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Fake Christmas Eve! Beer Cheese Soup and Good Times

December 23, 2006

Beer Cheese Soup

I look forward to Beer Cheese Soup all year. My family has been eating Beer Cheese Soup on Christmas Eve as long as I can remember, and it is a deceptively delicious concoction. By deceptively, I mean that when I tell people about Beer Cheese Soup, they look at me like I might be a little bit crazy, but when they taste it, they realize it is like god in soup form. By deceptively I also mean that, visually, it’s not the most impressive soup in the world. It was maddeningly difficult to get a good picture of The Soup. By deceptively I ALSO mean that it is very, very easy.

I probably could eat Beer Cheese Soup all year round. I’m not normally much of a traditionalist (or maybe I am and I just don’t know it yet), but for some reason, this soup feels like Christmas to me, and I can’t have it any other time of year. This means that I very infrequently get to share it with other people, since, you know, I’m usually with my family, who already understand the magic that is this soup.

This year, I decided to buck tradition, at least a little bit, and celebrate Christmas Eve two nights early, with all my Boston friends, before they leave to enjoy (or insert a more appropriate word here) their own family traditions. And let me tell you, everyone in that room loved this soup, and good times were most certainly had.

Because the soup is so crazy easy, of course I had to expend my energy making other, way less easy things, in order to suitably impress my guests, and make myself a little nuts. The menu: Mushroom Goat Cheese and Spanakopita Phyllo Triangles, Beer Cheese Soup, cured meats (including the now infamous summer sausage) and tasty bread, and for dessert, Apple Pie Tartlets with Caramel Brandy Pecan Sauce. Yeah, baby, I’m making caramel.

Mushroom and Spinach Triangles

Phyllo dough really is insanely hard to work with. I’m sure it didn’t help that the phyllo I used had been living in our freezer for over six months, but I have no idea if it would have been any less delicate had it been fresh and new. I read that while working with the dough, it’s important to keep it from drying out by placing it between two sheets of plastic wrap and laying a damp towel over it. That was a bit of a pain in the ass, and it kind of dried out anyway. But, in all, it wasn’t a total nightmare, and I definitely think it’s worth experimenting with again.

I decided to make two Phyllo-wrapped appetizers: one with a mushroom and goat Cheese filling, and the other, a Spanakopita-type filling. Here is how it’s done:

Mushroom and Goat Cheese Triangles

  • 8 oz. white mushrooms, diced
  • 1/2 c. green onions, thinly sliced
  • about 3 T. butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 tsp. dried thyme
  • salt and pepper
  • goat cheese
  • about 10 sheets of phyllo dough, thawed


Melt the butter in a medium skillet, and add the onions. Let them cook down for about 5-7 minutes. Do not stir them very often! Just spread them out in the pan, and leave them be. They will release a lot of liquid, of course, because that’s what mushrooms do, and I learned that it’s best to not touch them at all in the first few minutes they’re in the pan. Stir them maybe one time during this whole 7 minutes, and then add the green onions and mix them in. Let it cook for another 2 minutes or so, remove them from the heat, and let them cool off a bit.

Whisk an egg, the thyme, salt and pepper in a bowl, and then mix in the cooled mushroom mixture. This is the basic filling, along with a small piece of goat cheese per triangle. I originally found this recipe several years ago at a site which appears to no longer exist: The recipe calls for using puff pastry, and putting each little tartlet into a muffin tin, which is a little bit easier than what I chose to do, but oh well. (I’m totally bummed, by the way, that breakeggs is no longer, because it was a pretty cool site. Suck.)

No puff pastry! Phyllo dough! Melt about tablespoon or two of butter in a small saucepan. Lay out one thin sheet of phyllo dough, and brush it with melted butter. Lay another sheet on this, and brush it with butter again. Cut the dough into three long strips, about 2 1/2 inches wide. Put one small piece of goat cheese, and a tablespoon or so of the filling in the corner at one end of the pastry, and roll it up like a flag, into a triangle. Put your little triangle, seam side down, on a baking sheet. This is a messy, messy process. Just go with it.

You should end up with about 12-15 little triangles. Bake them in a 375F oven for about 20 minutes, or until the dough starts to brown a little at the edges.

The mushroom triangles were a hit, but, sadly, the spanakopita didn’t turn out so well. I think the proportions were a bit off, and they were ridiculously salty. I kind of forgot that feta is already a very salty cheese, and overdid it maybe adding more salt. I’ll need to work a bit more on those, but here’s the basic recipe I used. If anyone has suggestions, they’d be much appreciated:

Spanakopita Filling

  • About 7 oz. baby spinach
  • 2 T. butter
  • 1 c. feta
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • salt and pepper

Melt the butter in a skillet, and cook the spinach for about 5 minutes, until it’s all wilty and spinachy. Let it cool off for 10 minutes, and then squeeze as much of the water out as you can. I used my hands, and it felt gross. There has to be a better way. Then you just stir in the feta, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Do the same thing with the phyllo dough, forming triangles, and bake the same: 375F for about 20 minutes.

