I go with anything that’s not overly hoppy, as the hops can come through and make the chili taste bitter. Most often I grab a Corona or Leinenkugel or American Pilsner of some sort (usually a Bud or something that someone’s left at our house and has become designated as a “cooking beer.”)
But if I really wanted something good? I particularly like using spiced-up beers in chili, like some of the Christmas beers that various makers put out. If you can get your hands on a chile beer, that works well, too, but those aren’t available everywhere. Guinness is a good choice, and hard to improve upon. Chimay would be cool, but pretty pricey to throw into a chili (and I’d rather drink it!).
You don’t say where you are, but I’ve also had great luck with some of Short’s strange experimental beers in chili and other kinds of food. Some of them are nigh-on undrinkable, but are great in food. But once again, you have to live in just the right place to get their stuff.
This is not going to make me popular, but I agree with above that a dark or strongly hoppy beer doesn’t work for me.
Fuck Heineken! Pabst Blue Ribbon!
Seriously, any lager tastes the same to me when it’s cooked down into a stew or a chili – I prefer the taste of wine in chili, though, and there it starts to make a difference between varietals and brands to me. Although I like a very spicy chili, so it’s probably no difference at all, just perception.
I don’t think I’ve ever had a Lionshead as you know it, which is odd given my profession working in microbreweries, but I’m with you on preferring a lighter beer.
Always makes me feel a bit better putting something decent into the pot, but it’s the alcohol that I can actually taste, to some extent, rather than a specific note of the ingredients. Plus I make my chili really fucking hot, so I’m not exactly capable of detecting many nuances. I’d pour straight vodka into my pot with some more vinegar if I could convince myself it were “good thing,” pace M Stewart.
Yeah, that’s my feeling mostly, but there are some flavor differences – you know how if you eat a habanero vs a serrano or something, straight up, it tastes differently? I think there must be something in the flavor of the alcohol that contributes, but I am still skeptical that those flavor compounds are present to any significant degree in beer.
IME I’ve not seen or tasted much that could turn a good chili to bad, but there is some kind of flavoring agent or cooking technique that makes beaucoup difference – I’d wager it’d be worth exploring.
I agree. And, actually, Newcastle, as the OP uses, is pretty much my perfect cooking beer. Just the right amount of malt, very low on hops. Brown ales are my least favorite beers to drink, but they are my favorite to cook with. Stuff like Bass or Sierra Nevada lend a bitter hoppy note that I find conspicuous and don’t like in stews/chilis (although, converse to the brown ales, I love to drink 'em.)
Belgian ales would also work quite well, like a nice abbey dubbel of some kind. If you can find New Belgium’s Abbey, that has become my beer of choice for a lot of cooking applications (and it is nice to drink, too. I used to hate the New Belgium beers and still dislike Fat Tire, but I’ve since warmed to some of their other offerings. It’s also usually cheaper than Newcastle, and a hell of a lot nicer to drink.) The Belgians tend to go light on hops, while playing up the malt, yeast, and herb/spice characteristics of their beers.
My issue with the Belgian ales is that they’re usually too sweet and expensive. Duvel is nice to drink but everything else I’ve tried, whether it’s a lambic, double, triple, quad or saison has been very sweet. Threading the border of too sweet to drink.
Oh, I forgot to mention, I ended up going with a Newcastle as the beer but I think next time I want to try some sort of chocolate stout.
The tequila sounds good too. I’ll have to keep that in mind for a future batch.
OTM is my favorite chocolate stout, but I’d probably use some good chocolate in the pot and drink the beer instead. One of those beers you can spend a good hour enjoying. It’s a good microbrew from Forest Grove, OR.
I’m liking the tequila idea too – it sounds like a winner to me.
There is a bit of residual sugar to the Belgians, but I don’t really think of them as “sweet” so much, but rather “spicy”. And that little bit of sugar works well in a stew. Anyhow, if you see the New Belgium Abbey (which is a domestic Belgian-style dubbel), it’s actually a bit cheaper than Newcastle at my local liquor store (last time it was $7.99 for a six pack of New Belgium Abbey.)