What Type Of Beer Gives Homemade Chili The Best Flavor?

To step onto the battlefield of "best" anything for chili, beer or otherwise, is to fight an impossible fight. Outside of barbecue, there may be no other American food that inspires such passionate, and personal, debate. You may have a favorite local burger, or prefer your city's style of hot dog, but few people would take it as an affront to their own taste if you revealed you prefer relish to sauerkraut on your dog. But this is not the case with chili: If you do it differently than someone else, you could be told you are doing it all wrong.

Why does chili inspire so much debate? It's likely because there are big, meaningful variations in what ingredients to use that produce markedly different outcomes. The classic chili argument is beans vs. no beans, but you also need to decide whether your chili is using tomatoes, chili powder or dried chiles, and what kind of beans you do use if you include them. After all those choices, you can end up with anything from turkey chili with beans to a classic bowl of Texas red. Then, there are seasonings and other flavors. An old-school Texas chili might do with nothing but a bit of cumin along with the dried chilis, while more elaborate styles might go wild with cocoa powder or soy sauce. 

One simple chili ingredient where you hopefully won't get much argument, but will get a lot of flavor, is beer. But which type should you use?

Dark beer produces a robust, complex chili

When you think of the savory flavors of your favorite chili and how you can compliment those notes, dark beer stands out as the choice. A crisp lager or hoppy pale ale can bring some bright, herbal flavors to your bowl, but if you really love chili, you probably want to double-down on its rich, meaty flavor, and that means dark beer. The malty flavor of dark beer is a perfect complement to the earthy, smoky flavor of chili, and will accentuate what you already love about your favorite recipe without overpowering it or changing it too drastically.

That doesn't mean you don't have options with your flavor choices when it comes to dark beer. You can go with a lighter, nutty brown ale or a bitter, toasty porter – whatever sounds good to you. Dark beers can also bring a nice undercurrent of sweetness to your chili, not too much, but enough to balance it out. Chocolate makes a fantastic mole, so just think what the chocolate notes in a good stout can do to your chili. 

In the end, it's all going to come down to what you personally like about chili, there is no right or wrong answer, but dark beers bring the best mix of both new flavors and complementary ones to make the kind of chili nobody will argue over.