Betsy Burts's picture

This full story is available to premium subscribers.

Login / Subscribe
Subscription options for $2, $15 and $25.


Chili Pepper Beers Bring The Heat

Heartier, warming foods beckon as the weather cools off. What better time to make a rich chili and some garnishes using beer made with chili peppers?

The look and flavors of chili beers are as varied as they are delectable, ranging from dark and mysterious to light and airy. In addition to the pepper spice, the flavors often include chocolate, cinnamon and coffee. When it comes to the heat, some can be delicately balanced with lightly spiced floral notes like Serrano Eye Patch IPA and others, like Stone’s Crime and Punishment, are “Make me cry it’s so darn hot.” A sampling can prove to be fun, eye-opening and downright party-provoking, because these spicy beers can really get people talking.

My journey into chili beers started off by sampling those made with ancho, chipotle, serrano or habanero. Then I experimented by using them in recipes, including some add-ons that can help create a veritable chili feast for sharing with family and friends.

I make a robust turkey chili that draws its inspiration from black mole, a classic Mexican “mother sauce.” The flavor of chocolate works particularly well in my recipe, bringing out the natural sweetness of the turkey. I decided to use a Prairie Bomb Imperial Stout and its ancho component to enhance this chili’s already thick and dark richness.

Deliciously full of ingredients and not hard to make, this chili pairs well with a wide range of chili beers. As a meal, it can stand alone, but why should it?

Mexico and Latin America have a popular garnish called Crema. Easy to experiment with, it’s made by combining sour cream with lime juice and is drizzled over a variety of foods. I used chili beer and compatible flavorings to create a Cocoa Molé Crema and a Chipotle Lime Crema.

Guacamole’s terrific on chili because it balances the heat. Splash in some Billy’s Chilies for a hint of serrano pepper in this Guac, before topping your chili and digging in.

Once a party gets started, there’s always a need for some salsa. Enter Sculpin Habanero. This fine drinking beer has a kick to it, which is masterfully balanced with a lovely, almost fruity note unique to habanero peppers. As a component of Mango Habanero Salsa, it adds just the right amount of sweet heat that’s a wonderful surprise atop a bowl of chili.

My verdict: Chili beers paired well with food, added welcome flavor to recipes, inspired me and were easy to experiment with. Not only are they great to drink and fun to use as a recipe ingredient, they’re sure to spice up the conversation at your next gathering. Pass the chili and another chili beer, please.

Chili Beer Pairings


Holy Mole Turkey Chili

Makes 8 generous servings, can be doubled

For less heat, cut the chipotle peppers by half, though their flavor is a key ingredient in this chili.



1 ½ tablespoons good quality extra virgin olive oil

1 each medium red, yellow, orange and green bell pepper, seeded and diced

2 large sweet onions such as Vidalia, or yellow onions, diced

Guacamole, chili, peppers, mole, beer pairings6 large cloves of garlic, minced

3 canned chipotle chilies in adobo sauce minced (with seeds), plus 2 teaspoons of the adobo sauce

3 ½ tablespoons good quality chili powder

½ teaspoon ancho chili powder

¼ rounded teaspoon Chinese five spice

1 rounded teaspoon ground cumin

2 teaspoons kosher salt

pinch of red pepper flakes

several grinds of freshly ground black pepper

2 whole bay leaves (optional)

1 16-ounce can no salt dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed well with water, drained again

1 16-ounce can no salt black beans, drained and rinsed well with water, drained again

1 28-ounce can lower sodium whole plum tomatoes and their juice

1 16-ounce can no salt diced tomatoes and their juice

1 cup dark chili beer (see suggestions)

1 cup water

1 ¾ ounce good quality bittersweet chocolate 60 to 75 percent cocoa, broken into pieces

2 pounds lean ground turkey breast


Chili beer pairings, New Belgium, Clown Shoes, Prairie Artisan AlesSuggested beers: Prairie Bomb Imperial Stout, Lips of Faith Cocoa Molé Spiced Chocolate Porter, Clown Shoes Chocolate Sombrero Stout



Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or large heavy soup pot over medium high heat. Add the peppers, onions, garlic and chipotle pepper and cook until veggies are soft, stirring frequently, about 10 minutes. Lower the heat to medium, add the chili powders, Chinese five spice, salt, red pepper flakes, black pepper and bay leaves, and stir constantly for about 1 to 1 ½ minutes to cook the spices, being careful not to burn.

Add the tomatoes with their juices, the adobo sauce, the beans, beer, water and the chocolate, and stir well to melt the chocolate. Bring to a boil, then crumble the raw ground turkey into the bubbling mixture. Stir to mix in the turkey, breaking any large clumps into smaller pieces. Bring the chili back to a boil, then reduce the heat to simmer. Continue cooking at a low simmer for about 35 minutes until the chili is nice and thick, stirring occasionally and breaking up any large tomato or meat chunks with the back of the spoon. Remove the bay leaves if using, taste and adjust the salt, if needed.


Finish reading this article by becoming a premium member.
Visit the store now. Options start for only $2.00!

Discover the World of Beer


Table of Contents