You may find yourself face to face this Derby weekend with one of the worst of sports snacks of all time. One that should be avoided at all costs whether it be homemade or store bought. Traditional recipe? Modern (read: fancy) recipe? Served with pretzels, crudites or chips, nothing is going to save this food.
Kentucky Beer Cheese, also known as Kentucky Ale Cheese.
On paper, this should be one of my favorite snacks of all time. It’s made with cheese blended in cheese with even more cheese whipped in with beer and spices. But it’s not. It’s awful.
And it’s not like I didn’t try a lot of beer cheese recipes. Oh, I traipsed all over Los Angeles hunting down smoked cheddar — one cheese shop owner looked at me in horror when I described what I was making, and spent hours caramelizing onions for different attempts. With mustard powder, without mustard powder. With garlic and paprika, with garlic but without paprika. Light ales, dark ales. Serving immediately, letting it sit in the fridge overnight to develop.
The picture above? That particular batch called for bourbon in addition to beer. Even the sweet, smokiness of America’s finest hard liquor could save this dip. Or spread. Or whatever it is, (except for good).
So tomorrow, don your fanciest hat. Listen for the sound of ice melting in metal cups and breathe deep the smell of manure. But do not, under any circumstances allow yourself to be subjected to this Bluegrass State tradition. Claim you’re a dairy-free meativore. Say you’re lactose intolerant. Claim you’re on a new version of the Master Cleanse that allows you to eat or drink whatever you want as long as it’s not orange. Tell people your great-great-grandpappy was killed in the city of Cheddar by the local archduke and the recent Royal Wedding has you feeling a bit down this week. Tell them the grandest of all Baron Munchausen stories you can dream of to avoid this food stuff during at whatever Kentucky Derby party you end up at.
Have an extra julep instead, or a mint julep jelly shot. Skip the cheese.