Super Bowl Sunday is days away. Prepare for a proliferation of snacks, from chicken wings to guacamole to bacon-wrapped sausages. But if there is one time-honored Super Bowl food that cannot go unmentioned, one treat to rule them all, it’s chili.
Yeah, I almost feel naked if I don’t have at least one bowl as I watch the NFL’s finale. I mean, chili and football are one of the all-time great combinations. (Apparently, Rutgers University and NFL football also make a legit combo. The Alcohol Professor himself, Adam Levy, called me at press time and asked me to note that Sunday’s game will feature five Rutgers grads – more than any other college program, including vaunted Alabama with 4.)
Anyway, with chili – and Super Bowls – my friends and I like to add beer. We have it in our hands, and I for one will have it in my chili. As I’ve noted on these pages before, many recipes will suggest using beer as part of your base, but they usually don’t get any more specific than that. And that is where some chili recipes might go wrong.
I’m not saying you can’t use a corporate light beer as part of your chili base – I’ve done it when other options weren’t immediately available (or I simply didn’t want to part with the better beers I had on hand). But why would you if you don’t absolutely have to? This is especially true in today’s crowded beer market that offers such a cornucopia of flavors.
And so, here are my top four suggested beers for making chili this Super Bowl:
Upstate Brewing Common Sense Ale: I chose this bronze winner in the 2016 New York International Beer Competition in part because of its safety. It’s also a take on my hometown beer style, Kentucky Common, making it a smooth, easy-drinking, low-bitterness beer that won’t get in the way of your chili’s flavor but will add just a hint of malty sweetness when used properly (as in, pour in a 12-ounce bottle and let the beer do the rest). And if you can’t find this one, an English-style bitter or pale will work, as will something similar such as a New Belgium Fat Tire Amber Ale.
Murphy’s Irish Stout: Looking for something a bit bolder that might enrich your chili’s body and pair off nicely with the lean beef, bison or venison within? Look no further than Murphy’s flagship Irish Stout, all the way from Cork County, which took a gold in the aforementioned beer event in New York. Perfect, of course, for Irish beef stew, check out what it can do for your chili with its chocolate notes, roasted malts, and rich, creamy body. Talk about warming you up on a chilly Super Bowl Sunday.
Thirsty Dog Rail Dog Smoked Black Lager: In the Old West, chili would have been cooked in a pot over an open flame, adding hints of char and smoke. If you don’t want to build a fire in your backyard in the snow, consider this NYIBC silver medal-winning black lager. Hints of chocolate and roast combine with the smoke to add a dimension to your chili that may not leap off the palate, but will give depth to your favorite recipe.
Ballast Point Habanero Sculpin IPA: I like my chili spicy, so I usually add some sort of habanero sauce or even fresh habaneros themselves. But I also often use an American IPA to make chili, and this one might just fill both orders. The base Sculpin IPA is wonderful beer to begin with, and Ballast Point doesn’t hold back on the heat and citrusy habanero flavor. Just one pint of this brew will have you sweating, so adding one to your chili will warm bellies and palates alike.
Remember, the best chili is your own recipe – which is why I never use a set recipe, instead focusing on what I have available fresh. Be creative. Have fun. And as always, when you finish blending all the ingredients and get the chili cooking, you know what to do with the remaining five bottles of beer. Cheers!
Kevin Gibson is a Louisville, Ky.-based free-lance writer who writes about everything from food to music to beer to bourbon to professional football. He loves bacon, loathes cucumbers and once interviewed Yoko Ono (pissed her off a little, too). He is author of "Louisville Beer: Derby City History on Draft" (2014, History Press). He published his first novel, "The Liberation of Crystal Hill" (Bearhead Publishing), in 2011; he also published "Crohn's Disease: A Memoir from the Toilet" in January 2015 and his currently working on two more book projects. He co-hosts a weekly local radio show, and also plays in a couple of bands, the Uncommon Houseflies and the Nick Peay Band. Not surprisingly, he doesn't sleep much. But when he isn't running around town chasing stories or poised at his trusty laptop writing, you can often find him at one of the local breweries and being thankful for the life he lives. That, or he'll be sitting on his couch with his trusty sidekick Darby. Check out his beer blog, 502Brews.com, or his website, KevinGibsonWriter.com, to find out more about his books and why he does what he does. Or feel free to call him names on Twitter: @kgramone.