Beer Cheese Soup

To say this soup was hit around here is an understatement. I had been experimenting with my beer cheese soup earlier in the year, trying to get a really nice herbal taste using one of my favorite cheeses, derby sage. (In general I love sage, especially with cheddar and mozzarella.) I couldn’t get the taste just right though, and eventually I came to my senses and just added a bunch of sage and thyme to my soup. The results couldn’t have been better, especially when the herbs blend so well with slight heat of the cayenne. This recipe should serve 6-8 people a 2 cup serving. Don’t be surprised if four people eat it all before the end of the first quarter.

You will need:

2 tablespoons butter
1 cup diced carrots (about 2 medium carrots)
1 cup diced celery (about 2 stalks of celery)
1 cup diced onion (about one medium-small onion)
cracker pepper and kosher salt
1/4 cup flour
2 cups milk, preferably whole milk or at least 2% milk fat
8 ounces shredded medium sharp cheddar, freshly shredded
8 ounces shredded extra sharp cheddar, freshly shredded
2 cups chicken stock, room temperature
1 cup beer, room temperature, light lager or light pilsner style, like Miller High Life or IC Light. (NOT an IPA or your soup will be bitter.)
4-5 good sized fresh sage leaves, minced (about a teaspoon or so)
6-8 fresh pieces of thyme, leaves only, minced (about a teaspoon or so)
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

Ingredient notes: Why do I say used freshly shredded cheese instead of pre-shredded cheese out of the bag? Because pre-shredded cheese often has some sort of additive to make sure the cheese doesn’t stick together. This will effect the smoothness of your soup and may even prevent it from coming together at all.

And again, DO NOT USE A STRONG TASTING BEER IN YOUR SOUP. Really not messing around on this one. I’ve tried multiple times to make beer cheese soup with a hoppy beer and it just doesn’t work.

You want both the stock and beer to be room temperature because adding cold ingredients to your melted cheese may cause your soup to separate and you don’t want that to happen.

Melt the butter in a large stock pot over medium heat and then add the carrots, celery and onion with a generous pinch of kosher salt and cracked pepper. Cook until softened, stirring often as not let the vegetables stick the bottom of the pot. When the onions become translucent and the carrots are soft, stir in the flour and turn up the heat just a touch to medium-high. Cook for a couple of more minutes, stirring constantly to toast the flour and create the base for your hybrid-roux. Slowly whisk in the milk and keep stirring until it starts to thicken.

Once the roux and vegetables have started to thicken, add in the shredded cheese. Keep whisking until all the cheese is completely melted and turn the heat back down to medium flame.

This next part takes a bit of patience, so take your time and you’ll have an easier go of it. Stirring constantly, slowly the stock and the beer a small bit — say a 1/4-1/2 cup — at a time. As you liquid, keep stirring and let it incorporate before adding more liquid or your soup will start to separate. Keep doing this until all of the beer and stock have been added.

Once the soup is smooth, stir in the sage, thyme, mustard, smoked paprika, ground cayenne and a pinch more of ground pepper. Reduce the heat to medium-low and allow to simmer and thicken for about 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally and scraping the bottom of the pot to make sure nothing is sticking to the bottom.

Now at this point, you might be thinking to yourself, “Is this soup too thin? Should I let it go another 15 minutes? Did I do something wrong?” No. You did not. Remember the carrots, celery and onions?

Remove the pot from the stove and with an immersion stick blender, puree the heck out of your soup. As smooth as Kaepernick running another 10 yards without breaking a sweat. Now you have a perfect soup texture. Don’t have a immersion stick blender? Working in small batches and being very careful with the hot soup, puree in a traditional blender.

Return to the stove to cook simmer for another few minutes and then serve.

Serves 6-8 (2) cup servings.

If you don’t eat all of the soup that day, refrigerate immediately.  To reheat, slowly cook over low heat in a sauce pan whisking constantly as to prevent the soup from separating. (If it does separate, it’s not the end of the world. Still tastes the same, just not as smooth of a texture.)