Kentucky beer cheese is both straightforward—its two main ingredients are found in its name—and ripe for tinkering by each cook who makes a batch. “Beer cheese is a ritual in Kentucky,” says the Covington, Kentucky, writer Garin Pirnia, who wrote The Beer Cheese Book. “People make it for their families, serve it during holidays, and it’s always out during the Derby. There are even some people who have spent decades perfecting their family recipes. It’s a generational thing.” Unlike the melty queso-style dips served in beer halls the country over, Kentucky beer cheese is a cold spread for pretzels, crudités, and crackers, usually made with sharp cheddar, a flavorful porter or pilsner, and a custom blend of garlic and spices. But that’s just the start; Pirnia’s book offers history; highlights from the Beer Cheese Trail in Winchester, where the dish was born; and nearly two dozen recipes, including a bourbon-spiked version of the spread and biscuits with beer cheese baked into the dough.
Get two recipes from the book below.