Food & Drink

Big changes at the Beer Cheese Festival: No more all-you-can-eat

Winchester’s annual Beer Cheese Festival begins Saturday. Beer Cheese Bucks can be purchased at the festival to try the cheeses.
Winchester’s annual Beer Cheese Festival begins Saturday. Beer Cheese Bucks can be purchased at the festival to try the cheeses. staff file photo

The Beer Cheese Festival has a new system: Beer Cheese Bucks.

This year, Winchester’s Beer Cheese Festival will let fans (and there are many: about 30,000 people attend annually) roam freely. In previous years, the festival took place inside a fenced perimeter. In order to enter, you needed to purchase a wristband, and then could eat as much beer cheese as you wanted.

While the system worked for beer cheese lovers, those who didn’t want to eat the beer cheese still needed to buy a wristband to enter with friends and family. Now, the 2019 festival removed the fence and those who want to eat can purchase “Beer Cheese Bucks.”

“For over a decade the number one piece of advice festival fans had for us was consistent – get rid of the fenced off area,” the Beer Cheese Festival’s website reads. “You wanted to wander freely. You wanted your party to be able to stay together even if everyone in the group didn’t want to sample beer cheese from our illustrious competitors.”

Attendees can get 10 beer cheese bucks for $5. Each beer cheese buck represents one sample from a booth of the festival goer’s choice. So for $5, people are able to sample 10 types of cheese. Or eat 10 samples of one if that’s what they choose.

The money from the bucks will be used to help compensate the competitors at the festival. According to the Beer Cheese Festival website, for each buck the competitors earn, they will earn cash.

“Last year, each competitor gave away about 80 pounds of cheese,” their website reads. “That’s over 700 pounds of product! We would like to fairly compensate them for their time and inventory.”

After people use their bucks to sample the cheeses, they can vote for their favorites. The festival selects winners in the professional and amateur categories.

The festival also features different food vendors, live music and arts and crafts.

This year’s professional competitors will include Big Poppie’s Beer Cheese, Blue Isle Home-style Restaurant and Bar, Bootlegger Beer Cheese, Copper Kettle Beer Cheese, Dad’s Favorites Cheese Spreads, Hall’s The Original Snappy Beer Cheese, Kentucky Beer Cheese, Nana’s Beer Cheese, Roddy B’s Beer Cheese, River Rat Beer Cheese, Slushers Beer Cheese and Smitty’s Craft Beer Cheese.

Beer Cheese Festival

When: June 8, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Where: Main Street, Winchester

Tickets: $5 for 10 Beer Cheese Bucks