Spread It On

Posted on
Natalie Voss

Olivia’s Beer Cheese gaining popularity in Lexington

Olivia Swan (left) and her brother, Michael Hunter (right), with their father, Mike Hunter. PHOTOS BY ROBBIE CLARK

The sharp, spicy taste that beer cheese brings to a simple cracker can be the basis of a lifelong addiction for some central Kentucky residents. For Olivia Swan and her family, that first taste was much more than a fantastic finger food at a tailgate or picnic.

“My dad tells me that he tried to give me a taste of beer cheese when I was a baby, but I didn’t like it. But by age 3, I started liking it, and I never stopped,” Swan said. “Growing up, my brother (Michael Hurter) and I loved beer cheese. We went to Hall’s on the River and Hall’s on Main Street and got hooked. When my brother was 7 or 8 years old, he even included beer cheese on his Christmas list for Santa.”

Swan says she and her brother missed beer cheese when they moved away to go to college. They stocked up on containers of beer cheese during trips home, and succeeded in getting their college friends interested in the spread. While Swan was at home from the University of Chicago during winter break in 2006, she and her father began experimenting with making their own beer cheese, which they eventually began sharing with family and friends.

Locally made Olivia’s Beer Cheese uses a number of unique ingredients, including West Sixth Brewing’s IPA beer.

In 2010, Swan and her father entered the beer cheese contest in Winchester’s Beer Cheese Festival Amateur Competition, and they won.

At that point, Swan says, she began wondering whether her family could turn their love of beer cheese into a business.

Swan believes that it was her father’s entrepreneurial pursuits as a commercial landlord that led her and her brother to feel comfortable launching a new business despite the depressed economy. Surprisingly, she did not pursue the entrepreneur concentration in school because she couldn’t imagine starting her own business at the time.

“To me, what is compelling about working for a beer cheese business is realizing that my sister and I had a hobby that we were talented at, and that we could develop a business from our hobby,” Hurter agreed. “It is the entrepreneurial spirit, and I believe that my sister and I are both inspired by our father’s entrepreneurial spirit.”

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