This beer cheese fondue is a rustic take on my classic Swiss Fondue recipe. I tweak it into a more rustic version with beer, creamy Cambozola cheese, onion, and crisp, smoky bacon.
Growing up in Germany, my mom often made beer cheese fondue on Christmas Eve or New Year's Eve. My sister and I were in charge of cutting up the loaf of rustic bread to dip in the melted cheese and getting the other dippers ready.
It brings back the best memories and we have continued this tradition since moving to the United States.
How to make it
Making beer cheese fondue is easier than you think! But I do recommend not skipping steps or ingredients other than the cheese hacks I list with the ingredient list and in the recipe notes.
You'll start by rubbing the fondue pot with a halved garlic clove to season it with garlic. Then add your beer and lemon juice before warming the pot to avoid any thermal shock, especially when using an enameled pot like I am.
Bring the beer to a simmer. Toss your grated, hard cheese with the cornstarch and add to the hot beer. Add the cambozola cheese last. Cambozola cheese is a German marriage of French Camembert and Italian Gorgonzola Blue Cheese. It's perfectly creamy and tangy.
Reduce to medium heat, and stir with a wooden spoon in a figure-eight pattern until the cheese is melted and combined with the beer.
Add the remaining ingredients like Kirschwasser (an iconic cherry brandy), fresh garlic, mustard, grated nutmeg, and the cooked bacon and onion.
Stir one last time, season to taste with salt and black pepper, and serve.
With cheese fondue, each person gets one fondue fork. You stab whatever dipper you like, then dip in the cheese. You will only dip the fork in far enough so that some cheese ends up on the dipper. To be more sanitary, do not immerse any metal parts of the fork, since that just spreads germs. Although family is family and what doesn't kill you makes you stronger.
I like serving my cheese fondue with a green salad dressed in vinaigrette.
For beer cheese fondue, I use a combination of classic fondue ingredients and less traditional ingredients to add more rustic flavor. The quality of the ingredients really makes or breaks a fondue, so it helps to buy the best you can get your hands on.
- Cheese. The quality of the cheese is so important, so don't buy the cheapest cheese there is. I buy Gruyère and Emmentaler at Costco and that's enough cheese for one fondue plus more. For this more rustic beer cheese fondue, I mix the Swiss cheeses with some creamy Cambozola (a mix of creamy Gorgonzola and Camembert cheese). I cut the Cambozola up into small pieces before adding to the pot. You want mostly aged cheeses in your fondue. Notice that Cambozola is creamier, so I don't have it be more than ¼ of the total cheese amount that goes into this fondue, or else the consistency will be off. Don't want to shred your own cheese? I have used Trader Joe's (I think Aldi sells it too) Swiss cheese mix before and it's great! I have also used the fondue shredded cheese mix (I bought it at Whole Foods) and it was great!
- Cornstarch. Adding the cornstarch helps bind the cheese to the beer and other liquids, which is essential if you want a cohesive cheese mixture.
- Garlic. Use fresh garlic cloves and press them through a garlic press. This is my favorite one.
- Beer. In my Swiss cheese fondue, I use white wine. In this rustic beer cheese fondue, I typically use a German lager.
- Lemon juice. Using fresh-squeezed lemon juice makes all the difference.
- Kirschwasser (cherry brandy). This one's a must when creating an authentic cheese fondue. Also, a rule in our family is that if someone drops their dipper int the cheese, they get to take a shot of it. So keep the bottle closeby. Can't find Kirschwasser? Use any other clear fruit brandy instead.
- German mustard. I use a German Düsselforf-style horseradish mustard from Schaller & Weber (but it's perfectly balanced and not spicy).
- Nutmeg. Grinding your nutmeg fresh makes a huge difference. In fact, my Oma Inge always grinds hers fresh too, even into scrambled eggs. It's so good and this nutmeg grinder will look so pretty on your countertop.
- Bacon. I use the best of the best double-smoked bacon by German-style USA-based butcher Schaller & Weber. It reminds me so much of the bacon 'Speck' my Oma always cut up for Grieben, which are cooked bacon lardons. I cut the bacon into small pieces, then pan-fry it until crispy before adding it to the fondue
- Shallot. I finely dice and sautée the shallot with the almost-crisp bacon, then transferred to a plate covered in a kitchen towel to drain the grease, before stirring it into the cheese fondue at the end.
- Cheese fondue dippers. Some of our go-to's are rustic bread cut into 1-inch cubes such as my rye sourdough bread, small boiled potatoes, prosciutto, salami, cornichons, fresh green apple or pear, and bell pepper. Feel free to add and subtract any dippers of your liking. We also like any other pickled veggies for dipping and other crudites (raw, cut-up veggies).
