Today is National Wisconsin Day to honor the 30th state. Famous for dairy products and breweries, Wisconsin also has a rich history of mining. In the mid 1800s, German immigrants were the largest group to settle there and their influence is still present today.
Wisconsin is also known more specifically for its cheese production. It is the largest cheese producer in the United States with over 600 varieties. And it is the only US state that requires a licensed cheesemaker to oversee the production of commercially produced cheese. The educational program to become a certified cheese master is extremely rigorous and only offered in Wisconsin. If you’re from Wisconsin, you proudly embrace all things cheese related!
And the rest of us are eternally grateful to them for their dedication to cheese. And beer. So the perfect, and logical culinary marriage is beer cheese soup. The first time I ever had it was in 1999 when a friend worked at The Gasthaus here in Portland. He gave me the recipe for their beer cheese soup which was delicious, but it made a ridiculous quantity since it was formulated for a full size restaurant. Trying to scale it down, I think something was lost in the final outcome even though it was still amazing. But this recipe is the closest to the way I remember it.
I baked some French bread rounds to go with it. Or you can pair it with a simple garden salad to balance things out. This is soup is not health food. But, this is rich, velvety, cheesy heaven in a bowl. For garnish, try an extra sprinkling of cheese, a few croutons, or even popcorn (I’ve read that’s a Wisconsin thing, but I honestly don’t know why).
And last, but not least, remember that cheese is always the answer, even if you don’t remember the question.
Wisconsin Beer Cheese Soup
6 slices bacon
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
1/2 cup finely chopped carrots
1 Tbsp minced garlic
2 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup flour
1 tsp sugar
2 heaping cups shredded cheddar cheese, plus extra for garnish
1 1/2 cup half and half cream
12 oz beer, flat
Salt and pepper to taste
Fry bacon in medium pot. Remove from pot and drain on paper towels and crumble. Set aside. Sauté vegetables in 2 Tbsp of bacon grease until soft. Sprinkle flour over vegetables and whisk in chicken broth. Stir constantly to thicken. Stir in sugar, cream, beer, and cheese. Simmer for 15 minutes more and season with salt and pepper to taste.