Bacon Beer Cheese Soup with Chicken
12 slices thick cut bacon
2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons paprika (smoked if you have it)
1 ½ teaspoons Kosher salt
1 ½ teaspoons black pepper
2 cups beer, Belgian-style wheat (I recommend Blue Moon)
2 cups chicken stock or broth
4 cups half-and-half
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
Croutons for garnish or fresh popped popcorn or crisp bacon, diced
Warm a large stock pot (at least 8-quart) over medium-high heat. Cut bacon into small bits. Add bacon to the pot and cook until crisp, stirring occasionally.
Cut the chicken into bite size pieces. Using a slotted spoon, remove bacon from pan, draining the drippings into the pan as you take out the bacon. Remove bacon to a paper towel covered plate to drain. Add chicken into bacon grease in pot to cook, sprinkle with ½ teaspoon salt. Stir occasionally until chicken is completely cooked through. Remove the chicken from the pot with a slotted spoon and place on plate with bacon.
Cut butter into 1 tablespoon pieces and add to pan drippings. Stir until melted. Whisk in flour and seasonings. Allow to cook 1 minute, whisking frequently, to cook out the floury taste. Add beer and whisk to combine and cook 2 minutes. Add chicken stock and half-and-half. Whisk to combine and reduce heat to medium. Slowly add the cheese a little at a time, whisking until it is incorporated. Stir until you have a smooth mixture. Add Worcestershire sauce and return chicken and bacon back to the pot. Stir to combine.
Allow to simmer until you are ready to serve, stirring occasionally. Garnish with croutons, popcorn or bacon. Enjoy!