If you’re a fan of rich and hearty beer-cheese soup (and who isn’t?), you’ll love our Southern twist on the dish. The surprise ingredient is stone-ground grits, which add toasty corn flavor and a unique texture that works well with the creaminess of the soup. Good-quality stone-ground grits are important in this recipe, and worth seeking out. (Our test kitchen recommends McEwen and Sons and Anson Mills brands.) Some beer-cheese soups taste more like one ingredient or the other, but we like the balance of extra-sharp Cheddar cheese with a brown ale such as Newcastle, Bass Ale, or Sierra Nevada. The tangy cheese isn’t overpowered by the hoppy beer, and vice versa. You could enjoy a bowl of this comforting soup with a piece of crusty bread and be perfectly happy, but the Garlicky Pumpernickel Croutons are a great match for the dish and take just 20 minutes to make. Cheesy Grits-and-Ale Soup can be made one day ahead and tastes even better the next day. Reheat before serving, stirring often, over medium low heat. You can make this soup when the kids are busy with homework and still make it to the dinner table in under an hour. The creamy texture will make any fall night feel cozy.
Melt butter in a Dutch oven over medium; add onion, celery, and garlic, and cook, stirring constantly, until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in milk, ale, broth, and salt. Bring to a gentle simmer, and whisk in grits. Reduce heat to low; cook, whisking often, until grits are tender and thickened, about 25 minutes. (Liquid should barely bubble.)
Toss together cheese, cornstarch, and cayenne pepper in a bowl. Add cheese mixture to soup, 1/2 cup at a time, whisking until melted after each addition. Stir in mustard and Worcestershire sauce; add salt to taste. Top servings with scallions and Garlicky Pumpernickel Croutons.