Close Menu
Close Menu

Beer Cheese Soup: A Wisconsin Classic

Wisconsin beer cheese soup is a favorite in pubs, supper clubs, and fine restaurants alike. The creamy delight is a true taste of the Badger State. Learn more about this delectable appetizer (or, entrée!) and how to make it!

Beer and Cheese. They’re the top two food groups in Wisconsin. And in the frigid Wisconsin winters, there’s no better way to warm up than with soup. No wonder beer cheese soup is a favorite around here. It is often enjoyed as an appetizer or as a main course, accompanied by crusty bread, pretzel rolls, or popcorn.

A dark brown soup mug filled with Beer Cheese soup, garnished with chopped green onions and cheese shreds.

Just as many of the people in Wisconsin, beer cheese soup has its roots in Germany…or at least beer soup does. While it’s no longer found in modern German cuisine (which seems odd, come to think of it), beer soup was quite common in central Europe in medieval times, when it was often eaten with bread as breakfast. The early beer soups were typically based on dark beer, cream and egg yolk thickened with fat and flour cooked together in a roux. Eventually they were flavored with onions, salt, pepper, spices and cheese to create a more substantial and satisfying dish. As cheese became a primary ingredient—particularly in England, where Cheddar is king—the soup took on some of the zesty flavors associated with Welsh rarebit, like dijon mustard, and Worcestershire sauce.

Today beer cheese soup is a staple in restaurants throughout Wisconsin, and anywhere else beer and cheese are appreciated. Some places do it quick and easy, while others elevate it to an art form with the very finest of ingredients. (At a 2015 gala dinner celebrating Wisconsin Cheddar, one chef used a 10-year-old Cheddar in the soup course.) As you will see, time is not really much of a factor; where your soup falls on the quality continuum depends mostly on your choice of ingredients.

How To Make Beer Cheese Soup

Seasonings aside, there are three main ingredients that go into beer cheese soup:

  • Stock or broth (usually chicken)
  • Beer
  • Cheese

The Stock

Of course, any chef will tell you that making your own stock is essential to great cooking, and we’re not about to argue. Learn to make your own stock, and the quality of your cooking will increase dramatically. But in this soup the beer and cheese are the stars, so if you need to use purchased chicken broth, we won’t blame you one bit.

And, if you prefer to make this a vegetarian dish (lacto-vegetarian, of course, as a real cheese soup will never be vegan), a vegetable stock is completely acceptable and delicious. Now, on to the main players…

Two glass mugs of differents beers with cheddar and blue cheese on a cutting board for beer and cheese pairings.

The Beer

Most beer cheese soup recipes simply call for “beer”, but in reality, the kind of beer you use is one of the keys to your success. Naturally, we recommend Wisconsin beer for Wisconsin Beer Cheese Soup. But we realize that not all of our favorite craft beers are available outside our great state. So instead, we’ll steer in the direction of beer types.

What is the best beer for Beer Cheese Soup?

Your best bet is a farmhouse or session ale, or a light red or brown ale with an emphasis on malt and not so much on the hops. A full-strength American lager like Point, Leinenkugel’s, or good old Miller High Life (to name some Wisconsin examples) will do, but an English-style brown or amber ale is best. The recipe in this article was tested with Wisconsin Amber from Capital Brewery in Madison, Wisconsin…with an extra for the cook.

This is not the time to crack open a can of light beer. While it may be refreshing after mowing the lawn on a hot summer day, it doesn’t have enough flavor to support this soup. What you’re looking for is a malty sweetness to balance the tang of the cheese.

The medieval German recipe called for brown (dark) beer, and many modern recipes will call for a porter or stout. These are certainly powerhouses in the malt category and will add excellent flavor, but the intense darkness of the deeply roasted malts can turn your soup a rather unappetizing color. Also, make sure you stay away from some of the craft stouts that have had coffee or chocolate added to them.

You will also want to stay away from highly hopped IPAs (India Pale Ales) and APAs (American Pale Ales). While they are the most popular craft beers to drink today, the high volume of hops will add too much bitterness.

4 Year Vintage Cheddar

The Cheese

The choice of cheese for Beer Cheese Soup depends on personal preference and the desired flavor profile. However, certain cheeses are commonly used in traditional recipes to achieve the perfect balance of taste and texture.

Despite the German origins of this soup, the real deal is Cheddar cheese…preferably sharp. Some people like to add a little Muenster or Havarti for creaminess, a little Swiss for some nutty notes or maybe a little cream cheese for meltability, but sharp Cheddar provides the tangy backbone of flavor that really defines this soup, and its melting properties enhance the texture.

cheddar cheese cubes

Speaking of meltability, we know some people are tempted to use the pasteurized process cheese food product (which shall be unnamed) generally used in many a queso dip. Don’t go there.

