A Beer Master's Recommendation For Cooking Chili With Beer

Few things go as well with chili as beer. Whether you're drinking it or tipping it into the soup, beer has a unique ability to stand on its own and embrace the complex spices and aromas that chili offers. With so many craft brews on the market, it can be hard to determine which beer would work best with your specific pot of chili.

Enter expert Jeff Tyler, co-owner and head brewer at Spice Trade Brewery & Kitchen. For Tyler, adding beer to your chili should do more than just complement the existing flavors — it should bring something all on its own. With this in mind, he likes to concentrate on two elements of beer when picking his bottle. The first: "A malt-forward beer like a stout, porter, amber, märzen, or bock to add some roasted or deep toasted bread character to the chili," says Tyler. He notes that this lovely malt flavor builds upon the rich caramel notes from the browned beef already present. His second choice calls for a more boutique brew but is well worth the effort if you can track it down. Tyler would personally look to add a chili beer to the mix, especially one that has a particularly high heat finish. A chili beer is often brewed with peppers mixed in ranging from the hot jalapeño to the sweeter banana pepper.

When and how to add beer to your chili

Once you've selected your brew of choice, Tyler also has some advice for how to properly incorporate it into your chili for maximum flavor. Specifically, he notes that much of the flavor is lost if you add the beer too early. Like all alcoholic liquids, beer can cook off quickly in a bubbling pot of stew, making the taste it brings fairly faint after an hour or so of cooking. Instead, Tyler recommends you add the beer in two steps. First, use a splash to deglaze the pan after sauteing your aromatics toward the beginning of the cooking process. Then, add a more generous pour of beer shortly before serving. Tyler calls adding the beer in two steps "a great way to layer the beer flavor throughout the cook."

As well as suggesting you be smart about when to add the beer, Tyler notes that you should invest in a stronger beer, particularly in the case of a spicy chili beer. Lightly flavored or low-heat brews will fade in the face of the chili's stronger aromas, even when added in two steps. In other words, save the light beer for the tailgate, and reach instead for a bold brew to add to your next pot of chili.