Brown Ale and Cheddar Soup

Okay, so it’s possible that this isn’t the kind of meal you eat before you do anything too strenuous, like run headlong into a burning schoolhouse to save dozens of screaming orphans. It’s probably not the kind of thing you want to have for dinner the night before your first day in basic training for the Marines. It may not be the kind of meal you settle down to the night before you run the New York City Marathon. It’s probably not an ideal meal for anyone looking to tackle a pre-dawn jog. It’s definitely not for anyone with any aspirations to, let’s say, make it into work on time. It’s not the kind of meal you eat if you have any pressing need to put on pants the next day. You know, this is not a meal for anyone who plans on ever actually getting out of bed. Let’s just say this, and then not speak another word about it: Save this supper for a night where your only major obligation is to continue the basic intake of oxygen and the expulsion of carbon dioxide from your bloated lungs and maybe, just maybe, to make sure “Teen Mom 2” is set to be DVR’d. Anything more involved than that may be entirely too ambitious.

Why is that? Because it’s a soup made of cheese and beer and bacon, for goodness’ sake. Any soup that uses “bacon pan scrapings” as one of its major flavoring agents just isn’t going to be that great for you. Calling it “soup” may even be lipsticking the pig, a little bit. This is a bowl of rich hot cheese. It’s liquefied Welsh Rarebit. It’s a lightly-spicy, soul-warming coppa d’oro. It’s excessive and gross and hedonistic and awful and everything-that’s-wrong-with-this-country and wonderful and delicious and heavenly and I’m eating another bowl even as I type this.

Use the best cheddar you can buy, since it’s such a major player in this soup, along with a decent brown ale, like Newcastle, or a pale ale like Bass. If you don’t like a lot of heat, scrape as much of the inside of the jalapeno as you can with the edge of a spoon before dicing. Top each bowl of soup with more bacon, jalapeno, or diced fresh tomato, and serve with plenty of crusty bread. And call me when it’s Springtime.

Brown Ale and Cheddar Soup
Adapted from a recipe from Food and Wine


  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 celery rib, finely chopped
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon chopped thyme
  • 1 large jalapeño, ribbed, seeded and chopped
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • One 12-ounce bottle brown or pale ale
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 12-ounce package of thick-cut bacon, diced
  • About 2 1/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 3/4 pound sharp cheddar cheese, coarsely shredded
  • Additional sliced jalapeño, bacon, thyme, and/or diced tomato, to garnish


Brown Ale and Cheddar Soup

1. In a large saucepan or dutch oven, cook the bacon, stirring occasionally, until the fat renders and the bacon is crisp, about 8 minutes.

Brown Ale and Cheddar Soup

2. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to drain on a paper towel. Crumble any overly large pieces between your fingers, or chop quickly with a knife.

Brown Ale and Cheddar Soup

3. Add the celery, onion, jalapeño, garlic and thyme to the rendered fat in the saucepan.

Brown Ale and Cheddar Soup

4. Cook over moderate heat, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan, stirring often, until vegetables soften, about 8 minutes.

Brown Ale and Cheddar Soup

5. Add half of the beer and cook until reduced by half, 5 minutes.

6. Add 2 1/4 cups of chicken broth and return to a simmer.

Brown Ale and Cheddar Soup

7. In a small skillet, melt the butter.

Brown Ale and Cheddar Soup

8. Whisk in the flour and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until lightly browned, about 2 minutes.

Brown Ale and Cheddar Soup

9. Whisk the roux into the soup until combined, and bring to a simmer. Cook until thickened, about 8 minutes.

Brown Ale and Cheddar Soup

10. Add the heavy cream, cheddar cheeses and the remaining beer and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thick and creamy, about 5 minutes.

11. Stir in the bacon and season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.


Malcolm Bedell is co-author of the critically acclaimed "Eating in Maine: At Home, On the Town, and On the Road." He currently owns and operates the Ancho Honey restaurant in Maine.


      1. Malcolm- I’m confused. Is this the type of meal you’d want to eat before doing some running? I couldn’t tell from the six different examples you referenced at the beginning.

  1. This looks so intense I will have to try it for the Super Bowl. Nothing like the material girl and a steamy bowl of liquid cheddar. How many will it serve by the way?

  2. Just made the soup and it was amazing. I used the Bass Beer. I had been looking for a receipe like this and the entire family is so glad I found it.

  3. I have tears streaming down my face because I want a bowl so badly and I’m stuck at the office. I can’t wait to make this. Thanks for the recipe.

  4. Love the recipe! I’m on a “soup kick” lately, craving all sorts of soup and soup recipes. Also on a hunt for some soup bowls like the ones you have in your picture. May I ask where you got them (and the wooden plank they are nestled in?)

    1. Hi Rebecca! This soup is one of my all-time favorites. The bowls they are served in are a bit of a trick of the camera…they’re just a little tasting set (each “bowl” holds about a tablespoon of soup). Thanks for reading!

  5. i have tried so many of your recipes and they all have turned out awesomely…not this one. I think I bought the wrong kind of pale ale. It was bitter tasting or the garlic was bad : ( I’m going to have to try it again, but I want a smoother tasting beer. Thank you for all of the great recipes : )

    1. Oh no! I’m so sorry to hear that! Please try it again with a different brand of beer…we have made this again since this post, and it turned out equally delicious!

    1. This should serve 8, but I’d double it to be sure. It freezes well, so it’s not a bad thing to have too much of. 🙂 Let me know how it turns out!

  6. Hi! Just made this yesterday- supper yummy! I made it for a group of us cheering on the Bears MNF game. Yep- comatose before the end of the game! 🙂 There is a little leftover- can i freeze it? will the texture be good when thawed? I need to spread out some of this gluttenous eating! 😀


    1. I would expect this to freeze just fine…but if it DOESN’T, for some reason, please stop back by and let us know, okay?

  7. Making this for a beer tasting shin-dig I’m hosting. Wondering how many servings this recipe would make? Thanks for the recipe!

  8. am I going to digest all that and still feel “no heavy”, …thanks can I subsitute the
    butter ?

  9. Super glad I read all the comments before I made this. I bought an IPA for this dish and now I know to drink it and not ruin a perfectly lovely soup!

  10. I made this with raw milk sharp cheddar and Deschutes Obsidian Stout and proscuitto. I’d suggest using your remaining 1/4 pound of cheese and making cheddar croutons with a stale baguette, mmm.

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