Best Beer for Beer Cheese Soup (Avoid Bitterness & Balance Flavor!)

If you love beer cheese dip, then you’ll love making beer cheese soup. It’s a velvety, creamy soup that is flavored with beer, cheese, vegetables, a mix of spices, and other savory ingredients. But what is the best beer for beer cheese soup? 

The best beer for beer cheese soup is one that you already enjoy. The type of beer you use determines whether it flavors the soup, or just complements the ingredients in the background. The best ones are malt-forward lagers and brown ales that are low in hop flavors since they will add complexity without bitterness.

Read on to learn more about the best types of beer for beer cheese soup. You’ll also learn the best cheese pairings by beer type, how to control the bitterness from certain beers and if the alcohol cooks completely out of your soup. We’ve even included two easy, delicious recipes for you to try.

What type of beer is best for beer cheese soup?

The types of beer that can be used in beer cheese soup are wide and varied. The specific style of beer is less important than ensuring it plays well with the other ingredients and that the final soup is well-balanced.

Depending on the type of cheese and other ingredients used, there is a beer that is perfectly suited to balance out the creamy, savory flavors in your soup.

The best types of beer for beer cheese soup are balanced, with a smooth, malt-forward flavor profile. Most recipes recommend using beers that are solidly malty with toasty, bready undertones and low hoppy bitterness. The best beer types for beer cheese soup are:

  • American Pilsner/Pale Lager
  • Amber Lager
  • Hellas Lager
  • Vienna/Oktoberfest Lager
  • Bock
  • English Brown Ale

Unless you’re a big fan of hoppy, fruity, floral, or citrusy IPAs, you should not use them in beer cheese soup. The flavors in the beer will be more concentrated as the soup reduces. It’s also best to stay away from flavored beers. IPAs and flavored beers can add unexpected bitterness or flavors that don’t compliment the creamy, cheesy goodness. 

American Pilsners and Pale Lagers

Made with two-row, six-row, and Pilsner malts, American-style Pilsners and Pale Lagers are clean and crisp with slightly sweet, malty, and toasty flavors. They are usually well-balanced between malt and hop profiles with low bitterness and oftentimes are lacking in depth of flavor.

These beers can be used when you don’t want the beer flavor to be evident in your soup.

  • IBU: 8 – 15 (low)
  • Pairs best with: Gruyere, Sharp Cheddar, and Pepper Jack

Amber Lagers

Made with two-row, Munich, Vienna, and Caramel malts, Amber Lagers tend to be lighter on the palate and less overpowering than darker ones. The grains give them a slightly sweet, malty, and toasty flavor with hints of caramel. German noble hops add just a touch of bitterness to balance out the malty sweetness.

Amber lagers add more depth to the color and flavor of your soup. 

  • IBU: 14 – 20 (low)
  • Pairs best with: Gruyere, Cheddar, Fontina, and Pepper Jack

Helles Lagers

Made with Pilsner malt and German noble hops, Helles Lagers are bright, crisp, and balanced with a rounded bready, malty flavor. The taste is similar to a German Pilsner but more malt-forward without the hoppy bite.

Helles Lagers add depth to your soup without adding too much sweetness or bitterness.

  • Helles IBU: 18 – 30 (low to medium)
  • Pairs best with: Gruyere, White Cheddar, and Monterey Jack

Vienna/Oktoberfest Lagers

Made with Vienna, Munich, and Pilsner malts, Vienna and Oktoberfest Lagers have a strong malty backbone with bready, crackery, nutty, and toasty flavors. German noble hops provide a light hoppy bitterness.

These darker German Lagers add a roasted, nutty accent to your soup.

  • IBU: 18 – 25 (low)
  • Pairs best with: Gruyere, Pepperjack, Fontina, and Cheddar

Bock

Made with roasted barley and German hops, Bock beers are rich, toasty, and malty with a little sweetness and very little hop flavor.

Hints of chocolate, caramel, and roasted barley add complex flavors to your soup.

  • Helles IBU: 18 – 30 (low to medium)
  • Pairs best with: Gruyere, White Cheddar, and Monterey Jack

English Brown Ales

Made with roasted pale malt, crystal malt, and other specialty malts, English Brown Ales have flavors of roasted nuts, toasted malts, and caramel with a hint of toffee, making them slightly sweet. They have a lower hop profile than their American counterparts, so they are less bitter.

These ales add a lightly sweet, toasty flavor and a deeper color to your soup.

  • IBU: 12 – 20 (low)
  • Pairs best with: Cheddar, Gouda, and Fontina

Easy beer cheese soup recipes to get you started

Many combinations of cheeses and beers can be used to make beer cheese soup. You can also add different spices, meats, vegetables, and other savory ingredients to change up the flavor. 

The keys to making beer cheese soup recipes are:

  • Choose a beer and cheese that have complementary flavors.
  • Choose beers with either little flavor, or flavors you love to prevent surprises.
  • Heat the milk and cream slowly to prevent curdling.
  • Remove the soup from the heat before adding the cheese to prevent separation.  

Some recipes use an emulsion blender to cream the vegetables into a smooth, velvety cream soup. If you prefer chunks of veggies in your soup, you can skip the blending step in those recipes.

Below are two easy recipes to get you started. Or, use the beer and cheese pairing above to create your own unique masterpiece.

30-Minute German Beer Cheese Soup

This quick German Beer Cheese Soup recipe uses a strong German beer and sharp cheddar cheese to create a rich, flavorful soup.

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cloves peeled garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • 16 ounces German beer
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon or stone-ground mustard
  • 10 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, freshly shredded
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Method

  1. In a large pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add carrot, onion, and garlic. Saute for 10 minutes until vegetables are soft.
  2. Add the flour and stir until the vegetables are coated. Cook on medium heat, stirring frequently for 3 minutes until the flour turns golden brown.
  3. Combine milk and half-and-half. Slowly pour in the milk/cream mixture while whisking constantly until combined.
  4. Increase the heat to medium-high and add the beer and mustard. Bring to a boil while whisking frequently until the foam subsides.
  5. Simmer on low for 10 minutes until soup thickens. Remove from heat and whisk in the cheese a little at a time. 
  6. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Beer and Cheddar Soup

This spicy take on beer cheese soup uses bacon and jalapeños to add depth and flavor to the traditional soup. This recipe recommends either a lager or pilsner for the beer.

Ingredients

  • ½ pound thick-sliced bacon, diced
  • 1 celery rib, finely chopped
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large jalapeno, seeded and chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped thyme
  • One 12-ounce bottle Lager or Pilsner beer
  • 2 ¼ cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • ½ pound sharp yellow cheddar cheese, coarsely shredded
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Method

  1. In a large saucepan, cook bacon over medium heat until fat is rendered and bacon is crisp (about 7 minutes).
  2. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a bowl. Add celery, onion, jalapeno, garlic, and thyme to the saucepan and saute over moderate heat until soft (about 8 minutes).
  3. Add half the beer and cook until reduced by half (about 5 minutes). Then add 2 ¼ cups of chicken broth and bring to a simmer.
  4. In a small skillet, melt the butter. Stir in the flour and cook over moderate heat while stirring until lightly browned (about 2 minutes).
  5. Whisk this roux into the soup until well combined and bring to a simmer.
  6. Cook until thickened (about 8 minutes). Add heavy cream, cheddar cheese, and the remaining beer. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until thick and creamy (about 5 minutes).
  7. Stir in the reserved bacon and season with salt and pepper. 
  8. If the soup is too thick, add a few tablespoons of chicken broth.

Related Questions

Does beer cook out of beer cheese soup?

Have you heard that when adding alcohol to a recipe that it will mostly cook out of the finished dish? Unfortunately, that is not entirely true. The alcohol burn-off rate for recipes is different depending on the preparation method and the time cooked.

According to the USDA, the percent of alcohol retained in recipes can vary greatly according to how they’re prepared. For beer cheese soup, the beer is added at the boiling point and simmered for about 10 minutes. This means the percentage of alcohol retained in the soup is near 85%.

This is important to know if you’re serving beer cheese soup to your friends or family. To better understand how cooking time, temperature, and pan size can affect the burn-off rate in recipes, see this article from Idaho State University.

How do you make beer cheese soup less bitter?

The type of beer you use in beer cheese soup may take some experimentation to get just right. Beers with a high hop content will add that bitter flavor to your soup. That’s okay if you live and breathe your favorite IPA, and don’t mind the hoppy flavor being prominent. However, if your soup is too bitter, there are things you can do to help.

You can make beer cheese soup less bitter by using a less hoppy beer. You can also add less beer if you know your beer is particularly hoppy.

If it’s too bitter after you’ve cooked it, add a splash of Worcestershire sauce to balance the bitterness. You can also add more cream, chicken broth, or even sour cream to create balance.

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