The Best Brew To Use For Homemade Beer Cheese, According To An Expert

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Beer and cheese are truly best friends for life, but choose the wrong brew, and these two yummy ingredients will be headed for a platonic break-up. As with many dishes, great beer cheese is all about balance. Food Republic got the scoop from Tessa Arias, author of "The Cookie Handbook: Your Guide to Baking Perfect Cookies Every Time." She also loves savory baking and has a recipe for soft, Bavarian-style pretzels on her blog Handle The Heat. And what goes better with a salty, chewy pretzel than a bowl of creamy beer cheese?

No matter what kind of cheese you use, Arias says that you want a milder-tasting brew. "I wouldn't recommend anything with an intense flavor, like an IPA or stout. They will overpower the flavors of the cheese," she explains. India Pale Ales can be boldly bitter with strong notes of florals, citrus, and pines. Stouts are typically less bitter but have a deep, rich malty flavor and skew in a coffee, chocolate, and caramel direction.

Instead, Arias likes to use a German hefeweizen in beer cheese. A hefeweizen is a type of wheat beer that is perfect for warm weather sipping — it has a pleasantly bready taste but is also very crisp. The German styles are less fruity, sweet, and spiced, though they do still have some of those subtle undertones. Arias says that no matter what, it should be a beer that you would gladly drink on its own.

What other beers make great beer cheese?

In general, when making beer cheese, choose a brew with a light body and subtle flavor profile. Beers in the pilsner, blonde ale, and lager families would all be good options. For pilsners, stick to American styles as they are less hoppy, milder, and far less bitter than their European counterparts. Some Belgian-style blonds can be overly hoppy for this purpose, but blonde ales from most other places are light, malty, and refreshing. Though there are many different varieties, lagers generally go down pretty easily. A crisp amber or delicately malty helles would be great as would a classic Stella Artois, Pacifico, Sapporo, or Pabst Blue Ribbon.

As for incorporating the beer successfully, Tessa Arias says that the beer can be either room temperature or chilled. The real trick to proper execution is to make a clump-free roux and whisk in the beer very slowly. Arias also recommends using a flat whisk over a balloon shape for a smoother consistency.

Ingredients that will elevate your beer cheese

Tessa Arias pairs a wheat beer with a combination of sharp cheddar and smoked Gouda cheese in her beer cheese recipe. She is a fan of incorporating smoked cheeses because it "is an easy way to add more depth of flavor." For her, Worcestershire sauce also adds welcome umami, and spices like cayenne pepper, smoked paprika, garlic powder, and onion powder bring in some heat and intrigue. Dry mustard powder, some prepared horseradish, or a couple dashes of hot sauce would also be great.

This beer-spiked "nacho" cheese recipe uses a combination of sharp cheddar and American cheese. Opt for a Dos Equis — a Mexican golden pilsner that will pair excellently with an acidic pickled jalapeño garnish. Amstel Light is a pale lager that is featured in this pretzel burger topped with beer cheese made from sharp cheddar and flavored with Dijon mustard. 

You can even make a beer and cheese soup. This recipe calls for nutty Gruyère or buttery Emmenthal cheese, though in all these preparations, pepper jack, gouda, colby, Swiss, and havarti would all work too. You can also add in some cream cheese for extra richness, but a firm or semi-firm, melty cheese should make up the majority of the base. Make sure to grate it fresh to ensure that it melts into the creamy sauce you crave.