Air Transport Command® Beer Cheese Soup - ?

Beer Cheese Soup

Back in the day (1970’s and 1980’s) the Air Transport Command® restaurant next to the Wilmington DE airport made delicious Beer Cheese soup. The recipe I found for that soup is supposed to be accurate, but I have some doubt as the ratio of milk to other ingredients seems to be a quite high. Also, I note no salt addition, which may be okay as the bacon and the cheese provide some salt. I have an additional problem with the handling of the bacon and the bacon fat after frying, so I have simply changed the instructions to make sense! I typically find Internet recipes for well known dishes from well known restaurants or hotels to be woefully deficient and often dead wrong. In this case the onion called for in the directions was missing from the list of required ingredients!

I will test this recipe with the changes I have made and modify it as necessary. Made right this soup belongs on your table. It wasn’t thin and it wasn’t thick, so this recipe may change as I work with it. My initial recommendation is to hold back one quart of the milk, make the soup and then add as much milk to it as necessary to get the right concentration of flavor and good consistency. The milk addition/adjustment can be done immediately prior to adding the beer and then the soup is heated to a simmer before the beer is added. Following the beer addition the seasonings are adjusted to suit your preferences. This approach is the safest way to guarantee a great final result.

Ingredients: (makes five quarts or 12 to 16 servings of soup)

4 quarts of milk, divided (with one quart reserved for use near the end of the soup preparation)

1½ tsp. of Tabasco sauce

4½ tsp. of Worcestershire sauce

¼ lb. of bacon

1 cup of diced fresh sweet onion

1, 14 oz. can of chicken broth

1/3 cup of cornstarch

2 lbs. of sharp white cheddar cheese, grated

1½ cups of beer, room temperature (one bottle)

A few sprigs of fresh parsley as garnish


Combine 2 quarts of the milk with the two sauces in a soup pot. Heat to simmering on medium heat, but at no time should this soup come to a boil.

Sauté the bacon slices in a skillet until crisp, then remove them and reserve the bacon. Break it up into small pieces when it is cool.

Drain all but two tablespoons of the hot bacon fat from the skillet. Add the onion to the skillet and sauté it until it is translucent. Turn off the heat. Put the bacon pieces in with the onion. Set the skillet aside.

When the milk has come to a simmer (or a scald temperature, steaming but not boiling) add the chicken broth.

Mix the cornstarch with the remaining one quart of cold milk. Gradually add the cornstarch mixture to the hot milk using as much as is needed for the desired consistency. This will take some time on medium heat, with frequent stirring, because cornstarch thickens best at a full boil and you do not want to boil this soup. Keep it at a simmer on low to very low heat.

Gradually add the grated cheese, continuing to stir well until the cheese melts and the soup is smooth, then add the reserved bacon and onion and mix well.

This is the point where I recommend the addition of the reserved milk, accompanied by stirring to mix all ingredients well, but only the amount of milk necessary to achieve great taste and consistency. Do heat the soup back to a simmer after the milk addition.

Remove the pot from the heat and pour in the beer, foam and all, and mix well.

At this point you may choose to adjust the seasonings, perhaps with the addition of ground white pepper and some sea salt. Remember to mix the soup well after any addtional seasoning is added.

Serve the beer cheese soup hot, garnished with a sprig of fresh parsley. Also, serve some saltine crackers and butter on the side.