When I’m having trouble convincing myself to go to a party, there’s usually one thing that can set me straight: cheese dip. I’m not talking about the canned or jarred stuff, though even those have their time and place. No—the only thing that will get me out the door is the category of really good Cheese Dips, in which there are two sole members, beer cheese and pimiento cheese.
Beer cheese is, for me, an exercise in flavor. Rich, smoky, and malty, its recipes typically involve blending sharp Cheddar and smoked Gouda into a thick paste with a splash (or cup) of beer, plus seasonings like garlic, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, and cayenne. The consistency is spreadable and somewhat grainy, reminiscent of pub cheese.
It has its limits; what it lacks in texture can be found in pimiento cheese—that velvety-smooth southern specialty combining really good mayo, diced pimientos, and grated cheddar.
Because you should never have to settle for just one cheese dip, behold the perfect marriage of the two.
To create the coveted smoky, umami-packed flavor that is the essence of beer cheese, smoked gouda is blended with beer, classic seasonings, and mayonnaise until it forms a silky, runny sauce. Then, shredded sharp Cheddar and diced pimientos are folded in for the coveted pimiento cheese texture. Garnish with thinly sliced scallions, if you wish, serve with Ritz crackers or pretzels, and voilà.
A few closing thoughts. First: Use a malty beer you’d be excited to drink on its own. The results will speak for themselves ( and this recipe only calls for ¼ cup, so you can sip on the rest of the bottle while you finish making the dip).
Second: For best results, grate your own cheese. I know it’s a lot of effort, but trust me, it’s worth it: pre-shredded versions often come with a slightly chalky coating that won’t blend as well or yield the same silky texture. And finally: don’t skimp on the quality of the mayo. Duke’s Mayo reigns supreme, in my humble opinion.
1 cup smoked gouda, grated (about 4 ounces)
¼ cup malty beer, like an Oktoberfest
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ cup mayonnaise (Duke’s is best)
3 cups sharp Cheddar, grated (about 12 ounces—I like to use a mixture of half coarsely shredded, and half finely shredded)
½ cup pimientos, diced and drained
½ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)
In a food processor, blend together smoked gouda, beer, garlic, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and cayenne pepper until mixture is smooth and runny. Wipe down sides of food processor with a rubber spatula, then add mayonnaise and blend again until just combined.
Transfer mixture to a large bowl, then add sharp Cheddar, pimientos, black pepper, kosher salt, and crushed red pepper, if using. Stir to thoroughly combine. Serve with Ritz crackers or fresh pretzels, plus more malty beer.