Beer Cheese Recipes

By Steve Coomes / Photography By Andrew Hyslop | June 01, 2016
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beer cheese appetizer

Many Kentucky beer cheese recipes are highly similar, deviating mainly in the choice of beer and spice. Beer’s twofold role is to provide liquid for a creamy consistency, and to inject a slight bitterness.

A lager (historically the most common choice) will add the least bitterness, whereas a hoppy beer will bump it up noticeably and deliver a slight floral note, too. Darker beers are less bitter, but their malts contribute nuances of sweetness and grain, flavors that, to my palate, amplify pepper notes. Dark beers also deepen the finished cheese’s color a bit.

Spice: Be it ground cayenne, bottled hot sauce, puréed pickled hot peppers or anything else, heat—and the amount used—is of personal preference. Cayenne adds just a straightforward sting, while hot sauces and pickled peppers deliver the tang of vinegar, which I prefer.

Note: Nearly every pro I talked to said letting the beer go flat on its own is essential to a good result. I’ve seen recipes suggesting you can whisk out the carbonation, but the pros say the hard-to-describe but interesting flavor dimension gained from letting it flatten naturally makes it better.

Lastly, while beer cheese is commonly served with crackers, I prefer slices of grilled baguette or toasted slices of wheat bread sliced into triangles.


Basic Kentucky Beer Cheese

Yield: 3 cups beer cheese

  • 1 cup lager
  • 1 pound sharp cheddar cheese, shredded and warmed to room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon high-quality garlic powder, such as Penzeys
  • 1½ teaspoons dry mustard powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon bottled hot pepper sauce (I prefer Cholula)
  • ½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Spicy Beer Cheese
 

Yield: 3½ cups

  • 1 cup Goodwood Pale Ale or other modestly hoppy beer
  • 1 pound sharp cheddar cheese, shredded and warmed to room temperature
  • ¼ pound pepper jack cheese, shredded and warmed to room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon high-quality garlic powder or 2 large cloves fresh, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard powder
  • ½ teaspoon wasabi powder
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon bottled hot pepper sauce (I prefer Cholula)
  • ½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Instructions

  1. To flatten beer, pour into bowl, cover and refrigerate 12–24 hours. (Invite natural yeasts to the party and create a slight funkiness by covering bowl with 2 layers of cheesecloth and placing it in a dark corner.)
     
  2. Put all the ingredients except the beer into a food t processor. Pulse until semi-creamy.
     
  3. Add beer to mixture and pulse several more times.
     
  4. Remove top, scrape down sides with rubber spatula and pulse until creamy. Note: Avoid over-processing the mixture, as this would add air and change the beer cheese’s desired density, which should be like peanut butter.
     
  5. Refrigerate at least overnight (2 days is better) to allow flavors to marry.
     
  6. One hour before serving, remove from refrigerator and allow to warm at room temperature. Taste and add more seasoning if necessary.

Momma Lou’s Snappy Cheese
 

From reader Kerry Wells — Winchester native Kerry Wells uses a non-alcoholic spin. Since his grandfather was a Nazarene pastor who didn’t drink alcohol, his grandmother made beer cheese using Ale-8-One rather than beer.

  • 1 pound sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • 4 tablespoons grated sweet onion
  • 1 tablespoon dry mustard
  • ½ tablespoon cayenne
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Salt, garlic powder, onion powder to taste
  • ½ cup Ale-8-One soft drink, flat

Mix dry ingredients in a blender, add Ale-8-One and process until smooth. Serve with soda crackers.

Since I now live in the Poconos I use the same base recipe although I use Calkins Creamery’s farmstead cheese “Vampire Slayer” (a garlic-infused cheddar) and “Misty Morning” (a cave-aged Welshstyle cheddar) in equal portions. I also replace the Ale-8-One in the recipe with flat Yuengling Lager (I still use the Ale- 8-One, I just mix it with Old Forester) and naturally I use Colman’s mustard rather than what my grandmother used.

Chef Jonathan Lundy Bourbon Barrel Ale Beer Cheese
 

Yield: 3 cups

  • 14 ounces sharp cheddar cheese
  • 4 ounces smoked cheddar cheese
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 2 tablespoons caramelized onions
  • 12 ounces Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale (Lundy does not flatten the beer)
  • 1 ounce bourbon
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black peppercorn
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper powder

Shred sharp and smoked cheddar cheeses.

In a food processor purée cheeses with caramelized onions. With processor running, slowly add beer; stop processor, scrape down sides and repeat as needed smooth consistency is achieved.

Add remaining ingredients and continue to purée. Store in crock in refrigerator. Flavors develop and improve over a few days’ time. Cheese will keep 2 weeks. Serve with fresh-cut crudité, dense thin-sliced German pumpernickel or breadsticks.

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