A satisfying combination of dark beer, cheese and fried bacon makes a luxurious Beer Cheese Soup with surprising depth.
Everything about the character of beer cheese soups has to do with the particular choice of beer as a base. Usually, light mass-produced lagers are used as they are the most common product available, and they can bring a mild malty sweetness to the dish. However, the booming craft beer movement in the United States and around the world means a much wider selection of beer styles can afford a greater range of flavor choices.
This recipe uses a porter, a darker style of beer but not as dark or as heavy as a stout such as Guinness. Porters are English ales known for their roasted malt flavor that includes elements of coffee, charcoal and heavily toasted bread with a balance between sweet and bitter. For such a dark beer, beef broth is paired as a compliment to its browned, roasty tastes; if a lighter beer is used such as a blonde ale or lager, substitute chicken stock instead. Avoid hoppy beers like India pale ales (IPAs) or imperial stouts.
Secondary but no less important is the choice of cheese. A sharp Cheddar is the most common as it is easy to find, melts well and delivers great flavor and texture. Any good melting cheese will do such as Fontina, Gouda, Asiago, Provolone or even mozzarella, and smoked versions are even better. Avoid dry, crumbly cheeses like feta, Parmigiano-Reggiano or blue cheeses as they do not melt smoothly.
And if you begin with rendered bacon fat as the base of you roux, the combination of beer, cheese, bacon and lightly fried onion builds a rich, satisfying creamy soup. Serve it with minced chives, crumbled bacon and toasted croutons.
Beer Cheese Soup
2 slices of bacon
½ white onion
8 oz Cheddar cheese
12 oz beer
2 c beef broth
1 c milk
2 T butter
¼ c flour
1 t Worcestershire sauce
½ t garlic powder
¼ t cayenne
¼ t paprika
1 Fry the bacon until crisp, then remove to drain. Reserve the rendered fat.
2 Finely chop the onion and fry in the butter and bacon fat until soft, about 5 min. Stir in the flour, mixing into a blonde paste.
3 Whisk in the broth in stages to create a roux. Add the spices and beer, and bring to a low boil. Simmer, covered, for about 5-10 min.
4 Grate the cheese and stir into the soup in batches, melting until each is completely incorporated. Stir in the milk to finish, and season to taste.
Garnish with crumbled bacon and minced chives.