Back in my early twenties, the Free State Brewing Company in Lawrence, Kansas, was a popular hangout where my friends and I would meet at least once a week for dinner and drinks. My beverage of choice was a Cyclist — half lemonade and half Wheat State Golden (a Kolsch-style wheat beer) — which was perfect for hot and humid Kansas nights.
In sharp contrast to the cold, refreshing Cyclist, my favorite entree was a large bowl of Free State’s Cheddar Ale Soup. The soup was made with white cheddar cheese from Alma (my 101-year-old-grandmother’s birthplace), the brewery’s own Ad Astra Ale (an amber), and cream.
Once the weather started to turn warm this year, nostalgia for the Cyclist and Cheddar Ale Soup set in and I haven’t been able to curb the cravings. Since I now live 1,000 miles east of Lawrence, stopping by Free State hasn’t yet been an option. Instead of letting my cravings and nostalgia overwhelm me, I headed into my kitchen to recreate a version at home.
The Cyclist was simple to reproduce: Half a glass of a favorite wheat beer (or the leftover Miller High Life from the recipe listed below) and half a glass of freshly squeezed lemonade (or even a decent store-bought one works in a hurry).
The Cheddar Ale Soup took me longer to figure out how to reproduce since neither Alma Cheese nor Ad Astra Ale are available in D.C.-area markets. Ultimately, I found that Miller High Life was all I needed to get the results I wanted. (It is the “champagne of beers” after all …)
Nostalgic and Easy Cheddar Ale Soup
Makes one bowl
- 1 cup finely shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- 2 tsp. all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup Miller High Life
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 1 tsp canned diced green chiles or jalapenos
- Pepper to taste
In a small soup pot at room temperature, mix the cheddar cheese and flour until the cheese is dusted and no longer sticks to itself very well.
Over medium heat, add the beer and start stirring constantly with a rubber spatula (making sure to scrape any stuck cheese off the bottom of the pot). Completely melt the cheese. Once the cheese is a large melted mess, slowly add the milk (a few tablespoons at a time) to fully incorporate it into the melted cheese. Remove from heat and turn off the burner.
Add the teaspoon of diced chiles, a little pepper, and serve immediately. I like it with a hearty bread and, of course, a Cyclist. Multiply this recipe out for as many people you plan to serve, but you’ll need to reduce the beer a little bit to keep the consistency. I wouldn’t substitute skim milk because your soup will be too thin if you do, but you could easily substitute cream for the whole milk if your heart desired. The soup will have a little bit of a grainy texture to it, which I believe is part of its charm.
Best part of all, this soup takes less than five minutes to make.
(One time when I found my pantry bare of canned chiles, I substituted a teaspoon of Frontera Guacamole Mix and it was just as fabulous.)