Beer cheese soup is traditionally German but is also popular in the Midwest, where fall and winter weather makes it a welcome bowl of warmth. You can use any Berghoff beer with this, but my favorite is Berghoff Original Amber. The only tricks to making this beer cheese soup are using freshly grated cheese (packaged pre-grated cheese from the supermarket doesn’t melt well) and not letting the soup boil during or after adding the cheese. I like to serve it with a plain or caraway pretzel, or with freshly popped popcorn. Put the bowl of popcorn on the table and let everyone add it to the cheese soup as they eat.–Carlyn Berghoff and Nancy Ross Ryan
LC In Advance Note
We know, we know. You want immediate gratification. But sometimes there’s something to be said for delayed gratification. Or perhaps we ought to say there’s something to be slurped, because when the soup is left to rest overnight in the fridge, the flavors mellow, the texture thickens, and the overall experience becomes one of beery, cheesy goodness.
Beer Cheese Soup
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 1/2 cups (about 2 medium-size) finely chopped leeks white and pale green parts only
- 2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 3 cups whole milk at room temperature
- 2 cups homemade chicken stock or canned chicken broth
- 1 bottle (12-ounce) Berghoff amber beer or any other amber beer
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon mustard powder
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cups freshly shredded mild Cheddar cheese
- 2 cups freshly shredded Swiss cheese
- Fresh Baked Pretzels or freshly popped popcorn for serving
- Heat the butter in an 8- to 10-quart stock pot over medium heat. Add the leeks, garlic, and bay leaf, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the leeks are tender, about 6 minutes. Decrease the heat to medium-low, sprinkle the flour over the leek mixture, and cook for 3 minutes, stirring often. Slowly whisk in the milk, 1 cup at a time, and cook, whisking, until smooth and fully thickened. (This takes some time, so don’t try to rush this step.)
- Slowly add the broth and beer, whisking constantly until fully incorporated. Bring the soup to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes, whisking occasionally from the bottom to prevent sticking and burning. Remove and discard the bay leaf. Stir in the Worcestershire, mustard, salt, and pepper.
- Add the cheese by handfuls, stirring constantly. Cook over medium heat without boiling until the cheese is melted, 3 to 4 minutes. Keep the soup warm until ready to serve. Stir well before serving with fresh pretzels or a big bowl of fresh popcorn. The soup may be made ahead and refrigerated for up to 4 days. Reheat in the microwave on medium power or on the stovetop, in a hot-water bath, until hot.
Soup VariationsInstead of grating cheese at home, have the deli slice the cheese thinly. Then add to the soup slice by slice. Use half sharp and half mild Cheddar. Substitute vegetable broth for the chicken broth.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
This Beer Cheese Soup recipe is delish, perfect for a cold night, and deserves a Testers’ Choice mark for being excellent comfort food. (With four cups of cheese, however, you may want to visit your cardiologist after eating a bowl or two.) The ale cuts the richness of the cheese with a slight bitterness, making it frighteningly easy to throw down a big bowl. The preparation is mostly simple, but the recipe could use more specificity in its description of whisking in the milk. It should come to a healthy simmer in order to thicken properly. Next time, I would try a bit less flour to make the consistency a little thinner. Topping it with fresh chives adds color and texture.
This is a soup that benefits from being made ahead of time. It was delicious the night I made it, but the flavors really melded when I reheated it the day after. This is not a sweet cheese soup, so soft pretzels, rye croutons, and similar complimentary flavors are just the right garnishes. When adding the milk after the flour (roux) stage, keep stirring and watching until the mixture has a thick, almost pudding-like consistency. You want this part of the recipe to have enough body to handle the addition of the stock and beer, or you’ll end up with a thin soup. We got 4 servings of soup from this recipe. Serve with a rich salad or add a charcuterie plate before.
Originally published October 06, 2009