Beer cheese is a smooth cheese dip or spread made by combining shredded or melted cheese with flattened beer along with various spices and seasonings. It's said to have originated in Kentucky where it's widely popular as a snack and typically served with crackers.
- Origin: Kentucky, USA
- Made from: Cheddar and/or processed cheeses
- Texture: Spreadable
What Is Beer Cheese?
Beer cheese is a form of cold pack cheese, sometimes called crock cheese or club cheese. It's usually made from processed cheese or a blend of cheddar and other cheeses along with spices such as cayenne pepper, mustard powder, and garlic. Flattened beer imparts flavor and helps provide a smooth texture, giving the mixture its name. It's usually orange, either from the color of the original cheeses or by adding annatto coloring, which is what gives orange cheeses their signature hue.
Beer cheese isn't a type of cheese, but rather is made from various cheeses. It's thought to have originated in Kentucky in the 1930s as a salty snack to serve at bars. The Kentucky version is traditionally made with German lagers, but today it is often made with IPAs, stouts, and other craft brews.
Beer cheese is typically served with Saltine-style crackers and also often accompanied by sliced carrots and celery sticks, much like the ones that are served alongside Buffalo chicken wings.
Beer Cheese vs. Pub Cheese
Pub cheese is another type of spreadable cold pack cheese that is sometimes made with beer, and the terms pub cheese and beer cheese are sometimes used interchangeably. But pub cheese isn't always made with beer. The Presidente brand of pub cheese, for instance, doesn't include beer. So technically, all beer cheese is pub cheese, but not all pub cheese is beer cheese.
Beer Cheese vs. Drunken Cheese
Another product that is sometimes described as beer cheese is a version of drunken cheese made with beer. This type of cheese is a solid cheese, usually firm or semi-firm, that is made by adding beer to the curds before pressing and shaping the cheese. The resulting cheese has a distinct flavor of beer and often a marbled appearance, depending on what type of beer is used. This type of beer cheese is a solid cheese, as opposed to beer cheese, which is a spread or dip.
How Beer Cheese Is Made
Traditionally, beer cheese is a cold pack cheese spread, which means that it's made by combining cheeses with beer and other flavoring ingredients without heating or melting the cheese, and it's served cold (although it can be warmed up).
To make beer cheese, sharp cheddar is combined with processed cheese or other young, soft cheeses such as Monterey Jack or even cream cheese, then mixed with flat beer and seasonings including salt, cayenne pepper, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, horseradish, garlic, and mustard. The combination is blended until smooth then chilled to let it solidify. Although it retains a slightly grainy appearance, its texture is actually quite smooth. In Kentucky, there's usually a mild version and a hot version.
Flat beer is traditionally used because beer cheese was originally made with leftover beer that had gone flat. If you're making beer cheese at home, it's a good idea to let your beer go flat first, otherwise it will foam up out of your food processor.
Some beer cheese recipes do involve melting the cheese along with beer and other ingredients, producing a cheese dip that resembles queso dip. It's melty and stretchy as opposed to cold and spreadable, and technically isn't a true Kentucky beer cheese.
If you can't find actual beer cheese, you can make your own at home using store-bought ingredients. Otherwise, use any other cold pack club cheese or cheese spread, with or without beer. Pub cheese is an especially good substitute.
In addition to serving beer cheese as a snack with crackers, pretzels, vegetable sticks, and other dippables, the spread can be made into soup or used as a topping on burgers and sandwiches. Beer cheese also adds flavor and moisture to baked goods such as breads and rolls.
Beer cheese should be stored in the refrigerator, tightly covered, where it will keep for three to four days. When buying store-bought cheese, simply leave it in its original container. Transfer homemade beer cheese to an airtight container.
Beer Cheese Recipes
Try making beer cheese at home or use beer cheese to make bread, soup, or fondue: