Cheddar Ale Soup (and a drink recipe, too)

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.)

10 comments posted

  1. Posted by melissa - 05/11/2011

    Mmmmmmm! we made both recipes tonight for dinner!! i got a whole grain artisan bread to go with it–they paired beautifully. i added some steamed broccoli, trying to get some veggies into our meal, but i probably won’t do that again. the soup on its own tastes GREAT, but the broccoli mixed with it produced a bitter taste. not sure why. next time i will make a side salad instead.
    we also had a cyclist with it (just happened to have wheat beer around), and OMG–it might be my most favorite summer drink ever! Also, my husband LOVED both the soup and the drink! these recipes are keepers!! thanks! :)

  2. Posted by Susie - 05/11/2011

    In KC we can buy Free State beer in bottles. Maybe you can have it shipped like wine to D.C.?

  3. Posted by Erin Doland - 05/11/2011

    @Melissa — Wow, that was fast! Glad you liked it :) I usually have an easy garden salad with it, too.

    @Susie — They bottle it now? That is AMAZING news. I’ll have to research this more. I knew they did kegs for local parties, but had no clue about the bottles. This is the best news I’ve had all day.

  4. Posted by Erin Doland - 05/11/2011

    Oh, I should have mentioned in the post … if you can’t bring yourself to use Miller High Life, try an amber beer (a pale ale) with a malt finish instead of a hop finish. (If that makes sense …)

  5. Posted by Jen - 05/12/2011

    Wheat State once healed my sore throat – that stuff is magical! I’m so excited to learn that they’ve started bottling it.

    Thanks for the recipes and the memories of Lawrence…

  6. Posted by Carson Chittom - 05/12/2011

    Essentially Welsh rarebit without the toast. It looks delicious, but really, why leave out the toast?

  7. Posted by Erin Doland - 05/12/2011

    @Carson — Must be honest, I have never understood the soup sandwich.

  8. Posted by Liz - 05/12/2011

    Will this freeze well or will it get too watery upon defrosting?

  9. Posted by Erin Doland - 05/12/2011

    @Liz — I don’t think it would freeze well. The alcohol in it won’t freeze, so I don’t think it would be very good. I may be wrong, though. Since the recipe is just for a bowl, give it a try and report back! :)

  10. Posted by Abbie - 06/21/2011

    I grew up in Lawrence and now live too far away to enjoy Free State Food/Beer/etc…I’d be a hero if I made this for my family. Thanks for the recipe!

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