A beer cheese sauce for everything, the ultimate guide to making beer cheese plus a recipe collection that covers all the essentials.
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Read on to learn more about beer cheese
What is Beer Cheese?
Beer cheese is a delicious, homegenous mixture of cheese, beer and other ingredients. It can be prepared in one of two principal ways.
- Thermal approach. Most commonly the ingredients are heated and whisked to combine better. The resulting mixture is served warm and can be a dip, a sauce or even a soup.
- No-cook approach. Alternatively, the room temperature ingredients can be mixed by hand or mechanically processed, then chilled and served cold. The resulting combination is either a dip or a spread.
The recipes that follow illustrate both methods and all of the possible outcomes.
What is It Made of?
The best beer cheese is made with four main ingredients:
- a good melting cheese
- a flavorful beer
- a starch
- a milk fat
The latter two help the former two form a better, more cohesive union.
In addition, a number of flavor agents can be added to boost the overall taste. These include:
- aromatic vegetables like onion and garlic
- various seasonings
Why Use Beer in a Cheese Dip?
Beer and cheese have a great affinity for each other and it transcends simply pairing the two for enjoyable culinary experiences.
Blending a cheese with beer creates a depth of flavor that cannot be achieved otherwise.
What Does Beer Cheese Taste Like?
It tastes like a cheese sauce or dip with a pronounced underlying richness that cannot be described precisely. Beer cheese has an enigmatic taste element to it that can feel like umami or a mild sweetness or a bready, biscuity undertone from the malt base of the brew.
What it does not taste like is straight up beer.
You have to try it for yourself. Most likely you will love it.
What Are the Best Cheeses to Select?
The best types of cheese to use in a beer cheese dip share the common distinction of being good melting cheeses. They have these characteristics:
- a moderate moisture content, typically made of cow’s milk
- not very aged (ageing affects the proteins in cheese in a way that subsequently causes them to lump together during melting)
- low in acid (cheeses set with acid generally will not melt successfully, for example grilling cheese)
Among your top choices are:
- Swiss cheeses (gruyere, Emmenthaler, vacherin)
TIP: For cold dip preparations such as obatzda and pub cheese spreadable (ex. cream cheese) or soft, ripe cheeses (ex. brie, camembert) work really well as their structure naturally loosens at room temperature.
What is the Best Beer for Beer Cheese?
The best beer for beer cheese is a Czech Pilsner or a Munich Helles (the German equivalent) because they work well with practically any cheese and have several desireable attributes. We state this as passionate beer cheese making veterans of many years, both professionally and at home.
These two styles are well balanced, with mild caramel undertones, bready, biscuity notes from the lightly kilned malts and pleasant herbal nuances from the Noble hops with which they are spiced.
Of course there are many other beer styles that are simply wonderful candidates.
TIP: A rule of thumb is that the more flavorful the beer, the better the results.
Look for low bitterness brews such as:
- amber German style lagers such as bock, marzen, doppelbock
- saisons (farmhouse ales) and strong Belgian ales (nothing sour)
- wheat ales, especially if fermented with clean American yeast (nothing fruit conditioned for obvious reasons)
- English pale ales, English mild
- blonde, amber and brown ales (low bitterness, mostly aroma hops)
We strongly advise against using IPAs unless you understand hops varieties, their alpha acid make up and hopping schedules as they relate to levels of bitterness imparted to a beer.
While in many cooking with beer dishes the bitter notes of a strongly hopped bevarage can be tuned down during prolonged simmering and/or neutralized with the adddition of a sweetener, this is not the case here.
Also, IPAs are made with hops that typically bring about aromas of citrus or other tropical fruit, of pine needles, resin and potpourri. Understandably, none of these is welcome in a cheese dip.
Does the Alcohol Cook Out in Beer Cheese Dip?
Yes, when beer is brought to a simmer most of the alcohol cooks away. A negligible amount may remain.
As far as most cold dips are concerned, only a minimal amount of beer is used and the alcohol cannot be tasted, nor does it have a meaningful impact when consumed.
How to Make Beer Cheese Dip
Each of the recipes compiled below comes with its own set of instructions, but in general the process is beautiful in its simplicity.
- Typically a liquid base containing the milk fat (butter, milk, half and half, heavy cream or combinations thereof) and the beer is formed by heating them up together. Depending on the recipe sometimes flour is stirred into the base.
- Next the cheese, coated with a starch, is stirred into the liquid base. This is best done in batches and off the heat to facilitate the melting process.
- Any flavoring agents are stirred into the mixture before or after the addition of the cheese.
NOTE: The role of the starch and the milk fat is twofold. They facilitate the melting of the cheese into the beer and lend a silkier mouthfeel to the mixture while also thickening it.
- Shred the cheese and bring it to room temperature – every variety has its own melting point and arriving at it slowly is a plus. A room temperature cheese generally has an easier time melting into and blending with a hot liquid. Otherwise the caseins could clump together if the temperature change is too abrupt.
- We find that it is best to shred the cheese while still cold (easier) and then let it warm up to room temperature.
