It's late.  As usual.  I might as well just start posting late at night instead of trying to get a post done during the day. 

Anyway, excuses aside – I think I've finally done it.  I've successfully made a beer cheese that resembles a local favorite.

Andy and I grew up in southern Indiana (of course in different eras – we do have a 7 year gap between us!), but we both loved Sportstime Pizza – now under the name The New Albanian Brewery.  They, of course, have beer – great microbrews (one should definitely check them out during 'Gravity Head' where they feature high-alcohol content and special season beers).  But the main reason we frequented the place was for their beer cheese.  It's one of a kind – spicy, cheesy, and absolutely perfect with some breadsticks.

So when I told Andy last week that I was making some pretzel bites to snack on while watching a pre-season football game, he eagerly suggested I make a beer cheese to go with them.  Always up for a challenge, I accepted, and boy am I glad I did.  I think I came pretty close (dare I say, maybe even better??) to our old time favorite from The New Albanian.

So if you're looking for a great Sunday snack – football lovers and non-football lovers alike – this is it!

Adapted from Sunny Side Up in San Diego's Recipe

4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 & 1/4 cups warm water
5 cups flour
1/4 cup white sugar, plus 1 teaspoon
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 & 1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons butter, melted and divided

1/2 cup baking soda
2 egg whites
Kosher salt, for topping

cooking spray

Beer Cheese:

1/2 cup cream cheese
1/2 cup Indian Pale Ale (or whatever favorite beer you might have)
1 tablespoon horseradish sauce
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 cup Velveeta, cut into small cubes (I swear I wanted to use some Chipotle Cheddar Cheese, but I'd run out, and this was all I had – but it worked out so well!)
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Freshly ground black pepper

In a measuring cup dissolve the yeast and 1 teaspoon sugar in warm water. Set aside for 10 minutes. If the mixture is foamy, you're good to go – if not, start over with new yeast.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, white and brown sugars, and salt.  Pour the water/yeast mixture and 2 tablespoons melted butter into the bowl. Knead for 6-8 minutes until the dough is smooth. Add extra water if dough is too dry, until you get your desired texture.

Lightly oil a large bowl. Shape dough into a ball. Place the dough ball in the bowl, cover with a clean towel, and allow to rise for one hour.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Spray a large baking sheet with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, combine 4 cups of hot water and baking soda. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg whites and remaining 2 tablespoons of melted butter.

After the dough has risen, punch down the dough and then knead with hands for one minute. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and break off small chunks of dough – Roll the chunks into 1 inch diameter balls (I got about 20-25).

Dip the pieces in the baking soda water and place on the baking sheet.  Gently drying with a paper towel if they become too wet. Brush each pretzel ball with egg whites/melted butter then sprinkle with kosher salt.

Bake for 7-8 minutes, until browned.

To make beer cheese, place cream cheese in a microwave safe bowl and heat for about 30 seconds.  Stir until smooth.  Stir in beer, horseradish sauce, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, and black pepper.  Heat for another 30 seconds in the microwave.  Stir until smooth.  Add in Velveeta.  Heat another 30 seconds, and stir until cheese is melted and smooth. 

Pretzels and beer cheese.  Success at last!  And this beer cheese was so easy to whip up, that I will definitely be finding myself making it many many times over!  Even with Velveeta – I'm not ashamed!

Have a great weekend guys!  I just have to get through one more late shift at work and I've got 2 days of relaxation ahead of me!