I would use way less nutmeg, and hardly any salt. And there is still something missing. Expect to see some spanakopita experimentation in the future.

On to soup! With a brief stopover at meats first.


Alongside this traditional soup every year is a plate of summer sausage, cheese, and lovely bread. When trying to explain this to Mr. X, the mention of summer sausage elicited a very confused expression. “What is this sausage you speak of? Summer what?” It seems it’s not such a common thing out here, but I grew up loving the stuff. Yes, yes, it’s the stuff that comes in the cheesy gift packages of cheese and crackers. But it’s good! Interestingly, as I’m reading about it right now, it makes sense that it’s such a midwestern thing, because apparently, it’s usually made by hunters with the game meat, mixed with beef and pork. And my family hunts. And…yeah…the connection is apparent only to me.

We had an awesome selection of meatstuffs, thanks to Dmitri’s sopressata, and the summer sausage and awesome peppery salami brought by Mr. X. Yay for meat! We also cut up some gruyere and aged cheddar. Mini sandwiches are perfect for dipping in the fabulous soup.

Now on to soup!

Soup on the Stove

These are family secrets I’m letting you on here. And seriously, this soup is not photogenic.

Beer Cheese Soup

  • 1 small onion
  • 2-3 carrots
  • 2 stalks of celery
  • 1 small green pepper
  • 1/2 c. butter
  • 3 T. flour
  • about 4 c. chicken stock
  • 16 oz. cheese, coarsely grated
  • 9 oz. of room temperature beer

I’m not sure where this soup originated, or why it’s been a family tradition for so long. When we’re in South Dakota, Grandpa Saufley is always the one to make the soup, and this soup always make me think of him.

Chop all the vegetables–there is no fancy way to cut them up, just cut them the way you’d normally cut vegetables for soup.

Melt the butter in a stock pot over medium heat, and add the onions, carrots, celery, and green pepper. Stir it around a bit, and let this cook for about 5 minutes, until the onions start to become transparent. You might want to add a little more butter if it looks kind of dry, but the vegetables will release some water. Toss in about 3 tablespoons of flour, and, using a whisk, stir this all up until a kind paste forms and coats the vegetables. Yes, you’re making a roux. This is important, so the cheese doesn’t get all gross and rubbery.

Add the chicken stock, and bring it to a boil. Then lower the heat, and let it simmer for about 10 minutes. It doesn’t need to be stirred too much, so you can take this time to cut up all your meatstuffs and bread, for tasty sandwiches.

Now it’s time to add the cheese: You want to add it in batches, and whisk a lot so it blends in well. It’s a crapload of cheese, see:

crapload of cheese!

Once the cheese is melted and well blended in, add the beer–it should definitely be room temperature. I don’t usually add an entire beer, but you probably can if you want to. Let it simmer for a few more minutes. It’ll get all foamy. I really, really wish I’d taken a picture of this, because it looked super cool.

Now your soup is ready! Serve it to people, and they will love you. And then tell them that your mom used to make it with velveeta and budweiser, and start up a whole conversation about how white trash everyone is. Yay!

There are desserts, too, lovely desserts, but frankly, that is going to have to wait, because I’m tired of typing and I have some Christmas crafting to do. Here is a sneak peek:

Apple Tartlets

10 Comments leave one →
  1. you nice permalink
    December 27, 2006 12:02 pm

    i’m so insulted….i know you didn’t like my families traditional holiday salad but you didn’t even mention it.
    hmmf! this might take some getting over.

  2. Nicole permalink
    March 12, 2007 9:30 pm

    I have missed the beer cheese soup every year! Now I can make it myself! Woo hoo!

  3. September 27, 2007 11:03 pm

    I just found this recipe. Have been looking for one like it for a long time. Thank you for sharing. I hope it comes out well enough to put a smile on your loved ones face.

  4. Erica permalink
    April 2, 2009 1:55 pm

    Would you recommend using any paticular type of beer for the Cheese Beer Soup? Ale? Stout? Or even a particular brand?

  5. May 13, 2009 1:45 pm

    What kind of cheese does the soup call for?

  6. Terry permalink
    December 23, 2009 11:40 am

    What is the serving size for the beer cheese soup recipe?

  7. Terry permalink
    December 23, 2009 11:40 am

    What type of cheese?

    • January 1, 2010 3:16 pm

      I usually use sharp cheddar. But when I was growing up my mom used Velveeta. I strongly encourage experimentation. Any kind of cheese that melts well will probably work. As for serving size, I guess we usually ladle about 2 cups into a bowl? I’m not really sure…


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