Tools for cheese fondue
Fondue pot. I am IN LOVE with this cast iron fondue pot that's enameled on the inside for easier cleanup. This pot is BEAUTIFUL and durable and reminds me of the cheese fondue pot my mom has. Look below for important care instructions after use. The pot comes with fondue forks and a warmer.
Fire gel. Is definitely nice to have. The Swiss fire gel gets squeezed directly into a shallow dish that's part of the warmer. The dish comes with the linked fondue pot above, but not the heating gel.
Just like with a gas cooktop, you can adjust the size of the flame on your fondue pot. You can also buy cans that you light and then dispose of.
If you can't get your hands on the Swiss gas gel in time, tealights work too. It's harder to control the flame using tealights, but I have found that using 2 tealights works well.
How to clean cheese fondue pot
The cleanup after cheese fondue is always my least favorite part! Here are some general rules you'll want to follow after enjoying a cheese fondue meal.
After you finish eating the fondue, extinguish the flame by placing the burner lid on top of it.
Let the pot cool completely before rinsing in water. Do not pour cold water into the hot pot, as heat shock could crack the enamel coating.
For cleaning, use a non-metal sponge, warm water, and mild soap. If you have any stubborn food residue, you can use baking soda to clean up the enamel fondue pot. Here's a video on how to clean a stubborn cheese fondue pot.
More Cheese Recipes
Beer Cheese Fondue with Bacon
- 1 fondue pot this enameled cast iron pot is my favorite (please see care instructions in the notes below) - it comes with the burner/warmer and 6 cheese fondue forks
- 1 swiss gel or tea light
- 1 Garlic Press for mincing garlic. One of my favorite tools in the kitchen.
- 1 nutmeg grinder totally optional as you can use ground nutmeg, but grinding your own makes such a big difference and I love the way this grinder looks on my countertop
- 100 grams bacon I used double smoked bacon by Schaller & Weber, cut into small dice and fry in a pan until crispy
- 1 shallot finely diced and cooked in the bacon grease
- 750 grams cheese 500 grams (1 pound) aged Gruyère (grated), 250 grams (½ pound) Emmentaler (grated) or other aged Swiss cheese (grated), 250 grams (½ pound) Cambozola cheese - see notes on cheeses below
- 30 grams cornstarch toss it with the grated cheese, add Cambozola later
- 3 garlic cloves plus one extra one for rubbing the fondue pot
- 375 milliliters beer I use a German lager
- 1 ½ Tablespoons lemon juice fresh squeezed
- 2 Tablespoons Kirschwasser a cherry brandy, can also use different, clear fruit brandies, but Kirschwasser is most traditional and also used in Black Forest Cake
- 1 Tablespoon German mustard I use Düsseldorf mustard from Schaller & Weber
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg freshly ground is best, linking my favorite nutmeg mill above
- rustic bread cut into 2 cm (1 inch) cubes
- assorted dippers small boiled potatoes (with skin on), prosciutto, salami, cornichons, green apple or pear, bell pepper, boiled potatoes and whatever else your heart desires!
- Medium dice the bacon and small dice the shallot. Add the diced bacon to a medium-sized skillet and cook (with no added oil or butter) until almost crisp.Add in the shallot and cook for 2 more minutes.Transfer onto a plate covered with paper towels, so the grease can get soaked up.100 grams bacon, 1 shallot
- Grate your hard cheeses. In a small bowl, coat the grated cheese with cornstarch. Cut off the rind of the Cambozola, cut into pieces and set aside.750 grams cheese, 30 grams cornstarch
- Cut one clove of garlic in half longways. Use it it to rub the inside of the fondue pot, then discard.Use the other 2 cloves, put them through my garlic press, and add them when adding in the Kirschwasser (cherry brandy) at the end.3 garlic cloves
- Add the beer and lemon juice to the cold fondue pot and bring to a gentle simmer.If using the enameled pot, it's important to add the beer before warming the pot, otherwise you could risk the enamel coating cracking due to thermal shock.375 milliliters beer, 1 ½ Tablespoons lemon juice
- Gradually stir the cheese into the simmering liquid (melting the cheese gradually encourages a smooth fondue).
- Once all the cheese has melted into a smooth mixture, stir in Kirschwasser, mustard and nutmeg. Lastly, stir in the sautéed bacon and shallot and serve tableside placed on the warmer.2 Tablespoons Kirschwasser, 1 Tablespoon German mustard, ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- Pick up dippers with fondue forks, dip, swirl and enjoy with wine or beer and shots of Kirschwasser for anyone losing their dippers in the cheese. I like serving my fondue with a light green salad.