Brown Ale, Cheddar, and Bacon Mac & Cheese

Because you’ve gotta get started gaining the winter weight sooner or later, don’t you? Last night’s temperature drop after an unseasonably warm October here in Maine got me thinking wistfully about the Brown Ale and Cheddar Soup I made last year, a hearty, warming concoction of sharp cheddar cheese and nutty brown ale. Add a sprinkle of bacon, and it’s like a liquefied welsh rarebit. I couldn’t wait to eat it again.

In an effort to up the “comfort” quotient of this dish even further, I adapted the recipe to be served in macaroni and cheese form. Though this macaroni and cheese contains a half a pound of crumbled, crisp bacon, the real trick is using the rendered bacon fat (and all the brown bits from the bottom of the pan) to make the roux for your cheese sauce. That’s right. The whole shebiggle is based on liquefied bacon fat and melted butter, which imparts plenty of bacon flavor to the cheese sauce. The alcohol in the beer cooks off, leaving just the faintest flavor of brown ale, which pairs perfectly with the sharp cheddar. It’s insanely rich, comforting stuff, that will require you wear sweatpants the day after you eat it. Serve with a sprinkle of diced tomato.

Brown Ale, Cheddar, and Bacon Mac & Cheese
Serves 8


  • 6 tablespoons salted butter, divided, plus more for dish
  • 4 slices white bread, crusts removed, torn into 1/4 to 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 pound bacon
  • 1 small fresh jalapeno, seeds and ribs removed, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups half and half (32 ounces)
  • 12 ounces brown ale, such as Bass
  • 1 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 4 cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated and divided
  • 1-lb penne or ziti pasta


Heat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter a 3-quart casserole dish; set aside.

Place bread in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Pour butter into the bowl with bread, and toss. Set bread crumbs aside.

Brown Ale, Cheddar, and Bacon Mac and Cheese

Dice raw bacon and add to a large stock pot or Dutch oven. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until bacon is brown and crisp. Using a slotted spoon, transfer cooked bacon to paper towels to drain. Drain all but 1-2 tablespoons of bacon grease from pan, leaving all the brown crispy bits.

Heat half and half and beer in a separate saucepan over medium heat.

Brown Ale, Cheddar, and Bacon Mac and Cheese

Add remaining four tablespoons butter to rendered bacon fat, and allow to melt. When butter bubbles, whisk in flour, scraping the bottom of the pan to release the brown crispy bits, and stir until combined, with no lumps remaining, about one minute.

Brown Ale, Cheddar, and Bacon Mac and Cheese

While whisking, slowly pour in hot half-and-half and beer mixture. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick. Remove pan from heat. Stir in salt, nutmeg, black pepper, 3-1/2 cups cheddar cheese, jalapeno, and cooked bacon; set cheese sauce aside.

Fill a large saucepan with water; bring to a boil. Add pasta; cook 2 to 3 minutes less than manufacturer’s directions, until the outside of pasta is cooked and the inside is underdone. (Different brands of macaroni cook at different rates; be sure to read the instructions.)

Transfer pasta to a colander, rinse under cold running water, and drain well.

Brown Ale, Cheddar, and Bacon Mac and Cheese

Stir pasta into the reserved cheese sauce. Pour mixture into prepared dish. Sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup cheddar cheese and bread crumbs over top.

Bake until browned on top, about 30 minutes. Transfer dish to a wire rack to cool 5 minutes; serve hot.

Brown Ale, Cheddar, and Bacon Mac and Cheese


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. Now see…This is way outta control! You are taking it too far with this one LOL. It looks absolutely divine, and the photography as usual is stunning, and captivating. I am hoping to make this sometime this weekend. Yummo’s, and thanks for the wonderful recipes. Keep em’ coming…I just pinned this one.

  2. Oh my goodness, this looks and sounds insanely delicious. You guys need to open a restaurant before I come to Maine at Thanksgiving, I’d gladly give up a plate of turkey and mashed potatoes for some of the yummy stuff you show on your blog. Thanks for the recipe … can’t wait to give it a try. P.S. I’m pinning this one.

  3. How much jalapeno would you recommend for those of us that like medium dishes but not hot? It is not mentioned at all in the ingredients list, but is shown being added in the recipe directions. Sounds like a flavorful addition. Making this tomorrow for a Super Bowl party 😀

  4. Made this last night for my boyfriend and I. It was amazing! We ended up putting in a jalapeno and a serrano pepper, we also dusted the top with cayenne pepper and it worked very well. I don’t think that the peppers added much spice but it was great to have a crunch in the gooey mac and cheese. I ate some of the leftovers today and it reheats well, not gritty or dry.
    We plan on making it again, Thanks!

  5. This is absolutely delicious! I used a much darker beer than suggested, using Fin Du Monde from Canada and used it to Marinate the bacon. It gave it a completely different feel. Try it, you won’t regret it! -Jason Lefebvre, Calgary

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