Chili and beer

Everyone has their favourite chili recipe. And why wouldn’t you? A meltingly tender stew of mixed meats, and/or veggies, and/or beans, it can be a gourmet feast, a magnet for leftovers, or an acknowledgement that there is too much month left at the end of your pay!

How can you incorporate a nice beer into your chili? Easy. Instead of making the chili with broth or stock or water, add a nice dark beer instead. The end result obviously depends on which type of stout you use – many chili recipes call for coffee, so a coffee stout (with or without oatmeal) will bring those flavours right into the heart of your meal.

If you want your chili to have more of a Mole Sauce experience, use a chocolate stout or a porter: porters are much more chocolate-forward in their flavour profile, which will put those dark chocolate-y flavours right into the heart of your stew.

If dairy isn’t problematic, milk stouts bring a lot of chocolate and residual sweetness to the party. While they will put that Mole Sauce flavour into the pot, they are made with lactose. Bear this in mind and don’t offer a Milk Stout chili to someone who is vegan or lactose intolerant!

Are you looking for something even more, something that is a towering masterpiece of complexity, a powerhouse of flavour to overcome an overly enthusiastic application of capsaicin (“Oops, I used habanero instead of jalapeno”)? Use an Imperial Stout or Baltic Porter. These two styles are massively complex with coffee, chocolate, dark fruitiness, and a lot of residual sweetness which will help reduce the perceived heat of the dish.

For a different take on chili: if you like your chili made with pork, sample several doppelbock beers. Doppelbock is a traditional German style of dark lager which has residual sweetness and a subtle chocolate/coffee note. Doppelbock goes with pork in any form you care to cook it, so play around with DoppelPig Chili! (Tip: almost all German, and an overwhelming majority of American doppelbocks have names that end in -ator such as Celebrator, Salvator, Consecrator… you get the idea!)

Wild card option here – sour Belgian beers. If you’re making a deer-based chili, you could go for a sour cherry beer (Kriek Lambic) instead, honoring the European tradition of serving venison with a sour cherry gravy.

Vegetarian/vegans, I am not ignoring you. Most modern beers are made with Irish Peat Moss instead of finings, so you’re safe with pretty much every beer that doesn’t say “made traditionally”. If you are in any doubt you can contact the brewery and ask if the beer is clarified with finings. If you’re making a veg*n chili, you can go different directions with your beer choices as the flavour profile of a veg*n chili could be a lot lighter than with a meat-based chili. If you load your chili with black beans and mushrooms, go for the stout/porter option. If you’re going lighter, towards a white chili, you can experiment with Pale Ale, IPA, or potentially even a hefeweizen.

The best part of making a chili with a beer? Sitting down with a steaming bowl full of delicious food, and a glass of the beer you made the dish with. On a cold evening it doesn’t get much better than that.

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