Not every combination of two good things leads to another good thing. Tea, for example, is lovely, and parties are fantastic, but the Tea Party manages to ruin both. Sometimes, though, magic happens–and at Floyd Beer Cheese, the Brooklyn cheesemakers introducing us Yanks to an old Kentucky tradition have found the sweet spot where beer and cheese put away their differences and come together to make something spicy and spreadable, ideal on a cracker, celery stalk, or finger.
In anticipation of the NYC Wine and Food Festival–where Floyd Beer Cheese will be part of a burger entry at the Blue Moon Burger Bash hosted by Rachael Ray–we caught up with owner Andy Templar, a Kentucky native, who told us a little bit about beer and cheese–and why combining them is such a good idea.
How long has beer cheese been around in Kentucky? How did it get started?
Beer cheese got its start in a tavern on the Kentucky River. Legend has it that the Allman brothers–not the band but local bar owners–came up with it to serve it as a happy hour bar snack. Addictive and a little hot, it kept people buying beer. My business partner Jim Carden and I are from Kentucky and grew up with beer cheese. You can buy it pretty much anywhere in the state of Kentucky, but the best, we think, is the homemade version. Everybody’s grandfather had a different recipe. I would be hard-pressed to tell you exactly which one of our grandfathers’ recipes we use. They kind of blend together.
Why bring beer cheese to Brooklyn? What has the response been like?
When we opened our first place Floyd NY in 2004, we realized after the fact that we needed to offer some food, and since we modeled our bar on the kind of places we used to go to in Kentucky, we decided to give beer cheese a try. We have been serving it for almost 10 years, and we sell a lot of it. It goes nicely with beer, and people in Brooklyn love to sample regional foods. We sell a lot after midnight and during football season. (Note: The writer of this story can personally attest to the cheese’s post-midnight tastiness.)
What is different about your beer cheese and the kind usually served in Kentucky? What is the New York spin on it?
We keep our cheese as close to the home-style as we can. Most beer cheese on the market is cold-pack cheese, meaning it is a blend of two or more cheeses and produced without the use of heat. It tends to be a little rubbery, all one texture, and a little synthetic tasting. It has its place in the snack market, but we have tried to stick to our home-style roots with ours. We use real block cheddar cheese, good slightly under-carbonated beer, and a tried and true spice mix–and that’s pretty much it. We do add a little pepper-jack to the jalapeno variety for taste.
What kind of local beers have you been using in the cheese?
We don’t reveal it, but we use a craft lager from the northeast.
What is your personal favorite way to eat beer cheese?
I like to eat it on or near a lake, very late at night with people I have known forever…but it is also really good at parties!
Floyd Beer Cheese will be part of Old Homestead Steak House’s burger entry at the Blue Moon Burger Bash hosted by Rachael Ray. Don’t want to take the attention off the cheese? Pick it up at one of many Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, or Texas locations, and enjoy it however you’d like.