Friday, April 1, 2011

Brown's Tastee Beer Cheese

I was making my rounds yesterday and stopped into Pisgah to see a man about a horse, and you know I can't go to Pisgah without dropping into my favorite donut shop in the solar system, Doughdaddy's.

This day found me desirous of something savory in addition to my customary box o' cream cheese covered donuts, and so I reached into their beer cheese cooler. They have an admirable selection of Kentucky beer cheeses, including several I've never tried, and the duck selected Brown's Tastee Beer Cheese. The package says they're based in Versailles, but their website says Lawrenceburg. Either way, both fine towns with a beer cheese to be Kentucky-Proud of.

As regular readers must know, the only yardstick by which to measure the greatness of a beer cheese is The Johnny Scale, meaning, how close is it to Johnny Allman's original formula? Friends, it's right up there near the top, alongside River Rat (whose package bears the slogan "Just Like Johnny's") and the new Allman's Beer Cheese which revives Johnny's recipe, thanks to his grandson's noble efforts.

Brown's Tastee meets my core criteria:

1. It's delicious.
2. It's spicy-hot but not stupidly so.
3. It contains beer. (You'd be surprised how many wannabe beer cheeses dont!) However, the beer does not dominate the flavor, nor does the garlic, which is as it should be.
4. It has an approximation of the correct texture, for which there is no word to adequately convey. "Fibrous" doesn't sound right, and "grainy" comes closer but still misleads. But the texture is there.

And when you put it in the freezer with the lid off - not long enough to freeze it solid but just long enough to give it an extra crystalline surface veneer - and knife it into small paper ketchup-cups, it succeeds as a simulacra of what my childhood mind (I had both "photographic memory" and synethesia as a tot) recorded in the late 1960s and early 1970s during my visits to Johnny's with my parents.

The texture issue is what often trips up other leading contenders for Allmanesque greatness. Kentucky Ale Beer Cheese, on the other hand, has the texture down, but tastes very different from Johnny's because of the addition of mustard powder to the proceedings. The beer cheese one was served at Johnny's was not quite as spread-like and dip-like as what you buy in a tub today - the nudging of the formula towards being a spread comes from emulation of Hall's, which for many years was the reigning beer cheese in supermarkets, but had a completely version for retail as compared to the actual restaurant's.

- - JSH

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