A Recipe for 5 O’clock Cheddar Ale Soup

from our new cookbook, Celebrate Every Day

A steamy cup of soup is our favorite way to warm up this time of year, but 5 O’clock Cheddar Ale fits the bill all year-round. We’ve enjoyed it every Thursday in the shop for more than a decade and we’re not tiring of it yet. Its distinctive flavor comes from sharp cheddar cheese, sherry vinegar, Marash pepper, and a well-chosen amber ale. And now, you can make it at home anytime the craving strikes! We’re sharing the recipe with you not only here, but also in our newly released cookbook, Celebrate Every Day.

Our new cookbook

Our first cookbook, Zingerman’s Bakehouse, was written to mark the Bakehouse’s 25th anniversary. It was admittedly a more serious endeavor. It required us to distill a quarter-century’s worth of hard work by hundreds of incredibly talented people and everything we had become known for into a 250-page book.

But this paved the way for us to have some fun and let our hair down a little (figuratively—we do have health codes to follow!) with our second cookbook, Celebrate Every Day. We wanted this book to be about joy—the joy that’s created when delicious food brings us together, around a table with loved ones; and celebration—we wanted to celebrate our community, for allowing us to provide this food to so many special occasions throughout the years. So that’s what we wrote! From the playful photos and colorful design to the recipes we chose to mark celebrations, big and small, we hope you think it’s as fun as we do! 

Now on to the recipe! We suggest pairing this soup with a soft Bavarian Pretzel for dunking (you can also find this recipe in the new book).

a bowl of cheddar ale soup on a wooden table with a glass of beer and a soft pretzel visible around it

5 O’clock Cheddar Ale Soup

Servings 6 as a main dish


Vegetable Stock

  • 2 large carrots (185 g)
  • 1 medium yellow onion (160 g)
  • 2 large celery stalks (140 g)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 or 3 fresh parsley sprigs
  • 1 or 2 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 2 whole peppercorns
  • 7 cups water (1610 g)


  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (110 g)
  • 1 cup diced yellow onion (140 g)
  • 1 cup diced carrot (140 g)
  • 1 1/4 cups diced celery (150 g)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced (25 g)
  • Fine sea salt
  • 14 oz amber ale
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour (140 g)
  • 4 cups vegetable stock (910 g)
  • 4 3/4 cups whole milk (1075 g)
  • 8 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese (640 g)
  • 3 tsp Marash pepper flakes (15 g)
  • 1 tsp ground white pepper
  • 3 tsp sherry vinegar (15 g)


Make the vegetable stock:

  • Cut the carrots, onion, and celery into large pieces. In a medium stockpot, add the vegetables, parsley, thyme, bay leaf, peppercorns, and water.
  • Bring the stock to a boil, over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer gently, partially covered, for one hour.
  • Strain the simmered stock through a fine-mesh sieve, discard the solids, and reserve 4 cups for the soup. You should have more than enough; any extra can be refrigerated or frozen for later use, but if you come up a little short, don't fret, just make up the difference with water.

Make the soup:

  • In a large stockpot over medium heat, melt the butter, then add the onions, carrots, celery, garlic, and a generous sprinkle of salt, and sauté until the vegetables are tender and onions are translucent, 10 to 15 minutes. Be careful not to brown them.
  • Add the beer to the vegetables, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer for 5 minutes to concentrate it.
  • In a separate, medium pot, bring the vegetable stock to a simmer.
  • Add the flour to the beer and vegetable mixture. Stir and cook over medium heat until the mixture thickens and starts to stick to the pot. Gradually pour in the milk, stirring as you do, and then bring the soup to a simmer.
  • Add the hot vegetable stock to the soup. If your stock cooked down below four cups, add water to get the needed amount.
  • Remove the pot form the heat and purée with an immersion blender.
  • Put the puréed soup back onto the stove over low to medium heat, and slowly add the grated cheese, stirring constantly to avoid scorching.
  • Turn off the burner and stir in the Marash pepper, white pepper, and vinegar. Season with additional salt if needed.
  • Storage: Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.


Marash pepper flakes, from Turkey, are deep red in color and irregular in shape. They give a distinctive earthy flavor with a touch of heat to this dish. They can often be found from specialty retailers online and sometimes in specialty food stores. If you can’t find them, equally interesting and slightly different Aleppo or Urfa pepper flakes are good substitutes. If all else fails, substitute an equal amount of standard red pepper flakes available in most American grocery stores. 

Hungry for more?

  • Join us at BAKE! for our Sassy Soups class and learn to make this, plus Molinaro’s Mushroom Barley!
  • Grab a copy of our cookbooklet, Cup or Bowl, for even more super soup recipes.
  • Unlock flavor nirvana with soup pairing suggestions from insiders.
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Corynn Coscia is the marketing assistant manager and photographer at Zingerman’s Bakehouse. After spending her childhood reluctantly in front of the camera of her hobbyist-photographer father, she was eager to move behind it, prompting her to pursue a BA in Film & Video Studies at the University of Michigan. With degree in hand, she moved to Los Angeles where she worked in the TV and music industries before discovering her passion for food photography while working in marketing with a plant-based chef. 2 dogs, 2 kids, and 13 years later, she’s back in Ann Arbor doing what she loves and somehow getting paid for it. She recently completed a photography fellowship with her mentor, New York Times food photographer Andrew Scrivani, and has since been shortlisted for a Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year award. Her photos can be seen throughout the Bakehouse on the walls, on the website and social media, and in the Bakehouse’s series of cookbooklets; she hopes they’re making you hungry!

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