In large saucepan or Dutch oven, cook bacon over medium heat until brown and crisp. With slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towel to drain. Remove all but 1 tablespoon pan drippings from saucepan.
Add potatoes, onions and celery to drippings in saucepan; cook and stir 5 minutes. Add milk, reserved clam liquid, thyme and pepper; mix well. Reduce heat to medium-low; cover and simmer 15 to 20 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
Carefully transfer 2 cups hot mixture to food processor bowl with metal blade or blender container; process until smooth. Return mixture to saucepan. Stir in cream-style corn, whole kernel corn and clams. Return to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 4 to 6 minutes or until thoroughly heated, stirring occasionally.
To serve, ladle chowder into individual soup bowls. Crumble reserved bacon; sprinkle over chowder.