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. Good People have a coffee oatmeal stout that will work perfectly for this, and Cahaba have a rye stout that will add an interesting subtle spice to your chili. Sadly these beers are not packaged in bottles or cans just now, so you will need to buy a growler to go. What a shame, having a half gallon of nice beer that you will only need a cup from for cooking purposes… what will you do with the rest?
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. Back Forty have their Kudzu Porter which has the nice chocolate-forward notes of a good porter. This is available in bottles in most decent Alabama grocery stores.
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! Straight To Ale’s Lily Flagg – draft only just now, so get your growler ready – is a wonderful example of a milk stout.
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. Good People’s Fatso or El Gordo Imperial Stout both hit the mark here, as well as being incredible beers in their own right. Again, draft only at present.
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. Every craft brewery has Pale Ale and IPA in their line-up, but hefeweizen and Belgian Wit Beer are a bit rarer. Straight to Ale have “He Ain’t Heffe”, which is draft only. As far as I can tell that’s the only Alabama brewed hefe, and it’s draft only.
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.