This elegant dip was inspired from a revelation I had about bar food when we briefly lived in Nashville. The first time I ever tried a beer cheese dip was in a Nashville taproom from the “Yazoo” brewery.
But wait… the story gets better…
In north Nashville (Germantown) every year they have an Octoberfest (which is calendar-actually Septemberfest) and it is a celebration put on by the microbreweries that encourages foodies and hipsters to come out and try craft beer and snacks. Awesome, right?!? It gets better…
They have this cool celebration where they have a mass of bouncy balls (as in like 10,000 or more) that they drop from a front-end loader down this hill. The various bouncy balls have images on them, and certain unique images award prizes. The ultimate prize is always a paid trip to Germany for the real Octoberfest. Well, we didn’t win that one. But a close second prize was to win your weight in beer. I took a knee to the face for it, and it was sooooooo worth it. We had to go in person to claim the 8 CASES of beer and while we were there, we tried some of the taproom delights. This is when I met beer cheese dip for the very first time.
What You’ll Need
• 8oz Package Cream Cheese (softened and at room temperature)
• 1 Bunch of Chives / Green Onions
• 8oz Package White Cheddar (preferably FARMHOUSE, but Vermont or Sharp will do)
• 2 Tsp Garlic Powder
• 2 Tsp Onion Powder
• 1/3 – 1/2 Cup “Nutty” IPA Beer or English Stout (don’t use a “juicy” IPA)*
• Pretzel Chips for serving
*For a first time recipe experience, I will recommend a very specific beer: Samuel Adams Rebel IPA. It isn’t overbearing, yet it strong enough to coach out the flavors of a farmhouse or white cheddar cheese. This is not my favorite beer by any means, but it is an excellent starting point.
Tools You’ll Need
• A Bowl
• Metal Serving / Mixing Spoon
• Cheese Grater
• Chef Knife or Kitchen Shears (shears are better for this)
* BEFORE COOKING… SOME PRO TIPS!!!*
*PRO TIP #1*
This recipe is meant to be experimented with. This particular recipe is a starting point, and experimentation is encouraged…
*PRO TIP #2*
That being said… this appetizer is all about the delicate pairing of cheese to beer. I personally like a nutty and more bitter IPA with a sharp white farmhouse cheddar. Why? The bitter IPA flavors mix well with a stronger and more bitter sharper white cheddar. You could mix an English stout with a hardier yellow cheddar for a less bitter and more “beer-cheese soup” kind of taste, for example. The beer is a thinning agent, but it will also flavor your dip, so pair your beer to the cheese you select and not the other way around.
*PRO TIP #3*
The beer will thin down the dip. Add more for a thinner dip and less for a thicker dip. But be aware that the more beer you add, the more stronger the beer taste will be. This is why the pairing is so important. Stronger beers will typically yield a thicker recipe, because you will want to use less beer. Keep that in mind when choosing a companion beer to your cheese.
*PRO TIP #4*
Um, cauliflower anyone? A bitter beer / strong cheese lends itself well to the basic flavor of cauliflower for a slightly lower calorie version of this snack. I tried this by accident, and it was awesome (and confirmed immediately by 3 people). Cauliflower = diet pretzel chip… sort of.
What to Do
1. Make sure the cream cheese is warm(ish) and add to a medium to large serving bowl.
2. Grate 6-7oz of the cheese you’ve selected directly on top of the cream cheese. I recommend using a “farmhouse cheddar” or a sharp / Vermont cheddar if you can’t find a farmhouse. Most grocery stores will carry the Cracker Barrel brand, which has a farmhouse cheddar I personally recommend for this party pleaser.
3. Measure out 2 tsp of garlic and onion powder, and add to the mixture.
4. Add 1/3 – 1/2 cup of the selected beer directly to the mix. 1/3 cup will be thicker. If you want a thinner dip, you could even use 2/3 cup given the beer isn’t too strongly flavored.
5. Dice the chives into 1/8 – 1/4 slices almost down until you reach the stalks. Green onions make the flavor stronger if using a weaker beer, but will help to mask some of the flavor of a stronger IPA. Don’t be shy with the green onions.
6. Once the beer is added (it will fizz a little) use a metal spoon to start combining all the ingredients. This will be tough at first (especially if the cream cheese is cold), but once you start to combine all the ingredients, it will become easier to mix. This should take a minute or two, and you want to make sure you don’t leave chunks of plain cream cheese or puddles of beer.
7. Serve with pretzel chips (or cauliflower if feeling adventurous) and compliment with the beer used in the recipe.
P.S. If you are ever in Nashville, I highly recommend visiting the Yazoo taproom. They have a good variety as well as some specialty beers. The “Sue” in particular is an excellent specialty beer that is an excellent and unique tasting “barbecue in a bottle.”