Now that it’s getting cold out, we’re warming up with a big pot full of our favorite things: beer, cheese, and bacon. It’s a soup that’s easy to make, but easy to mess up if you don’t use quality ingredients.
We always use Boulevard Brewery’s Pale Ale. It’s our hometown brewery’s flagship beer, and still one of its most popular. Since Boulevard recently announced a partnership with Duvel-Moortgat, there’s a good chance that if it’s not available in your area, it will be soon. If you can’t find Boulevard, any quality pale ale will do. With a great balance of hops and a malty backbone, pale ale perfectly complements many different cheeses. And this soup calls for three: a white cheddar (or cheddar-style), a double Gloucester, and a fontina to add a creamy texture. You can mix up your cheeses a bit — as long as they come from the fancy-cheese part of the store — but don’t use anything that’s been aged too long, or it won’t melt well.
Other than the cheese trio, this is a pretty bare-bones recipe that allows the flavors of the cheeses and the beer to really shine through — meaning, you can actually taste the beer in every bite. Some soups benefit from long cook times, but this soup only needs to simmer for a little while. The flavors meld quickly, and you don’t want to cook all the alcohol out of the beer.
This recipe yields about 6 hungry-man servings, or 8 small appetizer servings.
Beer, Cheese, and Bacon Soup
3 thick slices bacon
1/2 stick butter
1/4 cup flour
1 cup half and half
8 ounces white cheddar-style cheese, shredded
8 ounces Gloucester cheese, shredded
8 ounces fontina cheese, shredded
12 ounces Boulevard Pale Ale (or other craft pale ale)
1/2 cup vegetable stock
About 10 dashes of hot sauce
Salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste
Cut the bacon into lardons. Place the lardons in a large sauce pan over medium heat. Once they’re browned and crispy, remove them with a slotted spoon or tongs and set aside, leaving the fat in the pan.
Add the butter to the pan and allow it to melt. Then add the flour, and stir until it begins to smell nutty. Add the cream and stir to incorporate, then slowly add the cheeses, stirring continuously. When the cheeses are melted, add the beer, vegetable stock, and hot sauce, and mix well. Salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately.
Garnish individual servings with crispy bacon and chives on top, and serve with a cold beer and some rustic bread on the side.
Full disclosure: Kyle recently started giving tours every other Sunday at Boulevard Brewery. But that’s only because he talked about the beer so much, they finally decided to start paying him to do it. He’s been making beer-cheese soup with Boulevard’s Pale Ale for years. Promise.