Whether you’re prepping for a Super Bowl gathering or keeping it to yourself, cheese dip is decidedly comfort food. Pouring beer into the pot bumps the blend up several levels. For the ultimate score, I add homemade ingredients with smoky, roasted flavors.
A good beer-cheese dip takes little time but some attention and a few tricks. Coating the cheese with cornstarch keeps the fat from separating, the proteins from clumping and the water in both cheese and beer from thinning the sauce. It helps you get away with a sharp or even extra-sharp cheddar, which can be hard to melt evenly but pairs oh so nicely with beer.
Beer choice deserves some consideration, especially if you tend toward hoppy IPAs or full-bodied pale ales. When cooking with beer, a less bitter brew gives the smoothest flavor. Start by looking at the international bitterness units: At their most basic, the lower the IBU rating, the less bitter the beer. So when making dip, I save IPA for sipping and hit up one of valley’s many local breweries for a low-IBU kölsh or lager. Bias Brewing in Kalispell makes beer queso with its Mittelkinder Kölsh; if it’s not on tap, swap in Bias’s Whistlepunk Lager or a similar style from your favorite local brewery.
Once you have your cheese and beer, you can pile in other flavors to taste. I reach into my fridge for home-smoked cheese and chili paste, homemade German-style mustard and heads of roasted garlic. You can find recipes for all of these flavor boosters on the blog at TwiceAsTasty.com. Until they become fridge staples, smoked paprika and store-bought mustard make good substitutes.
Tortilla chips, thick enough to support the cheese, and crisp produce like apples and carrots make tasty dippers, but I always lean toward sourdough. If you joined in last month’s sourdough giveaway and have your own starter, head to the blog for recipes for Sourdough Pretzel Bites and Sourdough Pita Chips. Cheese, beer, sourdough – touchdown.
Quick Beer-Cheese Dip
Makes about 3 cups
12 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
2 tablespoons cornstarch
12 ounces low-IBU beer, such as a kölsch or lager
1 teaspoon smoked paprika or chili paste, or to taste
2 tablespoons prepared mustard
2 cloves roasted garlic, minced (optional)
In a medium bowl, toss the shredded cheese with the cornstarch until coated. In a small pot, bring the beer to a gentle simmer over medium heat. Gradually stir the cheese into the simmering beer, letting the cheese melt into the liquid until smooth before adding more. Stir the paprika or chili paste, mustard and minced garlic, if using, into the smooth dip. Serve immediately with dippers, such as sturdy tortilla chips, apples, carrots or sourdough pretzel bites or pita chips. To keep the dip smooth longer, transfer it to a fondue pot or mini slow cooker set on warm.
Julie Laing is a Bigfork-based cookbook author and food blogger at TwiceAsTasty.com.
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