Beer cheese soup is well-loved across our great nation. Especially by beer aficionados and even more so in the state of Wisconsin where it is on the menus of most pubs, breweries and even fine-dining restaurants.
Chris and I sometimes refer to Wisconsin as the ‘state delicious’. Because of their rich cheese making traditions and amazing craft beer scene. And of course the Beer Battered Fried Cheese Curds.
What’s in a Beer Cheese Soup?
Chris has been using this tried and true recipe for beer cheese soup for a long time. In pretty much all the restaurants he has worked at he’s had it as a cooking with beer special. People never fail to order it and in all honesty whenever we spot it on a menu we act in precisely the same manner.
There is magic in the combination of cheese, malty ale or lager, butter, flour and other zesty flavors…It is irresistible.
Besides beer and cheese there are a few essential ingredients that turn this soup into the rich, nutrient loaded, flavor packed delicacy that it is. Let’s look at them first and then focus on the actual beer and cheese.
To make an authentic Wisconsin style beer cheese soup you will need:
- beer and cheese (see below for details)
- butter – everything tastes better when butter is involved, doesn’t it?
- celery sticks
- yellow onion
- red, yellow or orange sweet pepper (a bit goes a long way)
- flour – the perfect thickener and agent to help the cheese melt better into the broth
- chicken stock – if you have homemade all the better
- bay leaf, cayenne pepper/red chili flakes, salt and pepper, ground Mustard seed (or finely ground mustard) and a generous dash of Worcestershire
Best Cheese to Use
The best cheese to use in beer cheese soup is hands down sharp cheddar.
The fat content, consistency, piquant flavor and even the color of sharp cheddar are simply perfect for this hearty soup. Cheddar is a great melting cheese and you can rest assured that if you follow our recipe instructions it will not separate.
It’s tangy yet smooth flavor stands up to the the malty contribution of the beer and partners well with the sweetness of the veggies and the umami of the chicken stock. It’s deep, bold color is appealing to the eye and absorbs the color contributions of the rest of the ingredients.
I don’t even want to discuss other cheese options. OK, maybe white cheddar. The good Wisconsin white cheddar that is. But really – go with sharp cheddar.
TIP: Grate the cheddar while still chilled from the refrigerator (it’s easier) and let it come to room temperature before adding it to the soup broth.
Best Beer To Use
Generally you should select a beer with a solid malty backbone or at least a well-balanced one. Toasty, biscuity and bready notes are very desirable and will seamlessly integrate with the rest of the ingredients.
For best results choose from among these styles:
- English browns or ambers, or even boozier winter warmers (see ABV comments below)
- American browns or ambers (hopped with European noble hops and leaning on the malty side, low IBU)
- Helles, Dunkel, Vienna lager, Oktoberfest lager
- Bock, Dopplebock, boozier Altbier – in terms of ABV content beer cheese soup tends to taste even better when a boozier style is used. So reach out for these malty, higher ABV German styles with confidence
NOTE: Stay away from bitter aggressively hopped (early in the boil) styles. Also avoid styles flavored with hops that are citrusy, too fruity, too floral or dank. You want the hops to bring flavors compatible with the rest of the ingredients – herbal, grassy, and earthy.
How to Make Beer Cheese Soup
Follow the steps in the image grid above or watch the video demonstration in the recipe card.
- Start by creating the flavorful soup base. Melt the butter in a pot over medium heat and saute the diced carrots, celery, onion, pepper, garlic and the bay leaf until softened.
- Add the flour, stir to incorporate and cook for about a minute.
- Add the chicken broth, the cream and the beer and simmer.
- Remove from the heat, remove and discard the bay leaf, add the remaining ingredients except for the cheese and blend with an immersion blender to create a smooth texture.
- Slowly stir in the cheese working in batches. Once it has melted place the soup back on the stove for a few extra minutes on low heat and then serve immediately.
Beer Cheese Soup
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1 yellow onion large, diced
- 2 celery stalks diced
- 2 carrots medium, diced
- 1/2 red or orange bell pepper diced
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/3 cup flour
- 2 1/2 cups chicken broth
- 1 cup cream
- 12 oz beer well-balanced or malty
- 2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 1 tsp dry mustard (ready powdered or grind whole mustard seed)
- 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 tsp cayenne or red pepper flakes optional
- 3 cups shredded Cheddar cheese (white cheddar works too)
- 3 stalks green onion green part only, chopped, for garnish
- bread croutons optional, for garnish
Heat a heavy bottom pot/large saucepan over medium heat. Add the butter and let it melt.
Add the diced onion, celery, carrots, pepper and garlic and sauté until softened, stirring occasionally. About 5-6 minutes.
Sprinkle the flour and mix well. Cook for about a minute, stirring frequently.
While stirring add the chicken broth, the cream and the beer. Mix well and add the seasonings - salt and pepper, mustard, Worcestershire and cayenne/red pepper flakes.
Add the cheese to the pureed soup base working in batches and stirring. Place the pot back on the stove. Heat up over low heat to blend all the flavors, about 3-5 mins.
Serve right away, garnished with green onions and croutons (optional).
For best results choose a beer that is not aggressively hoppy such as English or American amber ale or lager, brown ale, German helles, Vienna lager, dunkel, bock, doppelbock.
This is a very rich, very flavorful soup - serve in combination with lighter fare or as main course, especially if accompanied by soft pretzels.
The beer cheese soup can be reheated - for best results warm up leftover quantity in a small saucepan over medium low heat.
About the Garnishes
If you really wanted to stay true to the Wisconsin beer cheese soup ways you can always sub the croutons with popcorn. Popcorn is commonly used as garnish in Wisconsin. We prefer croutons though. There is just something about soggy popcorn and the exquisite flavors of the beer soup that doesn’t add up for us.
Of course, soft pretzels always make a good companion with beer cheese dips and this soup. If you are up for it – why not Beer Soft Pretzels?
I’ve written before how the concept of modern day beer soup is credited to the Germans. The addition of sharp cheddar to beer, butter and flour based soup has its roots in England though and so does the Worcestershire.
The German immigrants in Wisconsin are largely credited with taking this easy and fast soup to its current culinary heights.
Whoever it was who really came up with the concept – thank you!!!
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