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Crew’s Mess: Irish Beer Cheese Soup

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Crew’S Mess: By Capt. John Wampler

Back in my flying days, we had a Gulfstream trip in which we flew eight bankers to Dublin, with a four-day layover at The Conrad on St. Stephen’s Green before the return flight back to the U.S.

After a night of discovery in Dublin, I just had to get out of the city. So the next day, I walked to Houston Station and took a train to the 10th-century city of Kilkenny, two hours away.

It boasts a medieval castle, a 1,000-year-old town of cobblestone streets, secret passageways and narrow Norman alleyways, and The Round Tower, which dates back to the sixth century. Truly a mystical experience.

I happened into a 16th-century tavern, The Hole in the Wall, for a bite to eat. On the menu was Irish Beer Cheese,  which I found delicious. I spoke to the innkeeper and managed to get the recipe for this warm and inviting soup.

As I write this now, I have yacht owners in town, and it is bloody cold outside. In fact, it’s 53 F, drizzly and blowing, with seas to 15 feet out in “the stream.” It was my memory of Kilkenny and the recipe I acquired there that brought a little warmth and delight into their weekend. This recipe is super easy to make and, I can confirm, yacht owner-approved.

Irish Beer Cheese Soup. Photo by Capt. John Wampler

Ingredients:
4 tablespoons butter (1/2 stick)
2 medium onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon course black pepper
1/2 cup flour
1 (12-ounce) bottle Irish Ale
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
5 cups chicken stock
2 cups (1-pound package) mild shredded cheddar cheese
8 ounces processed cheese
2/3 cup sour cream

Preparation:
In a Dutch oven (I like cast iron) over medium heat, melt the butter. Add garlic, onion, chili and black pepper, Sauté for 6-8 minutes until onion is translucent.

Sprinkle flour over onion/garlic and stir for 3 minutes (this is the roux).

Stir in a good lager (I use O’Hara’s Irish Red, but Harp will do) and chicken stock; bring to a boil.

Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.

Stir in the heavy cream and remove from heat.

With a ladle, add mixture to a food processor or blender (may have to do it in batches) and puree until smooth.

Pour soup back into the Dutch oven, over low heat, add sour cream and the cheeses; stir until the cheeses melts.

Serve in sourdough bread bowls (available at Panera).  Garnish with chopped scallions and bacon. Enjoy.

Capt. John Wampler (yachtaide.com) has worked on yachts for more than 30 years. His recipes are casual enough for anyone to prepare. Comments are welcome below.

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