In Search of the Perfect Beer Cheese Recipe

When I was a kid, I thought beer cheese came in a plastic tub from the grocery store.  Specifically, one that said "Hall's."  My parents are EKU alumni, and they had fond memories of trips to Hall's on the River  from their Richmond days.  It was always a huge treat when we could find containers of Hall's Beer Cheese at our local grocery store; I loved the snappy, spicy cheese spread as a snack with vegetables or crackers.
When I got to college, I first heard of making your own beer cheese.  My roommate's aunt would whip up a batch a few times a year and send us some.  And, you know, it tasted a whole lot fresher and less "chemical-y" than the pre-made stuff.  I also developed quite an affinity for the beer cheese and crudité plate at Charlie Brown's.  (I was, by this time, way too grown-up and sophisticated to just call them vegetables anymore!)

Now, beer cheese has gotten creative.  Winchester, the birthplace of beer cheese, hosts an annual festival to spotlight it.  Local restaurants have found that it sure is good as a hamburger spread.  And, many people find that the flavor of their beer cheese can be altered by the quality and type of beer added to the recipe.  Beer cheese connoisseurs use stouts or ales to provide complex flavor.  My personal favorite recipe is from Chef Jonathan Lundy's cookbook; it uses Kentucky Ale's fantastic Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale. The result is a spicy, nutty cheese spread with wonderfully subtle bourbon notes.  

Whether you prefer gourmet or classic recipes, though, pretty much any beer cheese is wonderful.  Just open a beer, take a drink or so off the top, and fire up the food processor.  It's a great taste of Central Kentucky in just a few minutes' prep time.

Basic Beer Cheese:
  • 10 ounces extra sharp cheddar cheese
  • 10 ounces mild cheddar cheese
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 7 ounces beer
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper powder
  •  Dash of hot sauce (I prefer Louisiana or Crystal)
  • 1. Open beer and bring to room temperature.
    2 Grate cheese with box grater and mince garlic. Place in food processor.
    3. Add remaining ingredients, mix in food processor until smooth.  You may need to add seasonings to taste.
    4. Refrigerate overnight.  This is best served the next day.