Three Beers to Pair with a Bowl of Chili

Table Mates by | November 15, 2018
Photo by Leila Register

Two years after cutting the ribbon on her first restaurant in Chicago’s West Loop, James Beard award-winning chef Stephanie Izard opened Little Goat Diner in 2012 as a celebration of the quintessential East Coast diner she remembered from her youth. Blending contemporary design with a retro feel that includes comfy booths and the familiar leather-topped counter stools, Little Goat features a full bar, all-day breakfast, and greasy spoon classics like hash browns, patty melts, and milkshakes. It also serves a popular chili that has made it onto multiple best of lists. We asked beer director Gary Valentine to offer some pairing suggestions for a bowl of chili, one of North America’s greatest culinary creations. “There are so many flavors happening at once in the Little Goat chili: onion, tomato, garlic, Worcestershire, beans, chili pepper, tortillas, cheddar, and, of course, goat,” he says. “With beer pairings I like to go in one of three directions while trying not to take away from the flavors of the food or blow out the palate with a massive dose of bitterness.”

The Fox & the Goat Pale Ale
5.0% ABV | 18th Street Brewery
A balanced pairing comfortably washes down the food and quenches your thirst while resetting you for the next bite of grub. This is actually what Drew Fox from 18th Street Brewery in Hammond, Ind., and I designed the “Goatland” house beer to do. [The] Fox & the Goat is just a simple Pale Ale with a touch of light, dry citrus on the back end that washes down Goat Chili and resets your face for the next helping of flavors. Other options: 3 Floyds Zombie Dust or Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.

Racer 5 IPA
7.5% ABV | Bear Republic Brewing Co.
Sometimes we pair to expand the flavors of the food—here’s where the hops come into play, because they don’t just act as bittering, aromatic, or preserving agents, they also can [enhance] flavor sensations. In this case, we take something that’s a little spicy and make it spicier. IPAs and some Saisons can do this. Bear Republic Racer 5 has always been one of my favorite beers to bring out the heat, unfortunately it’s not available in Chicago anymore. But when I’m in [California] it’s a beer I look for. Also check out Dogfish Head 60 [Minute IPA] or whatever the most recent incarnation of Matt Brynildson’s Luponic Distortion portfolio has to offer. And don’t overlook Off Color Apex Predator.

SoulMan Brown Ale
7.2% ABV | Aleman Brewing Co.
Beer can also tone down the flavor profile, kind of similar to [when] you have something spicy and drink milk to tone down that heat a bit. So we know hops can [amplify] a flavor profile, but the right malt bill can produce caramel, chocolate, and other “relaxing” flavors. Right now we have Aleman’s SoulMan [a salted caramel Brown Ale] on draft at Little Goat. [It’s] a seasonal ale that fits the weather and goes nicely with a bowl of Goat Chili if you want to [chase] that chili spice with something to take the edge off. Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald [Porter] or Bell’s Best Brown Ale would be my go to if I didn’t currently have Aleman.