Everything You Need to Know About Beer Cheese, Including How to Make It

Everything You Need to Know About Beer Cheese, Including How to Make It

Illustration By Danielle Grinberg

Every June, thousands of people gather in Winchester, Ky., for the annual Beer Cheese Festival. The family-friendly fest has brought out Kentucky locals and tourists around beer, music, arts and crafts, and competitions for 10 years. The spread that keeps everyone coming back? Beer cheese.Beer cheese is prevalent in the Bluegrass State. Made here for some 50 years, it’s available at restaurants, grocery stores, and Super Bowl tailgates.

Now, the versatile spread is expanding its cheesy reach to breweries and high-end gastro pubs across the country. The Kentucky staple is served at Louisville craft breweries like Against the Grain, Bluegrass Brewing Company, and Holy Grale, and is on the menus of restaurants like San Antonio, Texas’s Southerleigh Fine Food & Brewery and New York’s Randolph Beer.

Best of all? The crowd-pleasing living legend is easy to make at home.

Cheese lovers gather at “Beer Cheese Blvd.” at the Beer Cheese Festival in Winchester, Ky. Photo credit: Beer Cheese Festival /

Making A Legend

Traditionally, beer cheese is served cold and consists of sharp cheddar cheese (or processed cheese with cheddar flavor), beer, garlic, and pepper, preferably cayenne. Some recipes call for additional zingy hot flavors like dry mustard and horseradish. Heat is both the name of the game and the operative word with beer cheese: Variations can range from mild to hot in flavor, cold to hot in temperature, and spreadable destinies spanning vegetables, crackers, crudités, and cheeseburgers.

Kentucky River originals are served cold and tend to use German lager for its light malt and hop flavors. (It also works as a nod to Kentucky’s German heritage.) Holy Grale, for example, uses its pilsner in its housemade beer cheese, served with fresh-baked pretzel bread.

Lots of beer cheese recipes play up the umami flavors with nutty brown ale and Worcestershire sauce. A smoky meat-lovers’ version calls for gouda and bacon. Still others cool down the heat and play up the sweet, fruity flavors, like Against the Grain, which uses its Sho’ Nuff Belgian table beer in a cold-served dip with kettle chips.

Basically, beer cheese can be whatever you want it to be, is almost guaranteed to be delicious, and it only takes 10 to 15 minutes to make.

Thousands of people attend the Beer Cheese Festival each June. Photo credit: Beer Cheese Festival /

Sticky History

Exactly where beer cheese comes from varies depending on whom you ask, but most trace its origins to Clark County. The Kentucky locale was officially recognized as the birthplace of beer cheese in 2013. Winchester, Ky., the county seat of Clark County, is home to the world’s only Beer Cheese Festival and Beer Cheese Trail, the latter of which takes dairy lovers on an eight-restaurant beer cheese journey.

By some accounts, the spread was invented in the 1930s by Chef Joe Allman for the Driftwood Inn, located alongside the Kentucky River near Boonesborough. The inn was owned by Joe’s cousin, Johnnie, who served the spicy dip as a complimentary snack to keep beer drinkers thirsty. In the 1940s, the restaurant moved to a new location along the river in Winchester, where it remains today under a new name.

Legend has it Johnnie lost the restaurant (and its precious beer cheese recipe) to a bet with a man named Carl Johnson in the 1960s. In 1965, the restaurant and its recipes were acquired by George and Gertrude Hall, who renamed the restaurant Hall’s on the River. The Halls introduced Clark County to the now-famous Hall’s Snappy Beer Cheese that year. The spread is now sold in Sam’s Clubs across the Midwest and eastern U.S.

Although Hall’s claims to have the original beer cheese, Johnnie was a serial restaurateur and brought his beer cheese with him to several businesses throughout the 1970s. The final location, Allman’s Restaurant, served the last Allman’s beer cheese in 1978, when it burned down.

However, at present, Johnnie ’s grandson Ian Allman is now proud owner of Allman’s Beer Cheese, which also claims to be “the one and only original.” Another brand, River Rat Beer Cheese, produced by Bob Tabor, a former employee of Johnnie Allman, uses the tagline “Just Like Johnny’s [sic].”

Although not proven, Hall’s and other Clark County beer cheese enthusiasts claim Queen Elizabeth II is a fan of the stuff. She, an avid horse enthusiast, was allegedly seen snatching a tub of the spread after one of her many visits to the Bluegrass State’s thoroughbred horse farms.

No matter which beer cheese was the first, many have come since. We are excited to see where beer cheese goes next.

The Beer Bitty’s beer cheese recipe calls for smoked gouda and bacon. Photo credit:


Brooklyn Brew Shop, a brewing supply company based in NYC, shared its recipe for stellar, spiced beer cheese. It recommends using flavorful beer that isn’t too hoppy, such as blonde or brown ale, or wheat beer.


