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The most delicious week in Winchester 

FOR ONE DAY EACH YEAR, a stretch of Main Street in downtown Winchester is dubbed Beer Cheese Boulevard, and thousands of locals and visitors take a stroll through the birthplace of beer cheese, one of the commonwealth’s signature dishes. Along the way, they can enjoy the sounds of local musicians playing from the steps of the courthouse as they stop to have a bite from each of the 15 participating beer cheese producers before casting their votes for the best overall. 

This year’s Beer Cheese Festival is June 10, but before that, some of the city’s restaurants will serve up their own selection of dishes featuring the local delicacy during Beer Cheese Week, May 23–29. 

Organizers anticipate a draw of 25,000 attendees, more than the population of Winchester itself, for this year’s single-day event. Attendees can also enjoy browsing dozens of arts and crafts vendors—more than 175 vendors were there in 2022—activities for kids, shopping along the boulevard or stocking up on their favorite flavors from the festival’s Beer Cheese Store. Visitors can even submit their own beer cheese for competition, to be judged by a panel. Winners receive a trophy and cash prize. 

For those uninitiated into the wonders of beer cheese, it’s perhaps best explained by its origins. Beer cheese originated at Allman’s Restaurant on the Kentucky River, just outside of Winchester. The foundation of the building still exists across from Hall’s organizer Kim Bugg fondly remember when Hall’s served complimentary beer cheese as an appetizer. But the old Allman’s recipe is no longer the definition of what beer cheese is—over 80 or so years, the dish has taken on a life of its own. 

Some serve theirs hot, others cold. Some use processed cheese, others freshly shredded. Some insist the beer must be flat, while others choose from a variety of craft brews, from light to stout. All mix a basic recipe with their own blend of spices and serve it with anything from crunchy crackers to an array of veggies. 

“We’ve seen a lot of entrepreneurs come out who are making their own beer cheese,” Turner says. “All of the restaurants that are on our Beer Cheese Trail, they have their own recipe and make their own beer cheese. And it’s not just a dip anymore; it is an ingredient that you can use in almost anything you think of.” 

A beer cheese reveler enjoys a taste of the festival’s celebrated creation. Photo: Cindy Banks
Gregg and Tammy Moberly cheese it up on Beer Cheese Boulevard. Photo: Tammy Moberly
A view of Beer Cheese Boulevard, the Beer Cheese Festival’s main thoroughfare. Photo: Cindy Banks
Woody’s Sports Bar & Grill won the 2022 Beer Cheese Week competition with this grilled chicken and beer cheese quesadilla. Photo: Tammy Moberly
These beer cheese deviled eggs were featured by Full Circle Market during Beer Cheese Food Week 2021. Photo: Laura Sheehan

Multiple recipes, multiple purposes 

When the COVID-19 pandemic sent people indoors and forced restaurants to close their doors for an indeterminate amount of time, the Winchester-Clark County Chamber of Commerce wanted to support member restaurants and encourage the community to continue supporting local businesses. The chamber encouraged the community to participate in Takeout Tuesdays and Shop Local Saturdays, but the birth of Beer Cheese Week, now in its third year, is perhaps its most memorable campaign. The now-annual event features specialty beer cheese menu items, all listed for $9.99. 

Cindy Banks, the chamber’s executive director, says some restaurant owners estimated that business as much as tripled during that inaugural week, compared with pre-pandemic weekly sales. 

“They each designed a different dish that incorporated beer cheese, and they all did it as takeout and it was such a huge thing,” Banks says. “Everybody voted for it. And they liked it so much, we just kept going. So now we’re just making it an annual thing.“ 

Fondue, Philly cheesesteaks, beer cheese vinaigrette, grits, pizza and nachos all have graced the menus of Beer Cheese Week—some of the dishes are so popular, they have become permanent fixtures. In addition to their own beer cheese recipes, many restaurants make their cheese available to buy by the tub, and continue to offer their beer cheese dishes throughout the festival. 

Festival attendance is free, but a round of Beer Cheese Bucks, which provides enough tickets to sample once from vendors and cast a vote for pro and amateur favorites, costs $10. Attendees can purchase as many tickets as they’d like, and festival revenue goes toward local revitalization projects. Previous projects have included commissioning murals and replacing trash cans across downtown Winchester. 

To enter the beer cheese contest, competitors must register by 11 a.m. on June 10 and pay a $15 entry fee.

These restaurants will participate in this year’s Beer Cheese Week. Enjoy unique beer cheese-inspired creations May 23–29 in Winchester. 

Beech Springs Farm Market 

4776 Old Boonesboro Road 

(859) 744-2868 

Bell on Wheels 

Food truck, can often be found at Abettor Brewing (128 N. Highland St.) 

(859) 749-3053 

DJ’s Bar and Grill 

836 Bypass Road  

(859) 737-9513 

The Engine House Pub & Pizza Parlour 

9 W. Lexington Ave. 

(859) 355-5021 

Full Circle Market 

1988 Bypass Road 

(859) 744-3008 

Hall’s on the River 

1225 Athens Boonesboro Road 

(859) 527-6620 

JayK’s at Forest Grove 

4636 Old Boonesboro Road  

(859) 744-4444 

La Trattoria 

30 N. Main St. 

(859) 385-4113 

Loma’s at the Opera House 

103 S. Main St. 

(859) 745-2716 

The View at Southwinds Golf Course 

Southwinds Golf Course 

175 Clubhouse Drive 

(859) 882-8439 

Smokin’ Howards Sports Bar and Grill 

20 N. Main St. 

(859) 355-5400 

South Main Grocery & Grill 

385 S. Main St. 

(859) 744-8268 

Woody’s Sports Bar & Grill

923 Bypass Road 

(859) 744-1969 

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