Kentucky has its fair share of famous dishes and drinks, from burgoo to bourbon. While some of them have fans around the world, traditional beer cheese—a spread made from flat beer, cheddar cheese, and spices, and served cold—has stayed closer to home since the Allman family invented it at the Driftwood Inn in Winchester in 1939.
If you find it beyond the state’s borders, it’s likely to be some sort of bastardized version, like that warm dip gunk that’s a staple at sports bars. You can trust me. I wrote a whole book on beer cheese back in 2017. There are exceptions. On the Ohio side of the Cincinnati metro area, just across the river from Kentucky, husband and wife Scott Robbins and Andrea Siefring-Robbins of Urban Stead Cheese make some of the best beer cheese in the Midwest.
Like many others beer cheese pros, Siefring-Robbins is hanging on to her recipe—volunteering only that it’s made from quark, “a house blend of seasonings,” and Storm cream ale from Braxton Brewing, which, appropriately, has facilities on both sides of the Ohio.
They use soft, cream cheese–like old world quark instead of cheddar. “We love a beer cheese that you can dip into and spread easily,” says Siefring-Robbins, who worked at the iconic Hall’s on the River—at the site of the Allmans’ Driftwood Inn—while attending Eastern Kentucky University in the late ’90s. “Quark is such a fabulous cheese and one that we wanted to bring back to the Midwest and to Cincinnati.”
Robbins and Andrea Siefring-Robbins temporarily closed their tasting room back in March of 2020. “Making cheese is difficult,” Siefring-Robbins says. “Add a pandemic and it’s a doozy. To say that last year was difficult would be an understatement.”
To stay afloat, they’ve been offering an impressive carryout menu. It includes their beer cheese, made in forty-to-sixty-pound batches every other week. The spread has a following, she says. “We have customers that come in just for the beer cheese.” For extra Kentucky-German flavor, they can pair it with a fresh Swabian-style pretzel (skinny arms, fat belly) from Covington, Kentucky’s Tuba Baking Co.
And if you want their beer cheese, carryout is the only way to try it for now. Like many others beer cheese pros, Siefring-Robbins is hanging on to her recipe—volunteering only that it’s made from quark, “a house blend of seasonings,” and Storm cream ale from Braxton Brewing, which, appropriately, has facilities on both sides of the Ohio.
If it helps, beer cheese seasonings typically include cayenne, dry mustard, garlic powder, and hot sauce. And in the near future, according to Siefring-Robbins, you may be able to mail-order that quark base (and other cheeses) from Urban Stead.