The History Dish: Beer Soup

beersoupHot German beer soup.

The History

Beer soup!  Soup made from beer!  And there is no cheddar cheese or Guinness in sight–this is a sweet, German lager soup.

This recipe comes from the generically named Practical Cook Book one of the most popular German cookbooks of all time.  First published in 1844 (first English version in 1897), the book was written and compiled by Henriette Davidis, a woman known as the German Mrs. Beeton for the scope and scale of her work.

A reprint of this cookbook is available, titled Pickled Herring and Pumpkin Pie: A Nineteenth-Century Cookbook for German Immigrants to America; the evocative title makes me  think of this book tucked in the suitcases of the thousands of German immigrants that made their way to America in the middle of the 19th century.  Separated from their mother, young women could have brought this book with them as a reminder of the tastes of home.  Or, as the different German cultures mixed and married in the Kleine Deutschlands of the U.S., perhaps they used it to learn to cook a new regional cuisine for their husband.

I first worked with Davidis’ book while researching food for the Lower East Side Tenement Museum’s new Shop Life exhibit, which features a fully restored 1870s German lager beer saloon.  I made lebkuchen, a honey spice cake, and sauerbraten, a sort of pickled pot roast, from Davidis’ recipes.  They were molded in latex and cast to create the faux food on display in the exhibit.

But a few more recipes in this cook book caught my eye, so I’m going to revisit this tomb of classic German cooking to see if we can discover some gems.  First up, beer soup!

The Germans were responsible for bringing lager beer to the United States: a lighter beer with a lower alcoholic content, it became wildly popular in America, replacing ale as the favorite draught.  Currently, all of this country’s major beer producers make lager beer.

The Recipe

beery_soup_reciptbeer_soup_recipe2

Beer Soup

From The Practical Cook Book by Henriette Davidis, 1897 (English Version)

1 cup beer
1 cup water
1/2 cup light brown sugar
Pinch salt
1 egg yolk
1 heaping tablespoon flour

Place egg and flour in a heat safe bowl; set aside. Heat beer, water, sugar, and salt until just before boiling.  Pour beer slowly over egg and flour, constantly whisking.  Return to pan. Serve hot.

beersoup2Beer, measured for soup.

The Results

I ended up using a hefeweizen beer, which is not a lager, because I thought its natural sweetness would work well in this recipe.  When I sipped my soup, it had a wonderful, soft, creamy mouth-feel.  But it tasted like the day after a party smells: warm, stale beer.

 

9 Responses to “The History Dish: Beer Soup”


  • A friend once made beer soup (as part of an epic German feast). I don’t like beer, but gave it a shot. With the sugar and egg, I thought it tasted a lot like a medieval posset.

    • I do not know what that tastes like! But I suppose it tastes like beer soup…

      • I misspoke, it’s more like a caudle than a posset. A posset is made with hot milk or cream which is curdled with alcohol (beer, ale, wine, or sack were common) and sometimes thickened with eggs. It’s a solid dish, like cheese curds, and .

        A caudle, which is what I was thinking of, is a thickened beverage: warmed beer, ale or wine mixed with eggs or ground almonds, sweetened with sugar and spices. And that’s what I thought the German beer soup was like.

  • You rock! Your description of the taste was specific enough to send me running for the hills away from beer soup. Keep on being awesome.

  • very good post! I like the way you describe it (“tasted like the day after a party smells”). That make me laugh laugh so loud I scared my dog!

    But, I think you really needed to do this with a stout beer, like guinness, founder’s breakfast, stone xocoveza, Alabama, etc. Even an imperial stout like the new guiness product that is aged in bulliet bourbon barrels or old Rasputin, etc.

    It would have added sweetness and bitterness, the latter of which would be mitigated by the sugar and the lactose in the cream as well as notes of dark chocolate and fruitiness (like fig fruitiness, not strawberry fruitiness).

    Even a coffee-like flavor note because of the roasted barley.

    I just think it would have made for a smoother flavor with a creamier mouth-feel, and probably a more accurate dark-ages experience.

    And who among us doesn’t pine away for the dark ages, right? Lol

    I’m not personally a fan of stout beer for drinking. It’s to sweet and WAY too bitter. I vastly prefer lager, like yuengling (traditional), killian’s red, narragansett or my newest discovery – eliot ness.

    But, in a hot, thickened, soup-like beverage, I can totally see how stout would work out better than any lager, pilsner IPA, ale, etc.

    Again, thanks for a very good read!

  • Sorry about that – my phone seems to have auto-corrected “allagash” to “Alabama”. Weird!

    Probably not my only typo with this stipud Samsung though!

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