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Posted on Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 6:13 a.m.

Cheddar and Ale soup to chase away the endless winter blues

By Jessica Webster


Rich, creamy and tasty, this recipe evokes the Cheddar and Ale soup from Grizzly Peak.

Jessica Webster |

The groundhog lied. The snow keeps falling. There are no early daffodils peeking out. And I’m still looking for comfort food to warm me up.

Chili, casseroles, meatloaf, and mashed potatoes are all on the menu at my house, but the star of the show has been soup.

I’ve long been obsessed with the Cheddar and Ale soup at Ann Arbor’s Grizzly Peak. It’s rich without being overwhelming; cheesy without being over-the-top, and filling enough to be a meal by itself.

A few years ago I found a blog post with a recipe for “The-Closest-that-I've-Ever-Gotten-to-Grizzly-Peak's-Cheddar & Ale Soup,” and I’ve been tinkering with it ever since. I ended up with a soup that celebrates cheese and beer but also has a little bit of carrot and celery in it to make you feel like you’re eating something that’s good for you.

The great news is that this is incredibly simple to make. There are no difficult techniques to master. The hardest aspect to making this soup is dicing the carrots and grating the cheese. Well that, and having to restrain yourself when the urge to repeatedly taste the soup while it’s cooking takes over.

This soup makes a perfect lunch with a bit of crusty baguette or a soft pretzel. I’ve served it for dinner with a robust salad. It’s also pretty great with some steamed broccoli stirred in.

One important note about cheese: the more flavorful the cheese, the more flavorful the soup. I usually splurge on a good two- or three-year sharp white cheddar.

Favorite Cheddar and Ale Soup

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 large white onion, diced
  • 1 medium carrot, diced
  • 1 rib celery, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 2 12-ounce bottles ale (I used Old Speckled Hen)
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 cup heavy cream or half-and-half
  • 16-20 ounces aged white cheddar
  • 2-3 shakes of your favorite hot sauce - I used Cholula
  • 2-3 shakes Worcestershire
  • chopped scallion tops for garnish

Melt the butter in a large pot over medium-high heat.

Saute the onion, carrot, celery and garlic over medium heat for about 15 minutes, stirring regularly until they have softened. Keep a careful eye on the pot to avoid letting the garlic and onion brown.

Turn the heat down to low and sprinkle 1/3 cup of flour onto the vegetables, stir together and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the thyme, salt and pepper and cook for an additional 5 minutes over low heat.

Next add vegetable or chicken stock, ale and mustard. Turn the heat up and let it simmer for about 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

While the stock simmers, grate the cheddar cheese on a box grater and set aside.

After the broth is done simmering, stir in 1 cup of heavy cream. Add the cheese, a handful at a time, and stir it as it melts. Season with a few shakes of Worcestershire and hot sauce. Add more salt and pepper after tasting if necessary.

At this point, you can purée the soup using an immersion blender, or purée it in batches in a food processor or blender. I like the little bites of carrots and onions in the soup, so I elected not to.

Garnish the soup with chopped scallion tops and serve with some crusty bread or soft pretzels.

Jessica Webster leads the Food & Grocery section for Reach her at You also can follow her on Twitter or subscribe to's email newsletters.



Wed, Mar 6, 2013 : 4:13 a.m.

This recipe was quite good for the adults but the taste was too strong for the kids. I would make it with just one beer next time and maybe add more carrots and celery for a more mellow taste. Also, we used just 2 TB butter and that was plenty, and we added no salt since cheese is salty enough. To answer a previous question, we got a good 10-12 servings from our batch.


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 4:19 p.m.

For how many servings is this recipe?


Fri, Mar 1, 2013 : 5:49 a.m.

I'm looking forward to trying this recipe. Tonight I bought 15 ounces of black diamond cheddar because that's all I can afford! Also bought two bottles of Bell's Amber since I couldn't find Old Speckled Hen. We'll see how it works out this weekend!


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 5:13 p.m.

Thanks, Jessica. The soup looks and sounds delicious. The amount of vitamins A and C appear respectable. However, based on a quick analysis of its ingredients, each serving also would have over 40 grams of fat, 770 mg of sodium and 630 calories. Personally, I think one could skip the added salt (lowering the sodium content per serving by almost 100 mg) and use low-sodium stock (with a further reduction of approximately 350 mg) which would give you about 320 mg sodium per serving, less than half the original recipe. Using unsalted butter would further reduce the sodium. Cutting back on the butter to 3 TBSP instead of 4, and the cheese to 12 ounces instead of 16-20, would reduce the fat by about 8-10 grams (at least, relative to 16 ounces of cheese; even more relative to 20 ounces) and the calories by 100 or more. Any perceived compromise in taste or texture (I think it likely would be minimal) would be offset by the improved nutritional profile, if that might be important to you or any of your readers.

Jessica Webster

Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 4:36 p.m.

Good question, DBH. I easily got 6 servings out of this recipe.

Kyle Mattson

Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 1:58 p.m.

Here's a recipe for Zingerman's Soft Pretzels:

Jessica Webster

Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 4:12 p.m.

I am more than a little impressed that you recognized the Zingerman's pretzels in the photo. Well done.


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 1:39 p.m.

You can always use this stuff:

Lizzy Alfs

Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 11:34 a.m.

I've never tried the Grizzly Peak soup because I'm pretty sure they use chicken stock. Will it taste the same with the vegetable stock?


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 2:40 p.m.

I make a very similar soup and use Imagine's No-Chicken broth and Annie's veggie Worcestershire - you can get both at Plum Market. Also, this time of year, I use Bell's Hopslam to give the soup a bit of a bite. I top mine off with pumpernickel croutons.