Close Encounters of the Curd Kind: Garin Pirnia on Her Experience with Beer Cheese

Garin Pirnia was kind enough to take some time to answer our questions about her experiences with beer cheese and the writing of her book, “The Beer Cheese Book,” which released earlier this month.


Can you describe your first encounter with beer cheese?

I moved to Covington from Chicago in 2011, and one day, probably around 2012 or 2013, I went to Party Town, near my house. They sold pre-packaged beer cheese from Kentucky Beer Cheese. I hadn’t heard of beer cheese before, but I bought some, tried it, and loved it! Later, I Googled “beer cheese” and came across the website for The Beer Cheese Festival—I couldn’t believe there was an entire fest dedicated to beer cheese! In 2014, I finally got the chance to attend the festival.

Why write a book about a topic some would consider to be rather narrow?

Because there is nothing like this on the market. A lot of books about beer, and beer and cheese pairings have been published, but nothing only about beer cheese. There’s an entire book on the market about French fries. Sometimes, I think it’s good to be specific. When I started writing the book I kept thinking, “How am I going to write a 200-page book on beer cheese?” But I realized there was a lot to say about it. I could’ve written a 400-page book on it. I’m hoping other people will feel that same way—it’s weird enough that they’ll feel compelled to read about it.

What is the difference between Kentucky style beer cheese and similar dishes?

Kentucky-style is a cold spread and is separate from the warm dip most people are accustomed to. Kentucky-style is made with cold-pack cheddar, cayenne pepper, garlic, and flat beer. Other variations have sprung up in Central Kentucky, like using white cheddar and adding cream cheese, hot sauce, and other spices. But what you find in Winchester, KY, the birthplace of beer cheese, is typically the aforementioned ingredients.

What are your favorite simple uses of beer cheese?

I love to put it in scrambled eggs or in an omelet. Grilled cheese with beer cheese is good, too.

How much does changing the beer or cheese affect the end product? What is your favorite of both?

If you use a dark beer like a porter, it creates a richness that, say, a lager doesn’t have. Plus, it makes the final spread darker in color. A lot of chefs use a hoppy beer like an IPA. I hate drinking IPAs—way too bitter—but it makes stand out more in the spread. You want to be able to taste the beer but you don’t want it to overpower the spread. A lot of people still use Budweiser or other domestic beers, but I prefer craft beer. As for cheese, I like to stick to artisanal cheeses. Kenny Farmhouse in Central Kentucky makes good cheeses. If you add Velveeta or any other processed cheese, it tastes more like nacho cheese, and it buries the beer flavor. I would avoid those types of cheeses.

Who was your favorite beer cheese maker/restaurant to interview in the book? Why?

I enjoyed talking to everyone for the book, so it’s hard to say who were my favorites. I liked talking to Olivia Swan about Olivia’s Beer Cheese, and she was one of the first people I interviewed. I also enjoyed talking with the owners of Floyd, NY, because they gave a different perspective of beer cheese. Growing up in Lexington and later moving to NYC, they were one of the first people to put beer cheese on the menu there.

Can you describe how the Beer Cheese Festival and trail gained recognition? What sparked interest?

Nancy Turner runs the Beer Cheese Trail and has done a good job reaching out to local and national publications to get coverage. However, I constantly talk to people in Kentucky who have no idea a trail exists. That’s one reason I wanted to include it in the book. People visit Kentucky for the Bourbon Trail, so why not also visit The Beer Cheese Trail and Beer Cheese Festival?

How easy is the process of making your own beer cheese? What is your simplest recipes?

It’s rather easy to make. The most time-consuming element is waiting for the beer to flatten, which, depending on the process you use, can take up to eight hours. (In the book, I discuss setting the beer out for eight hours, or whisking it for five minutes.) Then you grate the cheese (or use pre-mixed cold-pack cheddar), throw the cheese, flattened beer, and spices into a food processor, and a few minutes later you’re done. Marion Flexner’s recipe, which is in the book, is probably the simplest recipe. Most of the recipes in the book are designed for people who don’t like cooking or don’t have time to cook. But if people want to get more gourmet, there are recipes for beer cheese cupcakes, and beer cheese risotto. Even those recipes don’t take more than an hour to make.



