acts will perform, arts and crafts vendors, food court, UK Alumni Beer Garden, and an Amateur Beer Cheese Making Contest. The Clark County Homeless Coalition also hosts an annual 5k run or walk for their homeless program.

If you’re interested in beer cheese or you want to know more about its history, The Beer Cheese Book by Garin Pirnia will be able to educate as well as entertain you while making your mouth water.

Many cheese lovers who haven’t tried beer cheese yet will surely want to taste it. And others are maybe dreaming of experiencing the beer cheese festival someday. Imagine all the varieties of beer cheese from different vendors you can taste there.