4 Beer Soups for Colder Months

Cooking with Beer by | Jan 2010 | Issue #36

Photos by Sean Z. Paxton

The days are cold and the nights are colder still, as winter takes hold. It’s this time of year that I crave soup. Requiring a single large pot, dinner is easy to make and the house smells of rich aromas that have simmered for hours. In the recipes below, beer is used not only to add liquid to these delicious soups, but the brew’s style adds extra-subtle flavors that cannot be created from a spice rack or other ingredient.

Seafood Chowder Infused with Saison Rue

This chowder recipe is a great base. Using a variety of seafood adds flavor and texture. However, this base can also be converted into a clam chowder or a salmon corn chowder—it simply depends upon what is available and fresh at your local fishmonger. The Brett-spiked farmhouse beer helps lighten the chowder up a touch, while adding a unique flavor profile to this classic cold-weather soup.

Serves: 10–12 as an appetizer or 6–8 as an entrée

1/2 cup butter
1/2 lb. bacon, smoked, peppered or uncured, cut into lardons
2 each leeks, white part only, washed and diced
2 each onions, yellow, large, peeled and sliced
3 each Yukon gold potatoes, large, diced
2 each celery stalks, diced
2 each shallots, peeled and diced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 each carrot, peeled and diced
1 each bell pepper, red, seeded and diced
1 each fennel, fonds saved for garnish, diced
1 each corn cob, kernels removed
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
750 mL Saison Rue (Brett Saison) from The Bruery
2 cup clam broth
1 lb. each P.E.I. mussels, de-bearded and washed
little neck clams, rinsed
prawns, large, shelled and de-veined
fish (salmon, halibut, cod, monkfish), skinned and chopped
2 cup half & half
oyster crackers, paprika, butter (garnish)

In a heavy-bottomed stockpot, add the butter and place over medium heat. Once the butter has melted, add in the bacon and cook for 7 minutes or until the bacon just starts to become crispy. Next, add and then sweat the leeks and onions for 5–6 minutes, until they become transparent. Add in the potatoes, celery, shallots, garlic, carrots, bell pepper, fennel and corn kernels; stir to combine and season with salt. Cook another 5–6 minutes, stirring frequently. This will build the foundation of the chowder and intensify the flavors.

Add in the flour, sprinkling evenly over the vegetables. Using a wooden spoon, mix the flour into the mixture and cook for another 3 minutes, cooking the flour completely and making a roux. Add in the Saison and clam broth, mixing well. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. The soup will thicken slightly. Add in the mussels and clams, stirring to combine. Once the mollusks start to open, add in the prawns and cubed fish. Now add in enough half & half to get the consistency and thickness desired. Bring to just a simmer, then turn off the heat. The prawns and fish should just be cooked through. Check the seasonings, adjusting as needed.

To serve, ladle the chowder into bowls, topping with oyster crackers, a pad of butter, a light dusting of paprika and a crack or two of pepper.


  • Instead of a bowl, small sourdough bread rounds hollowed out are a great crowd pleaser.
  • A French variation on this would be to create bowls out of puff pastry (using a large circular cutter, cut the rolled dough to the cutting board, then score the dough with a smaller cutter. Bake at 400˚F for 15–18 minutes, until golden brown) and fill with the chowder.
  • Add hot smoked salmon instead of fresh salmon for another flavor dimension.
  • Try adding a teaspoon or two of curry powder.
White Bean Soup with Wit Gremolata

A classic comfort soup with a citrus twist, highlighting the Wit used to cook the beans.

Serves: 10-12 as an appetizer or 6-8 as an entrée

Soup Ingredients:
1 lb. white beans, dried (Navy, Great Northern, Cannellini)
1/4 cup olive oil or unsalted butter
1 each onion, yellow, large, peeled and diced
1 each leek, washed and diced
1 each celery stalk, diced
1 each smoked pork shank or hock (optional)
1 each bay leaf
22 oz. Wit-style beer (The Bruery White Orchid, Hoegaarden, De Struise Witte)
1–2 qt. chicken or vegetable stock
1–2 tbsp. kosher salt
white pepper to taste
tangerine-infused or extra virgin olive oil for garnish

Soup Directions:
Start by washing the beans and removing any deformed legumes, rocks or other foreign material. Place the beans into a large container and cover with fresh water. Cover with a lid and let the beans rehydrate for 12–24 hours in a cool place. Alternatively, if the beans are very fresh, they can be placed directly into a pot, covering with cold water by 2 inches. Bring to a boil, turn off the heat and let sit for 1 hour to hydrate.

In a large Dutch oven over medium heat, add the oil/butter. Add the prepared onions, leeks and celery; sauté for 5 minutes, stirring frequently, so that the vegetables become transparent and no color is added. Add the garlic, shank/hock and bay leaf, then the beer and top with enough stock to cover the beans by about an inch. Bring the beans to a boil, then lower heat to create a mild simmer. Skim off any foam that may float on top of the broth. Cook until the beans are tender and the meat is starting to fall off the bone, about 1–1 1/2 hours. Check the level of the liquid, adding more stock if needed. Once the beans are done, but not falling apart, turn off the heat.

Remove the shank/hock (if using) and set aside. Place between 1/3 and 1/2 of the soup into the pitcher of a blender and purée until smooth. If using the meat in the final soup, remove the bones and chop the meat into smaller pieces. Add the meat and purée back to the pot and mix well. Season with salt and pepper to taste, adjusting the consistency of the soup with more stock if it is too thick.

