Kentucky Beer Cheese Revelation

Most folks don’t think of food when they think of the Wall Street Journal, even though the publication has the largest print circulation in the nation. The “Off Duty” section of their Saturday edition, is the one portion of the paper that we rarely miss.

So when Keith Pandolfi espoused the virtues of beer cheese, lamenting limited access to this traditional Kentucky snack in last Saturday’s WSJ, we took notice. His article noted that beer cheese, the “sharp, spicy, altogether perfect pairing for pretzels, crackers and, of course, beer,” has been around since Joe Allman created the concoction for his brother Johnnie to serve at his Boonesboroug, Kentucky restaurant, The Driftwood Inn, in the late 1930s.

This did indeed seem to be the perfect grub for an afternoon of Superbowl pre-game festivities. It's a nice spin on other tailgate classics like queso or pimento cheese. We followed the recipe recommended by Pandolfi which he credits to a friend, Rose Maginnis.

Homemade Beer Cheese
1 (12-ounce) bottle lager-style beer, flat
1½ pounds sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
¼ small onion, thinly sliced
1-2 teaspoons Tabasco sauce
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 peeled cloves garlic

Open the beer 24 hours prior to making this recipe to prevent it from foaming up in the food processor.

Add all ingredients to the bowl of a food processor. Purée until well combined and very smooth. Add kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper and more Tabasco to taste, and pulse to incorporate. Serve with pretzels, crackers or chopped vegetables.

The resulting dip was not quite what we had expected. It was thin and well, juicy. We added some more cheese, but it still was not a consistency that appealed to us. So we popped it in the microwave to warm it up a bit. Even heated slightly, it just wasn’t quite right. We then decided to heat it completely. Much better, now it was more like cheddar fondue in which we dipped our pretzels.

I should tell you, however, that about a third of the way through the bowl, Dom asked if I would whip together some dijon mustard and horseradish. Old habits are hard to break. These are the tastes of our youth, of home and hearth; the ones we crave on Superbowl Sunday.