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Spotlight on Winchester: Bringing home the cheddar on the Beer Cheese Trail

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Posted at 2:46 PM, Mar 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-17 18:25:10-04

WINCHESTER, Ky. (LEX 18) — In the city of Winchester, Ale-8 may be the most-known native brand name.

But it's the beer cheese that really brings the cheddar, in more ways than one.

"It's where beer cheese comes from. Everybody here likes it, it's something unique to the town," said Laura Sheehan, owner of Full Circle Market.

Walk into almost any restaurant on or near Main Street, the bypass, or the river, and you can find something cheesy.

Inside Loma's, there's not only a house-made edition but a beer cheese vinaigrette.

Down the street, snapshots and reminders of Winchester's past decorate the walls of the Engine House.

Former owner Bob Tabor has made his own River Rat-branded beer cheese for decades. He says there are four simple ingredients.

"Cayenne pepper, garlic powder, beer, and cheddar cheese," said Tabor.

You can spread beer cheese on a cracker or drizzle it inside nachos, quesadillas, soup, pizza, or even cupcakes.

"You're only captive by a lack of imagination," said Nancy Turner with the Winchester-Clark County Tourism Commission.

That's why years ago, Turner helped launch the Beer Cheese Trail.

"Winchester is the home of original experiences and you can't any more original than beer cheese," said Turner.

Sheehan, the owner of Full Circle Market, started producing beer cheese in-house In small batches about a decade ago.

"So we wanted to do a beer cheese that had no artificial flavors or preservatives in it. We also decided to make our cheese gluten-free," said Sheehan.

Her mild flavor took first place at the Beer Cheese Festival in 2016.

Her shop is on the trail too, and conquering the adventure gives people a reason to come on the bypass, where you can also find Gaunce's, Woody's and DJ's.

If you're going to try and finish the Beer Cheese Trail, don't forget your beer cheese log. Sheehan also says you should bring a cooler because you never know how much beer cheese you'll want to take home.

This year, the Beer Cheese Festival won't have traditional tastings due to the pandemic, but there will be a celebration of the product in June. Turner says more exciting developments are coming.

"We'll be launching our new trail here in the next couple of months, and want people to come and embrace our heritage," said Turner.