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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.
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