- Coat the shredded cheese with a starch – dusting a little bit of flour or corn starch over your room temperature shredded cheese furthers the melting process. This happens by way of (1) thickening the water separated from the cheese once it begins melting and (2) impeding the separated fat molecules from combining into bigger fat formations. Since cheese is fat and water held together by proteins (mostly casein) you want to be sure to not have the different components separate out from each other too fast (aka break from each other).
- Never, EVER add cheese to a boiling or too hot a liquid. Instead, add it in small portions, gradually, to a liquid base that is not over direct heat and has been allowed to cool down. The application of heat to cheese causes the fat to separate (because the proteins denature/unwind/coagulate). If the liquid base is hot, this process will happen so fast that you will definitely end up with clumps of casein.
How to Fix It If It Breaks?
If your beer cheese dip breaks even as you follow a recipe, it is easy to fix it. All you need to do is transfer the mixture to a food processor or use a hand held immersion blender and blend it to a smooth perfection. Then you can strain it and heat it up very gently, on low, with a couple of tablespoons of heavy cream.
Are Beer Cheese and Pub Cheese The Same?
In the sense that they both include an amalgam of cheese and beer plus a few other components – yes.
Pub cheese is different from beer cheese in that it is served cold and uses soft, spreadable cheeses mixed with beer and other ingredients. It does not involve thermal steps.
What Foods to Dip in Beer Cheese Dip?
Some of the best dipping options include:
- pretzels – soft or hard, they are a classic companion
- chips – anything and everything – tortilla chips, classic potato chips, dehydrated veggie chips
- crackers – including pita bread and seed crackers
- veggies – cut into sticks or circles, raw or grilled, they are the healthiest beer cheese dipper you can serve
- fries – besides the usual suspects, consider yuca, jicama and even panisses
Beer Cheese Recipe List
All the images below are of the actual dish and the descriptions contain links to the corresponding recipe.
Beer Cheese Fondue – the only way to believe it is to try for yourself – a melted cheese pot prepared with beer tastes richer than the classic using white wine. Beer is less acidic and has an unparalleled depth of flavor when compared with wine. Try this easy recipe.
Feta Beer Fondue – this recipe is specifically for lovers of the superb tang of feta cheese. The sharp flavor is mellowed down with a bit of ricotta, which also adds creaminess to the sauce. The beer of choice is unequivocally Czech style pilsner with its bready sweetness and elegant herbal hoppiness.
Jalapeno Fontina & Ale Dip – Pictured above is a variation of the classic dip flavored with fresh jalapeno. You can control the heat by removing the seeds and/or ribs from the pepper. This dip is a perfect addition to Mexican food themed spreads and loves tortilla chips. Here is the recipe.
Obatzda – known as German beer cheese this cold mixture of soft cheeses, spices, onion and German lager is on the menu of practically every beer garden in Germany. It is an integral part of traditional brotzeit and an essential appetizer for Oktoberfest parties. Here is how to make it.
Beer Cheese Soup – with our recipe you will create a flavorful soup base first. Next, you will amplify the flavors by adding a well chosen brew and folding in heaps of cheddar. Easy work and unbelievably delicious results!
How to Make Beer Cheese Sauce
We conclude with this easy recipe for an all-purpose beer and cheese sauce. It is perfect for pasta – whether long or short cut noodles (we love it for maccaroni and cheese).
You can also use it with burgers, steaks, chicken, nachos and more.
- 4 cups good melting cheese, shredded*
- 1/4 cup flour (sub corn or arrowroot starch)
- 1 tbsp butter
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup beer**
- 1/3 cup heavy cream (fresh, at room temperature)
- pinch dried oregano
- Toss the cheese with the flour or starch and set aside.
- In a large sauce pan over medium-low heat melt the butter and saute the minced garlic just until it is fragrant and begins to soften.
- Move the pan away from the heat temporarily and slowly add the beer, stirring constantly. Return to the stove ring, and simmer for 2-3 minutes to reduce Add the heavy cream and oregano and simmer for another 2-3 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and slowly begin to incorporate the prepared cheese, about a handful at a time, stirring as you go. Once all the cheese has melted into the sauce you can place it back over a stove ring on low heat for a final thermal boost, about 1 minute. Stir again and enjoy while warm.
*Cheddar, fontina, colby, gouda or a combination. Measure the shredded cheese. If grating from a cheese block, do so while cold, then allow to come to room temperature.
**We recommend a Czech pilsner or a Munich helles. American craft lager would be great too. Look for a dominant malt profile with light kilned malt and herbal tasting hops with low bitterness.
To reheat the sauce without breaking it: Transfer it from the container in which you refrigerated it to a sauce pan and add 1-2 tbsp heavy cream. Place it over low heat and gently stir until homegenous and warmed through.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 607Total Fat: 48gSaturated Fat: 28gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 15gCholesterol: 142mgSodium: 772mgCarbohydrates: 13gFiber: 1gSugar: 1gProtein: 28g