In this article, we will investigate some of the popular beers for chili as well as provide a few suggestions and advice on how to pick the best beer for chili.
The right beer can make your average bowl of chili even better. The wrong beer will leave you feeling disappointed in your chili.
In this article, we will give you some helpful information about selecting the right beer for your next pot of chili. And since we’ve been cooking a lot of beer chili lately, we will offer our seven favorite beers for a great pot of beer chili.
What To Look For In The Best Beer For Chili
Chili seems to be one of those foods that come with a bit of debate about the “proper” ingredients. While some people swear that chili should never have beans or that coffee improves the flavor, beer in chili is hard to argue.
When you are shopping for the best beer for chili, you need to understand how beer works in your cooking. When it comes to chili, beer does a few important tasks.
First, it helps tenderize the meat you add. Surprisingly, beer doesn’t add a strong flavor to your chili but rather gives a subtle hint of malt, hops, and even a little sweetness, depending on the beer you use.
When we select a beer for our chili, we like a beer that has a malty flavor, a thicker body, and a slight bit of hoppy bitterness. Porters, stouts, and darker lagers are good options. However, we have also found that malty pale ales and amber ales are also good options.
How To Pick The Best Beer For Chili
There really are no “rules” to picking the best beer for chili. However, there are a few things you want to keep in mind.
First, pick a beer that tastes good to you. If you wouldn’t drink it normally, it probably won’t be great in your chili.
Second, skip the sweet or sour beers. These two flavor profiles don’t work at all with chili flavors.
Third, remember that the feel of the beer you select will add to the texture of your chili. Heavier beers will make your chili thicker. Lighter beers will give a smooth but thin texture.
Finally, consider the heat level of your chili. Deep, dark beers complement a spicy bowl of chili, while light and crisp beers pair well with mild to medium heat profiles. You might also be interested in our beer facts.
Guinness Draught Stout
Guinness Draught stout is an ideal choice for making chili. This thick and creamy beer is malty but, at the same time, mild. Many people are surprised at how mild the flavor of Guinness is, compared with its thick texture.
There are minimal hops used in brewing Guinness, so there is not much bitterness to this beer. If you have added chocolate or coffee to your chili in the past and enjoyed the flavor, Guinness will give you those flavors, along with bread and toffee.
- Perfect complement to spicy chili
- Gives chili a creamy texture
- Brings flavors of coffee, chocolate, bread, and malt
- Affordable and easy to find.
- Not great for mild chili
- Dark color can alter the color of your chili
Smithwick’s Red Ale
Smithwick’s red ale is an Irish standard. You will find that it is heavier in the malty flavors and isn’t bitter. Check out our round-up of the most popular Irish beers to learn more.
We prefer to use Smithwick’s red ale when we are making chili with smoky flavors from paprika and chipotle chilis. The bit of sweetness in the beer is a nice complement to the smoky peppers. The lighter texture of Smithwick’s keeps your chili a bit lighter with a more soup-like texture.
- Subtle coffee flavors balance well with smoky peppers
- Minimal bitterness
- Not as easy to find as other red ales
- Flavor profile is not as strong
Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
If you are going to use a hoppy beer in your chili, American pale ales tend to be more balanced between hoppy bitterness and malty flavors. We like Sierra Nevada pale ale when we make chili with a hoppy beer.
With the Sierra Nevada, you get hints of the pine and bitterness from the hops, which are well balanced by the malty, bready flavors. There is also a bit of sweetness which adds another layer of balance to your chili.
Pale ales are best for chili that is light on the spicy heat. The hops can make a spicy chili even spicier.
- A surprisingly balanced beer
- Goes well in medium to mildly spiced chili
- Reasonable price
- Can taste fruity depending on your chili’s spices
- Makes spicy chili seem even spicier
Samuel Adams Boston Lager
Samuel Adams Boston Lager has a sweet, malty flavor with a light and crisp texture. With notes of caramel and bread, Samuel Adams is a great beer for balancing out sharp and spicy flavors in your chili.
This beer also does well at accentuating the earthy flavors of the meat in your chili. The mouthfeel of Samuel Adams Boston Lager is moderately creamy, so while it is not going to make your chili thicker, it will make it seem that way while you are enjoying it.
- Perfect beer for cooking and drinking
- Robust flavor profile for a lager
- Makes a lot of foam when added
- Has a bit of a bitter aftertaste
Don’t worry; this isn’t your typical Mexican lager. Negra Modelo, while brewed in Mexico, is actually considered a Munich Dunkle lager. These beers use Munich malts to create a dark color and a rich, malty, and caramel flavor.
Despite the color of this beer, it is surprisingly light. Negra Modelo is great for chili because it adds a subtle nutty flavor along with a hint of sweetness. The caramel hints are a great complement to a chili that uses seared, cubed steak.
- Keeps the texture of your chili light
- Balances the heat in spicy chili
- Gives hints of nuts, toast, and caramel
- Lots of carbonation
- Lighter flavors can hide under spices and meat
New Belgium Fat Tire
This textbook example of an American amber ale is a perfect addition to chili. In early 2023, New Belgium introduced a re-released version of this craft beer staple. We were worried that this “new” version of the classic wouldn’t work in our chili.
However, there is not much difference between the two versions. You will still enjoy that slightly sweet and bready flavor. To make this new Fat Tire really work in your chili, add a bit of cayenne to level out the sweetness.
- Has a surprising depth of flavors
- A touch of bitterness enhances the spiciness
- Great beer to mix in chili and drink with your chili
- Only available in some regions
- May add too much sweetness for some people
- Pretty foamy
Samuel Smith Nut Brown Ale
If your ideal chili is a thick, rich stew full of earthy flavors and minimal heat, a nut-brown ale is a great beer to use. Samuel Smith’s nut brown ale is a traditional British ale that is almost completely free of bitterness. It is full of sweet, toffee, and caramel flavors combined with a full, malty finish.
Brown ales are ideal for chilis that use roasted peppers and browned meats. It is also a good beer to use if your meat of preference is chicken or turkey.
- Almost no bitterness
- Sweet flavors are perfect for a mild chili
- Gives a rich color to your chili
- A more expensive beer option
- Can be difficult to find in some markets
Our list of the best beers for chili comes from our own kitchen experiences. We have made many batches of chili using a wide variety of beers and ingredients. The result is a strong understanding of which beers work best for different types of chili.
Our chili experiments are always shared with a trusted group of friends and family who are not afraid to give us their honest opinion about what works and what does not.
Why You Can Trust Me
We have a passion for beer. We love to cook with beer, drink beer, and travel to new places to try new beers. It is our goal to help new beer drinkers find the best beers for their tastes for a really enjoyable beverage experience.