The Classic Movie Hub has begun a five book giveaway for You Ain’t Heard Nothin’ Yet: Interviews with Stars from Hollywood’s Golden Era by James Bawden and Ron Miller. The book includes a collection of forty interviews, which Bawden and Miller ask specific but “off the wall” questions to let some of the most famous actors in film history tell their own stories. All of the interviewees in the collection have since passed away, so this book gives a final recognition of some of the greatest film success stories. There will be five drawings throughout the month on Oct 7, Oct 14, Oct 21, Oct 28 and Nov 4th. To enter to win there are just two requirements:

  1. At the bottom of their blog post about the giveaway, answer the question, “If you had the chance to interview one Classic Movie Star, who would it be and why?”
  2. Tweet: “Just entered to win the “You Ain’t Heard Nothin’ Yet” #BookGiveaway courtesy of @KentuckyPress & @ClassicMovieHub”

Below is an excerpt from the book. In his career as a journalist, Ron Miller got seven minutes alone with Elizabeth Taylor and he reveals his experience and thoughts of her character.

It’s amazing how much mileage a guy can get out of having spent seven minutes alone with Elizabeth Taylor. I don’t think she let that many men spend seven minutes alone with her—unless, of course, she married them first. That’s why I feel so very special these days when somebody asks me, “Did you ever interview Elizabeth Taylor?” Usually, I smile kind of wisely and just nod my head yes, waiting for them to ask what she was really like in person. I’m not the least bit backward about answering that question either. After all, I did spend a whole seven minutes getting to know her.

First, I’m happy to report that Elizabeth Taylor, who was in her early fifties at the time, was very attractive. Yes, she was a bit overweight, but she still had lovely features and her famous violet eyes were truly mesmerizing. I mean, those eyes were really magical and she knew how to use them.

I also drew the immediate impression that she was down to earth and likeable. I say that because I began our “interview” by cracking a joke that made her nearly spit out her food, which I’m sure made her glad I wasn’t accompanied by a photographer. At the time, her son by second husband Michael Wilding was playing Jesus Christ in a TV miniseries, so I simply asked her if she ever thought, after a career spent on the cover of tabloids, that she’d be known as the mother of Jesus. That notion obviously struck her as pretty funny. And here’s an amazing thing: she laughed really big. At that moment, I knew she was the kind of girl who loved dirty jokes. To my credit, I didn’t tell her any, though, just to test my hypothesis.


Bourbon Bliss

Bourbon is beloved nationwide, but Kentucky has an unquenchable adoration for this spirit. Not only is it an $8.5 billion industry in the state, but there’s even a petition to switch Kentucky’s official drink from milk to bourbon.

KBFAs September is officially bourbon month, the annual Kentucky Bourbon Festival is currently underway through September 17 in Bardstown. Delicious food, displays, music and entertainment, and a number of other events are being offered this week.

In celebration of this luscious libation, below is a sampling of recipes from Albert W.A. Schmid’s latest book with us, Burgoo, Barbecue & Bourbon.





Bourbon Slush

2 cups strong tea
1 cup sugar
1 – 12 ounce can frozen lemonade (as is)
1 – 6 ounce frozen orange juice
6 cups water
1 ½ cups bourbon

Mix all of the ingredients. Freeze at least 12 hours. Remove from freezer 1 hour before serving. Scrape while still icy. Serve with straw and top with orange slice, maraschino cherry, and sprig of mint.

“The Greatest Kentucky Drink”

An Old Fashioned glass or a tumbler
3 ice cubes
2 ounces Kentucky Bourbon
4 ounces branch water

Place the ice cubes into the tumbler. Add the bourbon and branch water. Enjoy!

Moon Glow

Crushed ice
1 ½ bourbon
2 ounces cranberry juice
2 ounces orange juice
2 teaspoons maraschino cherry juice

Pack a tall glass with crushed ice. Add the cranberry juice and the orange juice. Add the maraschino cherry juice. Then add the bourbon. Stir well with a bar spoon and garnish with 2 maraschino cherries and a straw.

