Food & Drink

Beer Cheese: A Match Made in Heaven—and Kentucky

A new book puts tasty spins on the classic Bluegrass State snack

Photo: Garin Pirnia

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.

Bourbon-Spiked Beer Cheese

A classic cheese spread gets the boilermaker treatment

Makes about 3 cups


    • 1 lb. smoked cheddar cheese

    • ¼ lb. Lakefront Brewery beer cheese coffee stout cheese*

    • 2 tbsps. mustard seeds, brown and/or yellow, crushed

    • 1 shallot, minced

    • 1 garlic clove, peeled

    • ½ cup hoppy beer

    • 1 tbsp. bourbon

    • *If you can’t find Lakefront or another type of beer-washed cheese, substitute smoked cheddar or gouda and add 2 tablespoons of flat coffee stout beer


  1. Shred the cheeses and add to the bowl of a food processor.

  2. Use a mortar and pestle to grind the mustard seeds semi-fine. Add the shallots, garlic clove, and mustard seeds to the cheese and blend.

  3. Slowly add in the beer, followed by the bourbon. Scrape down the sides of the processor with a spatula to incorporate any sticky bits. Blend until smooth and creamy.

Recipe courtesy The Beer Cheese Book, by Garin Pirnia, University Press of Kentucky

Beer Cheese Buttermilk Biscuits

Biscuit dough spiked with flavorful beer cheese makes for a great comfort-food pairing

Makes about 12 biscuits


    • 2 cups flour

    • 1 tbsp. baking powder

    • 12 tbsps. (1½ sticks) cold, unsalted butter, diced

    • ½ cup cold buttermilk, shaken

    • 2 eggs, one reserved for egg wash

    • 4 oz. beer cheese, room temperature

    • 1 tbsp. water


  1. Preheat oven to 425°F.

  2. Put the flour and baking powder in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with dough hooks. With the mixer set on low, add in the butter and mix until the butter is broken up into little balls.

  3. Whisk the butter­milk, one egg, and beer cheese in a measuring cup. Add it to the flour and butter mixture, still mixing on low speed.

  4. Once mixed together, remove the dough from the bowl and knead it on a floured board. Roll the dough out into a 10 x 5-inch rectan­gle. The dough should be around ½-inch thick. With a sharp, floured knife, cut the dough lengthwise in half and then across in quarters, making 8 rough rectangles.

  5. Separate the second egg, place the white in a small dish, and add the water to make an egg wash. Arrange the rectangles on a baking sheet and brush the tops with the egg wash. Bake for 20–25 minutes, or until brown and somewhat puffy.

Recipe courtesy The Beer Cheese Book, by Garin Pirnia, University Press of Kentucky