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On a recent trip to Houston, I found myself at Anvil Bar & Refuge downing one of the finest cocktails known to man, Pliney's Tonic—that's gin, lime, cucumber, mint, and habañero. After one too many of these, I needed some sustenance and ordered their gigantic pretzel with beer cheese. I don't know if it was the alcohol or not, but at that moment, I thought that beer cheese was freaking amazing. After finishing one plate and another drink, I couldn't help but get another pretzel and cheese combo.
That night had a lasting impact on me, and I felt a strong desire to make a batch of beer cheese at home. I started the recipe similar to Kenji's cheese sauce, with cornstarch-coated cheddar and evaporated milk. Beer is a huge new component here; wanting to add flavor and not just volume, I chose a nice nutty brown ale to serve as a base. The sauce was still missing something, though, so I kept building with Dijon, Worcestershire, and a little Texas Pete. Finally I had a sauce as incredible as what I remembered from that one drunken evening.
The sharpness of the cheddar was complemented by a slight bitterness from the brown ale that made the sauce very distinct. The other ingredients gave it a robustness that it was otherwise missing. A soft pretzel straight out of the oven seems like the most perfect pairing, but I'm sure anything you wish to dip in this sauce will come out delicious.
About the author: Joshua Bousel brings you new, tasty condiment each Wednesday and a recipe for weekend grilling every Friday. He also writes about grilling and barbecue on his blog The Meatwave whenever he can be pulled away from his grill.