Oma’s Beer Soup

Photo by Michael Kleen

After many years of searching, I think I finally duplicated my grandma’s old home recipe.

My paternal grandparents, Albert and Marie Kleen, lived in Park Ridge, Illinois when I was a kid. Both came from German families. My grandma emigrated to the United States from Germany in the 1930s, and my grandpa’s family came here in the late 1890s. We called them ‘Opa’ and ‘Oma’, which is German for ‘grandpa’ and ‘grandma’.

Like many of her generation, Oma often cooked at home, and preferred the food she grew up with. I remember dinners of schnitzel and spaetzle. One item that stands out in my mind, however, was beer soup. I’ve eaten beer cheese soup at restaurants, but none came close to what I remember.

From what I recall, Oma used some kind of cheap beer, milk, sugar, and raisins. Definitely no cheese. The soup was white and frothy, and the raisins would swell up while being cooked.

After years of searching, I finally found a similar recipe. Although Oma was from western Germany (Cologne, specifically), her recipe closely resembles Sorbian Beer Soup. Sorbs are a Slavic people who live in eastern Germany and western Poland. I found this recipe online:

1 cup (250 ML) lager
1 cup (250 ML) malt beer
2 cups (500 ML) milk
2 Tablespoons flour
Scant 1/2 cup (100 grams) cream
Sugar
Pinch of salt
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup (100 grams) raisins

I remember her soup being sweet, so there was definitely sugar and milk in there, but I don’t remember anything about eggs, cream, or flour. Never the less, I decided to add cream and flour for thickness. I only used one type of beer: PBR, of course.

The soup was white and frothy, just as I remembered! Although the raisins didn’t absorb as much alcohol. (Maybe I didn’t cook them long enough?) Memories of childhood lunches at my grandparents’ brick bungalow in Park Ridge came flooding back.

This beer soup is bitter-sweet, not something I would eat on a regular basis. But food is one way to preserve family history and reconnect with the past. Do you have any old family recipes? Or foods you ate as a kid but can’t remember how to make?

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Author: Michael Kleen

Michael Kleen is an author, raconteur, and occasional traveler. He has a M.A. in History and M.S. in Education. He enjoys studying military history, folklore, and philosophy.

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