Beer Lovers & Lovers of Beer Cheese

Happy National Beer Lovers Day! As far as hard beverages go, the Bluegrass State is known for its bourbon, but our state also boasts some great craft beer. Lexington is home to the Brewgrass Trail, and other breweries and pubs are scattered across the Commonwealth. You can find local beer in Louisville, Paris, Somerset, and beyond.

Although craft beer isn’t unique to Kentucky, Kentucky does something truly unique with beer. We add beer to cheese to make a delicious dip / spread / culinary concoction aptly known as beer cheese. In fact, Clark County, Kentucky–the Winchester area–is the birthplace of beer cheese, and we even have a Beer Cheese Trail!


To celebrate National Beer Lovers Day, below is a recipe that utilizes beer from Lexington’s own West Sixth Brewing. You can find this and other awesome recipes in Garin Pirnia’s The Beer Cheese Book, which we’ll be releasing this October. Cheers!


Smithtown Seafood West Sixth Porter Beer Cheese

This recipe by Smithtown’s chef, Jon Sanning, includes a rich porter. The restaurant serves this beer cheese with fresh seasonal vegetables.

Makes about 5 cups

2 large garlic cloves, chopped
¼ medium yellow onion, chopped
1 tablespoon Crystal hot sauce (no substitutions!)
½ teaspoon Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon mustard powder
1 pound and 2 ounces sharp white cheddar, grated
1 cup West Sixth Brewing Pay It Forward Cocoa Porter

In a food processor blend the garlic, onion, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, pepper, salt, cayenne, and mustard until smooth. Add ¼ of the grated cheddar and continue processing until smooth. Then alternate between adding the porter and the rest of cheese. When all of the beer and cheese has been added, scrape down the sides of the processor and continue to process until completely smooth.

Celebrating Gene Kelly


This week in history: a star was born. Wednesday, August 23, would have been Gene Kelly’s 104th birthday. Dancer, choreographer, director, actor, father, husband, sportsman, Naval lieutenant, political activist, and one of the most beloved icons of Hollywood’s golden age. What better way to celebrate than with a book giveaway? Enter for your chance to win a copy of He’s Got Rhythm: The Life and Career of Gene Kelly by Cynthia and Sara Brideson.

In the first comprehensive biography written since the legendary star’s death in 1996, Cynthia Sara Brideson disclose new details of Kelly’s complex life. Drawing on previously untapped articles and interviews with Kelly’s wives, friends, and colleagues, Brideson and Brideson illuminate new and unexpected aspects of the actor’s life and work. Not only do they examine his contributions to the world of entertainment in depth, but they also consider his political activities—including his opposition to the Hollywood blacklist.  He’s Got Rhythm is a balanced and compelling view of one of the screen’s enduring legends.

Below is an excerpt from the book. Here, we’re on the set of Singing’ in the Rain, as Debbie Reynolds, Donald O’Connor, and Gene Kelly practice the routine for “Good Morning”.

Another flare up took place after Gene relentlessly went through a tap routine with Debbie and Donald that was to accompany “Good Morning.” The scene takes place at Don’s mansion and depicts him, Cosmo, and Kathy brainstorming ideas of how to save Don and Lina’s disastrous talkie. To cheer themselves, they sing and dance everywhere from the counter of Don’s bar to his sofa. As Debbie and Donald rehearsed, Gene continually told them they were out of step. “You’re so stupid, you’re not doing the step right. You’re stupid,” he told Donald. Thirty-five years later, Donald told Debbie that Gene picked on him because he was in fact always mad at her. But, Gene knew that if he kept yelling at the young actress she would hold up production with her tears. “So he screamed at Donald, who wouldn’t cry,” Debbie concluded. Finally, Gene realized it was he who was tapping the dance steps incorrectly. This only fueled his temper; he chided his co-stars, who had noticed his fault all along, for not informing him of it.

After all the suffering involved in “Good Morning,” Gene was still unhappy with Debbie’s dancing and decided someone should dub her taps. He went into the recording room to dub the sound of her feet as well as his own. Gene’s lifelong drive for perfection and incessant dissatisfaction (which Debbie intuited was largely directed at himself) could not help but transfer to his co-stars. He did not take long to apologize to Donald O’Connor for using him as a whipping boy. “That’s okay, Gene. But next time you do it, I’ll kick you in the balls,” Donald told him with no trace of his usual clowning. There is no record that Gene ever unleashed his anger on Donald again.


Weird and Wonderful Tales from the Editorial Department: Meet Joe Martin

9780813174259Senior Editing Supervisor Ila McEntire loves a good story, and she’s in the right job to read some great ones. She delighted our staff recently by sharing the tale of an editorial mystery that arose while she was working on Barbara La Marr: The Girl Who Was Too Beautiful for Hollywood by Sherri Snyder. Ila’s story was so much fun, we wanted to share it with you.

It all started with a photo caption . . .

and Joe Martin

Barbara La Marr with Ramon Novarro and Joe Martin in TRIFLING WOMEN (formerly BLACK ORCHIDS). From the collections of the Margaret Herrick Library, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.


While editing our forthcoming biography of silent film star Barbara La Marr, I came across this photo and this (slightly edited) caption: “Barbara La Marr with Ramon Novarro and Joe Martin in TRIFLING WOMEN (1922).” It’s my job to make sure the photos match the captions, and I only see two people in this photo—Barbara and Ramon. “Where the heck is Joe Martin?” I thought.

JoeMEET JOE MARTIN. An orangutan who happened to be a silent film star. During this particular film’s production he attacked a (human) costar who antagonized him after fifteen grueling hours onset. It took six men to rescue the victim, who came away from the altercation with some broken bones and a nasty bite on his hand; he never worked with Joe Martin again. Joe was usually gentle, and he adored the film’s leading lady (Barbara La Marr).

Our Director of Editing, Design, and Production, David Cobb, had never heard of Joe Marin either, and we discovered (by Googling) that there’s a controversy as to his species —some folks say chimp, some say orangutan. (Our author says orangutan, so I’m obliged to agree.)

But the IMBD page identifies him as a chimp. I don’t know whose flag to follow, but he looks like an orangutan in the photo to me!

Barbara La Marr: The Girl Who Was Too Beautiful for Hollywood will be available in November, 2017.

Happy Birthday, Dustin Hoffman!

Dustin Hoffman became an octogenarian today! Among his many acting roles, one of Hoffman’s most famous is that of Benjamin Braddock, the hapless title character of 1967’s The Graduate. He starred alongside Anne Bancroft, known as the older seductress Mrs. Robinson. Anne Bancroft: A Life by Douglass K. Daniel mentions that Hoffman “had been impressive in stage work in New York and brought [a] kind of sweet goofiness to the part.”

Below is an excerpt from the book. Here, Hoffman and Bancroft are presenting together at the Oscars nearly three decades after The Graduate was released.

Those films had not yet been released when, in March 1993, Anne appeared on the Academy Awards show to present an Oscar for screenwriting. Presenting with her was her Graduate costar, Dustin Hoffman. In the years since their film Hoffman had starred in three best picture winners in three different decades—Midnight Cowboy, Kramer vs. Kramer, and Rain Man—and had won Oscars for the latter two films. None was more popular than The Graduate. Hoffman played off that nostalgia when he and Anne presented the awards for screenwriting via satellite from New York. It seems that Anne had not completed the description of the award for a screenplay written directly for the screen, and Hoffman added, “and not previously published or produced.” She turned to him and said, “Thank you,” but continued to hold him in her gaze.

Her former costar looked at her not once but twice before asking, “Are you trying to seduce me?” As the reference to the line from The Graduate drew laughter and applause, Anne smiled and turned to the audience and said, “Not anymore.” Both cracked up along with those in the room. “Oh, boy,” she said after Hoffman hugged her, “are we having fun.”

If you’re interested in learning more about Bancroft’s role in The Graduate and other films, pick up Anne Bancroft: A Life by Douglass K. Daniel, forthcoming from UPK in September 2017.

THE GRADUATE, from left: Anne Bancroft, Dustin Hoffman, 1967

Anne and Dustin Hoffman in the seduction scene in The Graduate (1967). The huge financial and critical success forever set her in the public’s mind as the sexy Mrs. Robinson. Everett Collection