There are some other cheeses to consider for Beer Cheese Soup – likely to accent the Cheddar base. It’s worth noting that combining different cheeses can create a more complex and flavorful soup. Experimenting with different cheese combinations allows for customization based on personal taste preferences. Ultimately, the best cheese for Beer Cheese Soup is the one that creates a delicious and satisfying flavor for your palate. Other cheeses to consider include:

Colby Cheese
  • Colby: Colby cheese is another common choice, known for its mild and creamy flavor. It melts well and contributes to a smooth and velvety texture.
  • Swiss: Swiss cheese brings a nutty and slightly sweet taste to the soup. Its characteristic holey texture and meltability make it a great addition.
  • Gouda: Gouda cheese adds a unique and slightly smoky flavor to the soup. It melts smoothly and enhances the overall richness.
  • Monterey Jack: Monterey Jack is a versatile cheese that melts easily and has a mild flavor. It adds a creamy texture and works well when combined with other cheeses.

So now that we’ve defined the building blocks, let’s make this satisfying, and very easy, beer cheese soup…

A dark brown soup mug filled with Beer Cheese soup, garnished with chopped green onions and cheese shreds.

Easy Beer Cheese Soup Recipe

  • 4 to 6 servings
  • ½ stick (¼ cup) butter
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped (2 cups)
  • 2 celery stalks, cut into ¼-inch dice (1 cup)
  • 2 medium carrots, cut into ¼-inch dice (1 cup)
  • 2 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1¾ cups chicken broth
  • 1 (12 fl. oz.) bottle beer
  • 2 cups half-and-half or heavy cream
  • 1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp. dry mustard
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 12 oz. sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded (3 cups)
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • Freshly popped popcorn

Melt butter in a 4-quart saucepan or dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion, celery, carrot, garlic and bay leaf; cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low and sprinkle flour over vegetables; cook another 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add broth, beer and half-and-half gradually, stirring constantly; simmer, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes. Add Worcestershire sauce, mustard, salt and cayenne.

Remove bay leaf; purée soup with an immersion blender until fairly smooth (this step is not necessary, but gives a more appealing appearance and texture).

Add cheese gradually, stirring constantly, and cook another 3 or 4 minutes or until cheese is melted.

Serve immediately, top with fresh ground black pepper, and garnished with popcorn.


Now, with only about a 40-minute cooking time, the Easy Beer Cheese Soup Recipe is great for weekdays. But if you want your slow cooker to do a lot of the work while you’re away, beer cheese soup is very adaptable to this favorite technique—with just a couple of modifications, one of which reduces the fat content. There will still be a little bit of cooking left to do to finish the soup when you get home.

Ginny's Slow Cooker

Beer Cheese Soup: Slow Cooker Recipe

  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped (2 cups)
  • 2 celery stalks, cut into ¼-inch dice (1 cup)
  • 2 medium carrots, cut into ¼-inch dice (1 cup)
  • 2 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1¾ cups chicken broth
  • 1 (12 fl. oz.) bottle beer
  • 1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp. dry mustard
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2 cups half-and-half or heavy cream
  • 12 oz. sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded (3 cups)
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • Freshly popped popcorn

Place first 11 ingredients in slow cooker. Cover and cook on low 7 to 8 hours.

Remove bay leaf; purée soup with an immersion blender until fairly smooth (optional).

Whisk flour and water together; add slowly to soup, stirring constantly. Cover and cook another 15 minutes, or until soup is thickened.

Stir in half-and-half and cheese gradually, stirring constantly, and cook another 3 or 4 minutes or until cheese is melted and soup is heated through.

Serve immediately, top with fresh ground black pepper, and garnished with popcorn.

Wisconsin Beer Cheese Soup, a beloved culinary delight, has become synonymous with the rich dairy heritage of the Badger State. From its humble origins to its widespread popularity in taverns and supper clubs, this comforting dish that has captured the hearts and palates of locals and visitors alike, and embodies the perfect balance of tangy cheese, robust beer, and a medley of flavorful ingredients. Discover how this creamy and satisfying soup has become an emblem of Wisconsin’s gastronomic legacy, enticing food enthusiasts and exemplifying the state’s love affair with dairy and craft beer.

Save

Comments (8)

Thanks for the detailed breakdown of the important components for the Beer Cheese Soup. The stock photo* (you mentioned above) looks like sliced red potatoes. When would you add that to make it a heartier meal? Or would it be too starchy? I love cheese – Ashe Co. Cheese Factory is a favorite place we visit in W. Jefferson, NC.

Can this be canned for the pantry?

Not to my knowledge, no. I doubt it would be safe. Thanks for writing!

I was gifted a huge bag of nacho cheese sauce… Any ideas how I might make that into a soup? Otherwise I fear I’ll be eating nachos ’til the cows come home! ;)

[…] like to think this beer cheese soup, a Wisconsin and midwest staple, will erase all other varieties out of your […]

[…] this week to liven up our NCAA parties and tailgates. For help, we went straight to the source, https://www.wisconsincheeseman.com. This recipe serves four to six, so better go ahead and double it at […]

The image shows sausage. What types are recommended and when/ how is it added. Cooked first?

Thanks for asking, Beth! That’s actually a stock photo and not the real recipe. You could certainly slice some fully cooked kielbasa or smoked ring bologna and add it to the soup just after the cheese is added. Otherwise, our favorite is to serve the soup as-is with some Wisconsin Cheeseman Summer Sausage on the side!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *