Beer cheese battle set for Saturday

Published 2:00 pm Friday, June 9, 2023

The main event of the 13th Annual Beer Cheese Festival this weekend in Winchester will be the professional and amateur competitions, where cheese makers will compete for prizes and bragging rights.

While the amateur competition is open to all – one can enter by going to – only 14 will compete in the professional class:

• DJ’s Steakhouse

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• Inebriated Chef

• Yeti Cheese

• Smokin’ Joe’s

• In the Curious Kitchen

• Bootlegger Beer Cheese

• 2 Rivers Beercheese

• Hopewell Bake Exchange

• Mousetrap

• Kentucky Beer Cheese

• Double D’s Beer Cheese

• Hop’s

• Big Poppie’s

• True Blue Beer Cheese

The Sun spoke with a handful of the competitors before Saturday’s showdown, and they had this to say!

Big Poppie’s

John and Rhonda, Byrd of Big Poppie’s of Lexington, got into the catering and food truck business several years ago when their homemade barbecue and beer cheese was a hit with family and friends.

They brought their beer cheese to the festival for the first time in 2018 and took third place. However, they have not returned to the winner’s table since.

“This is going to be our year, though!” Rhonda Byrd said. “We have a new flavor…All I’m going to say is that if you like BBQ Grippos potato chips, you will love this beer cheese.”

The Byrds believe that what sets their beer cheese apart is that they use block cheese instead of the usual cold-pressed and have “unique flavors.”

The flavors include original mild, original spicy, queso jalapeno, Poppie’s BBQ and ghostly queso.

If spice is not for you, do not worry, the Byrds have you covered.

“We bring heat, but we have the flavor to go along with it. We want people to come back and get it again,” Byrd said.

Big Poppie’s can be found on Facebook, Big Poppie’s Food Trailer.

Hopewell Bake Exchange

Andrea Pompei, owner of Hopewell Bake Exchange, and Arthur Newberry of CaffeMarco are neighboring business owners in downtown Paris and will compete for the first time this year.

The pair’s beer cheese is made by a mutual friend, Kevin Crump, and has received rave reviews in Bourbon County.

“It has been tested primarily among those who frequent the Bourbon County Farmers Market,” Pompei said. “Kevin was generous enough to share his recipe with us, and locally he shared that beer cheese within the city of Paris. A lot of locals seek out his beer cheese.”

What makes the beer cheese so good?

“It is an excellent complement to our pretzels that are very popular as well,” Pompei said.

“I would also say it has a KFC-style recipe in that there are a lot of spices you would not expect,” Newberry said.

CaffeMarco and Hopewell Bake Exchange are both found on Facebook.

In the Curious Kitchen

MK Hennigan is the proprietor of In the Curious Kitchen and will also be competing for the first time.

The Fort Thomas resident feels she has an excellent recipe that beer cheese fans will love.

“My beer cheese is a riff on my mom’s recipe that, growing up in Frankfort, Kentucky was one of the snacks that was always in the refrigerator. I don’t know where it originated,” Hennigan said. “It was a recipe that was written down, and when she passed, we were luckily able to keep making it.”

While the recipe is kept under lock and key, Hennigan said, “the blend of cheeses” makes it stand out.

In the Curious Kitchen is found on Facebook.