  • 3 bottles of beer (see note above)
  • 2 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • ⅔ cup whole milk
  • 6 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 10 ounces (approx. 2 heaping cups) grated cheddar


  1. Combine beer, shallots, garlic, and peppercorns in a large pot over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat and simmer until the beer reduces to ⅓ cup (approximately one hour).
  2. When liquid is reduced, strain into a heat-safe bowl and let cool.
  3. When your beer reduction is cool enough to handle, combine milk, cream cheese, cheddar, and beer reduction in a food processor. Pulse until the mixture is somewhat smooth, but stop before it becomes a paste.
  4. Transfer cheese mixture to a large pot and heat over medium-low, stirring occasionally, until cheese is completely melted (approximately 10 minutes). Whisk until smooth.
  5. Remove from heat, let cool, and cover. Refrigerate for at least four and up to 24 hours to marry flavors. Enjoy.

Kentucky Beer Cheese

A match made in heaven (and also Kentucky).



Beer cheese. Once you know it exists, it’s shocking that no one dreamed it up until the 1940s. If ever there was a culinary machine designed for maximum comfort and (satisfied) bloating, it’s this creamy, savory blend from central Kentucky.

Accounts of the emergence of beer cheese vary, but the standard narrative stars Johnnie and Joe Allman. Johnnie, who opened the Driftwood Inn in 1939, began serving his cousin’s “snappy cheese” at the Winchester, Kentucky, restaurant. The concept was simple: a lean (yet thick) mix of cheddar spread, flat beer, garlic, and cayenne pepper.

It caught on, to say the least. Today, more than 70 years after the Driftwood’s closing, eight veritable establishments line the “Beer Cheese Trail” in Winchester, each offering its own unique twist on the snack, which is most often used as a dip for pretzels, vegetables, and crackers. Full Circle Market, for example, serves a gluten-free beer cheese, while the Waterfront teases a “secret” formula based on letting the ingredients sit for a while at room temperature. You’ll have to try ’em all at Winchester’s annual Beer Cheese Festival.

Like any good advocates for a regional staple, Kentuckians ardently insist that you can’t experience the real thing outside the area. Still, you might see an attempt at the dip pop up on menus in Cincinnati, Michigan, Chicago, and Brooklyn, and a variety of recipes are available online. 


Weed in space is going to be a thing now!

Weed in space is going to be a thing now!

Scientists interested in cannabis as a subject for pharmaceutical studies may find an unlikely new home for their research into the plant, its byproducts and biochemistry aboard the International Space Station.

Yes, weed is going to space thanks to the work of a small Lexington, Ky.-based startup called Space Tango.

The company makes a “clean room” laboratory in a microwave-sized box. Because space is tight on the International Space Station, companies that want to conduct experiments in microgravity have to do more with less. And Space Tango  gives them a small environment in which to perform tests and monitor the results.

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This Secluded Waterfront Restaurant In Kentucky Is One Of The Most Easygoing Places You’ll Ever Eat

Posted in Kentucky April 30, 2018 by 

Since life is better by the water, most would agree that dining with a waterfront view is also a sought-after experience. Kentucky has many bodies of water with restaurants situated on their shores. We’ve shared many of these dining destinations here, but we want to make sure you know about one particular secluded waterfront restaurant that has it all. Waterfront Grille and Gathering in Winchester has that ideal riverfront location, and it’s also one of the most fun and easygoing places to dine in Kentucky.

Waterfront Grille and Gathering is located just outside of Winchester, close to Lexington. If you’ve heard of this hidden gem before, perhaps you’ve taken Kentucky’s Beer Cheese Trail.
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Made in Kentucky

Kentucky Living

February 26, 2018

By: Kathy Witt

You drink it, eat it, play it, deal it and post it—and it’s all made right here in Kentucky.

Ale-8-One, Winchester

Bottled in Winchester since 1926, Ale-8-One is the only soft drink invented in Kentucky still in existence. Founder and inventor G.L. Wainscott hit upon the formula after experimenting with ginger-blended recipes acquired during travels in northern Europe.

Not only is Ale-8 one of the last soft drink bottlers left in the United States, it is also the only one in Kentucky continuing to receive and refill returnable long-neck, green glass bottles.

“Many fans say the best-tasting Ale-8 is contained in these bottles, full of memories,” says DeAnne Elmore, field marketing and public relations manager. “They are thicker and heavier than today’s bottles.”

The company gives 1 percent of sales from these returnable bottles to environmental non-profits in Kentucky through its partnership with 1% For The Planet.

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The History Behind Cold Beer Cheese

A local author illuminates the delicious past and present of Central Kentucky’s chilled appetizers

Jan 30, 2018 11 AM

Not all beer cheese is created equal — or served at the same temperature. In Central Kentucky, the way they make their decadent app is a bit different than the process we use in the Queen City, but a local author says: If it’s not cold, it’s not traditional.

When the term “beer cheese” comes to mind, most people think of a hot dip paired with some type of salty chip, bread or soft pretzel — a gooey spread that combines and melts two of humanity’s favorite vices. But Central Kentucky beer cheese is served chilled and made with just four ingredients: cheddar cheese, garlic, cayenne pepper and, of course, beer.

