Drinking with a KNIFE & FORK

I wish I had that wall in my house —you know, the one with 99 bottles of beer. I wonder how long it would last. I’d eventually come up with ways to utilize them for more things than just drinking — maybe feeding it to my cows like the Japanese do in Kobe, but without the massaging; massaging cows is not my thing! However, as I don’t have Wagu cows hanging around and spend most of my time cooking, I’ll combine the two and Chef Up my food with that excess brew.

Because the ancient Egyptians are credited with being one of the first to brew beer (the pyramids were probably originally designed as pubs), they must have used it in their cooking. I bet beer and duck stew was a big favorite.

Like cooking with wine, cooking with beer has become a practice in many top cuisines. Both liquids add a great punch of flavor. Just remember that a wine reduction is a dream, but a beer reduction is a nightmare. While reducing wine brings out the sugars and fruit, reducing beer results in an unpleasantly bitter, unpalatable mistake that only an untrained shoemaker could embrace.

Some of my favorite dishes involve beer. The cliché for wine — “Cook with whatever you’re drinking” — really applies to beer, but in reverse: You should drink whatever you’re cooking with. When cooking with beer, the purpose is to add the flavor profile of the specific style to food. So if I’m making a bratwurst, I use Bavarian weizenbock or a good bock. Same goes for poutine — while the gravy recipe might not call for beer, why not add a good Canadian-style lager or ale? Regional beers are essential to regional cuisines. That’s right, hipsters, you can boil hot dogs in PBR and still be relevant.

Aside from Germany, the nation whose culture is most entwined with beer is Belgium. While walking through Leuven (home of Stella Artois), I was astonished to see cafés crowded with locals drinking, not espresso, but beer. Beer-thirty at 7 a.m. My kind of place!

While you enjoy Jacksonville Beer Week, use this Guinness and Cheddar soup as an excuse to drink what you’re cooking with.


Chef Bill’s Guinness and Cheddar Soup



  • 8 oz. pancetta
  • 1/2 cup celery, small dice
  • 1 onion, small dice
  • 1 jalapeno, small dice
  • 2 shallots, small dice
  • 1 tbsp. garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. caraway seeds
  • 4 oz. butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 oz. Guinness
  • 20 oz. chicken stock
  • 1 bouquet garni (bundle of herbs tied with string)
  • 8 oz. cheddar, shredded
  • 4 oz. smoked Gouda
  • 3 oz. heavy cream
  • Salt and pepper to taste



  1. Process pancetta in food processor.
  2. Heat butter in pot, toast the caraway seeds, add the onion, shallots andpancetta, and sweat. Add the celery, jalapeno and garlic, and sweat.
  3. Add the flour and form a roux, slowly whisk in the chicken stock, add the bouquet garni, and season. Simmer for 30 minutes.
  4. Slowly stir in the cheeses. Once incorporated, add beer. Adjust the seasonings.
  5. Puree until silky. Adjust seasonings to taste.


Until we cook again,


Contact Chef Bill Thompson, owner of Amelia Island Culinary Academy in Historic Fernandina Beach, with your recipes or questions at [email protected], for inspiration to get you Cheffed Up!