This Fontina beer cheese dip incorporates the flavors of an American blonde ale brewed with honey and fresh jalapeño. And it is simply perfect with tortilla chips and pale ale.
At some point every fall I start craving tortilla chips. Cannot explain why, I rarely have them during the rest of the year. Then all of a sudden I fill my cart at the grocery store with several bags of them and get busy thinking about the various dips that can be eaten with them.
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Last week we had invited a few friends over and planned a taco bar, which of course implies tortilla chips and the necessity of an appropriate dip for them as accompanying items.
We also had quite a few bottles of St.Lupulin. The last ones this year of a seasonal dry-hopped pale ale brewed by our local Odell Brewing Co. It is strikingly aromatic, not too bitter (IBU 40, as can be expected from a dry-hopped ale), beautifully crisp and easy to drink.
Pale ales are Chris’ favorite style and I wanted to make a tasty but balanced dip that’d really pair well with the St. Lupulin. Perhaps a hint of spiciness in the dip, but nothing overwhelming, with neither the cheese nor the beer contributing overpowering flavors.
Beer wise I settled on a blonde ale brewed with honey and cheese wise I decided on Fontina. We happened to have one last can of Killer Bees American blonde ale brewed by Melving Brewing Co. in Wyoming. (Most recently they got a Gold medal for their pale ale Hubert at the 2017 Great American Beer Festival (American-style strong ale category). It is so different from the St. Lupulin, such a pronounced resiny bite for a pale).
But back to the Killer Bees blonde ale in the Fontina beer cheese dip. It is not overly sweet despite the touch of honey. We thought the honey can mostly be discerned in the aroma, accompanied by very pleasant floral hop notes and mild biscuity and grassy flavors. Perfect match for Fontina.
I could have easily used an amber ale or a Munich Helles or just a classic blonde ale instead and achieved very similar results. The options in terms of beer style are noted in the recipe. Cooking with beer always entails more than one beer style options. That’s something to love, isn’t it?
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Fontina is a semi-soft Italian cow’s milk cheese known for its earthy flavor and excellent melting properties. The original Italian cheese acquires a nutty taste when aged and is covered with a muted orange color rind. It can be quite pungent.
The cheese I actually used for this Fontina beer cheese dip was a milder version of the style, produced in Wisconsin. In result it had very subdued flavors overall and married well with the honey blonde ale and the fresh jalapeño. I cleaned the ribs and removed all the seeds of the pepper prior to dicing it to ensure the residual heat will be mild and complement the subtle flavors of the other ingredients.
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Before I wrap up, I want to reference our post on Red ale and Gouda dip for general tips on how to approach hot beer cheese dips, appropriate cheeses to use as well as pointers on beer styles.
Otherwise, the preparation technique is as simple as can be (basically a lot of stirring and circular motions:) It is the same regardless of whether you intend to call the end result a Fontina beer cheese dip or fondue or simply a beer cheese sauce. Enjoy!
- 1 12 oz blonde ale (substitute with amber ale or Munich Helles)
- ½ pound (a little over is OK) of shredded Fontina cheese (works out to 3 cups full)
- ¼ cup + 2 tbsp flour
- ½ stick unsalted butter
- 1 fresh jalapeño pepper, seeds and inner ribs removed
- salt and white pepper to taste
- Shred the Fontina, coat with the ¼ cup flour and set aside to reach room temperature.
- Once the cheese is at room temperature over medium heat melt the butter and add the diced jalapeño pepper. Stir a few times.
- Add the additional 2 tbsp flour and stir to form a roux.
- Slowly add and stir in the blonde ale.
- Remove from heat and begin adding the flour coated shredded Fontina cup by cup, slowly stirring it in as it melts.
- Season with salt and white pepper and transfer to a serving dish or a fondue pot to keep it warm.
- Serve immediately.