Writer (and CityBeat freelancer) Garin Pirnia tells a story of authentic cold beer cheese in her recently published The Beer Cheese Book, which details the history of the cold dip, where it came from and why it’s so appetizing.

Pirnia, a Covington resident, fell in love with beer cheese while at Party Town in Florence, Ky. Confused yet intrigued by the cold spread, she had to try it.

“It was a pre-packaged spread made by Kentucky Beer Cheese, which is based near Lexington. I tried it and loved it,” she says.

Immediately impressed, she researched the decadent snack. Following the first taste of cold beer cheese, she attended The Beer Cheese Festival in Winchester, Ky., in 2014. Held each June, this festival is the only one in the world dedicated to the food.

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Why Restaurants Are Obsessing Over This 91-Year-Old Kentucky Soda

Ale-8-One, a gingery Prohibition-era soft drink, is making a strange comeback: in sauces, braises and even deviled eggs


January 12, 2018

If you don’t live in the South, chances are Ale-8-One (pronounced “ale eight one”), a craft soda hailing from Winchester, Kentucky, may be news to you. Developed during prohibition in 1926, the gingery, citrusy soda has become a staple in the South, going way beyond a refreshing drink of choice. Chefs throughout Kentucky are now using the beverage to cook. I’ve been drinking Ale-8-One for 46 years and I love it because it combines two of my favorite flavors: citrus and ginger,” says Kentucky chef Ouita Michel, of Ouita Michel Family of Restaurants.

So, what’s all the hype? It’s like ginger ale but with a citrus kick, containing a little less carbonation and fewer calories than typical soda. “I love the unapologetic, slight burn of ginger that Ale-8-One starts and finishes with on the palate,” says chef Jeremy Ashby, AZUR Restaurant. “Its effervescent qualities are thirst quenching but not too dry or sweet. The flavor balance on the palate mirrors my style of cooking.”

The company, run by fourth-generation family owner, Fielding Rogers, still uses the original handwritten, secret recipe. Plus, if you’ve ever tasted a Moscow Mule with Ale-8-One, you know it’s a solid cocktail mixer that can be used in place of ginger beer. “I like its soft spiciness and tang, making it especially good with your favorite bourbon—down here we call that a Kentucky Gentleman,” says Michel.

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Beer Cheese Trail made the top 12…in the world!

12 of the world’s most enticing food and drink trails

Laura Kiniry, CNN • Updated 30th October 2017
(CNN) — Culinary trails pull together the best of a region’s food and drink offerings, whether it’s to showcase a specific food item or cuisine or to highlight the diversity of local producers.
Around the world, these self-guided touring routes (and in one case, an actual foot trail) give visitors and residents alike an alternative — and flavor-filled — way to experience an area, while discovering something about its culinary heritage.
From the delicious dumplings of Canada’s Richmond to France’s Camembert cheese, these food and drink trails will help satisfy both your travel aspirations and your appetite.


Innovations Branding House Road Trip to KY- ALE 8-ONE


Experience the Heart and Soul of Kentucky’s Best Brands


The overarching goal of the Road Trip Kentucky project is to, ultimately, tell some of the great stories of successful, meaningful, and impactful businesses throughout the history of our state. The beauty, and also the tragedy, of this effort is those stories aren’t too difficult to find. The problem is, we can’t tell them ALL.

But when it comes to brands born in the Commonwealth, there is one story that HAS to be told. It’s that of one of Kentucky’s oldest and boldest brands: Ale-8-One.

G.L. Wainscott began making and bottling soda water and other flavored drinks in Winchester, Ky., back in 1902. A couple of decades (and one lawsuit) later, he developed what would be his, and in time Kentucky’s, signature soft drink.

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Ale-8: The Official Soda of the Red River Gorge

Ale-8: The Official Soda of the Red River Gorge

The classic ginger drink will soon be available to more climbers.

For climbers, the ginger drink, Ale-8-One, has always been a place-specific indulgence, something synonymous with climbing in Eastern Kentucky’s Red River Gorge, like Miguel’s Pizza is, or the terms pulling pockets and getting pumped. Often perched on top of a gear-covered picnic table out front of this pizzeria-turned-climber-haunt, Ale-8 (we often drop the “One”) is as crucial an ingredient as flour, water or yeast is to Miguel Ventura’s world-renowned pizza crust. There’s even a route named after it, which the late “Flyin” Brian McCray established in 1995 at the Motherlode. Ale-8-One, 5.12b, became an instant classic.

When Miguel’s opened in the mid-80s, it pulled in the local product of Ale-8, which had been around since the early 1900s gaining its name from an ingenious 14-year-old-girl’s contest-winning slogan (“a late one”) for this new addition to the soda world. Here, just as nearly everything (and everyone) that spends enough time around Miguel’s Pizza, Ale-8 found a home.

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