Gremolata Ingredients:
1 each navel or Valencia orange
1 each cara cara or blood orange
1 each lemon
(all zested)
2 cloves garlic, peeled and zested
1/4 cup Italian leaf parsley
1 tsp. coriander, ground
kosher salt and pepper to taste

Gremolata Directions:
A gremolata is almost like a salsa or condiment added to dishes that have been cooked or braised for a long period of time. The citrus and herbal flavors bring the punch back to the dish. This is also a great topping for seafood.

In a small bowl, using a microplane or zester, zest the citrus and garlic together. Add in the individual leaves of the parsley, as well as the coriander, and season lightly with salt and pepper. Toss to combine. Place about 1 teaspoon on top of each bowl of soup. Then drizzle with oil and serve. The gremolata can be made in advance and can be kept cold for 12 hours.

Lentil Soup with Caramelized Onions, Kielbasa, and Chipotle Ale

This soup screams comfort: hearty, satisfying and a touch of soul-warming spice. You can feed a crowd, and there is only one pot to clean.

Serves: 10–12 as an appetizer or 6–8 as an entrée

1/2 cup olive oil (or rendered bacon fat)
3 each onions, yellow, large, peeled and sliced
2 each leeks, washed and diced
2 each carrots, peeled and diced
2 each celery stalks, washed and diced
6 each garlic cloves, peeled and minced
2 each bay leaves
4 each thyme sprigs
16 oz. lentils (brown, green or black), rinsed and checked for any small rocks
22 oz. Rogue Chipotle Ale
2 qt. chicken or vegetable stock
16 oz. kielbasa (smoked Polish style) sausage, sliced on the bias
1/4 cup Italian leaf parsley, washed and chopped
2–3 tbsp. kosher salt
cracked black pepper to taste

In a heavy-bottom pot, about 8-quart size, add the oil and place over medium-high heat. Once the oil starts to ripple, add in the onions and stir well to coat evenly. Cook for 5 minutes, then lower the heat to medium. Cook another 5–8 minutes, until the onions start to caramelize. Next, add in the leeks, carrots, celery, garlic, bay leaves, thyme and lentils; mix well. Cook this mixture for another 5 minutes. Add in the beer, scraping the bottom of the pan, removing any fond, then top off with the stock. Increase the heat to high; bring the soup to a boil, then lower the heat to medium, simmering for 45 minutes. Check the lentils to see if they are almost tender, but not falling apart. Add the sausage, parsley and salt: Cook for another 10–15 minutes. Remove from heat, seasoning with salt and pepper.

Variations: To make this soup more Southwestern and play up the Chipotle Ale, add 2 each (roasted, peeled, seeded and sliced) poblano, pasilla and red bell peppers. Add 1 ear of roasted corn, and 1–4 chipotle peppers, minced. Substitute the kielbasa with chorizo and the yellow onions for red. Garnish the soup with some roasted tomato salsa and roasted garlic cloves.

Smoked Tomato Red Ale Soup

Serve the soup with a Grilled Goat Gouda Panini to take this perfect combo to cuisine à la bière status.

Serves: 8 as a shot or 4 as an entrée

Soup Ingredients:
8 each roma tomatoes, ripe, or 28-ounce can of San Marzano, whole, peeled
10 slices coppa, hot or mild (Italian cured pork), sliced thin (optional)
1/4 cup olive oil or rendered bacon fat
12 cloves garlic, peeled
1 each onion, yellow, large, peeled and diced
1 each bay leaf
1 tbsp. oregano leaves, fresh
1–2 drops liquid smoke (optional)
22 oz. Red Ale (such as Bear Republic’s Red Rocket Ale)

Soup Directions:
If a smoker or converted BBQ is available, smoke the tomatoes for 45 minutes at 325˚F; the skin should start to burst and be a dark smoke color. Alternatively, preheat the oven to 400˚F. Take a sheet tray and line with either a Silpat or parchment paper. Lightly grease with oil. Take the fresh tomatoes and cut the ends off, then cut in half lengthwise. Place cut-side down onto the sheet tray. Add the slices of coppa and place into the center of the oven. Cook until the coppa is crispy, like bacon, about 9 minutes. Remove the coppa to a plate and continue to roast the tomatoes for another 35 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a soup pot over low heat, add the oil and the garlic cloves, letting slowly roast, making roasted garlic. Stir periodically to prevent the garlic from burning. Cook for 20 minutes or until golden brown, soft and sweet. Add the onion, bay leaf and oregano, and increase the heat to medium; caramelize the onion to a golden-brown color, about 12 minutes. Skin the tomatoes and add them to the pot, stirring well. Add the liquid smoke if tomatoes were not smoked and top with the beer. Bring to a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes.

Remove the bay leaf and purée the soup in a blender or with a handheld immersion mixer. Season with salt and pepper to taste, adding a pinch or two of sugar if needed. To serve, ladle into bowls, topping each with a coppa crisp and a drizzle of olive oil. Or serve in tall shot glasses and top with a coppa crisp.

Panini Ingredients:
1/2 lb. goat gouda or other cheese (sharp cheddar, Monterey jack or brie)
8 slices artisanal bread, sliced
butter, unsalted, room temperature

Panini Directions:
Slice all the cheese into equal-thickness pieces. Butter one side of each slice of bread. Place the butter-side down onto a clean work surface and portion the cheese equally on half of the bread. Top with the remaining butter. Place into a panini grill or use a sauté pan set over medium heat and weigh it down with a second pan. After about 3–4 minutes, remove the top pan, flip the sandwich, then cover again, cooking another 3–4 minutes. Remove when golden brown, cut in half and serve with the soup.