After two weekends of foodie and wine festivals, Chandler's beer drinkers got their fix this Saturday at the Hoptoberfest Chili Cook Off, hosted by the Hungry Monk.
The festival featured 40 India Pale Ales on tap, eight spicy chilis for sampling, live music, Stein-holder contests, and some very brave men in bras wiggling their assets to support the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation.
We started with samples of two white chilis (with our love for the Nello's White Bean Chicken Chili special fresh in our minds). The turkey chili was a chili for people who don't really like chili, much more like a creamy chicken noodle soup with a tiny, subtle, timid kick to it. Luckily, the chicken chili made up for what the other had lacked, with a thick, creamy, almost cheesy base stuffed with onions, peppers, and white beans. We were only a couple bites into this chili when we had to reach for a tissue: Now that's chili.
The chili gets hotter and the beer gets sweeter - and where you can get the winning chilis -after the jump.
To put out the fire, we started with a sample of the Coney Island Human Blockhead, a darker beer with a bitter taste. We then sampled the Four Peaks Raj IPA, a good choice for IPA devotees with a very sharp, very bitter flavor. In honor of the first two rounds of Stein-holder competitions, we next tried the 90 Shilling, a hoppy Scottish ale that's a little bit like an old friend you can still hang out with all day, watching football, without having to say anything.
Our choice for amateur darling of the competition was Nick Gauthier (open and enthusiastic about being completely new to chili-making), who served up what he dubbed Brown's Chili out of a big black pot. Made of slow-roasted chuck and habanero peppers, this thick, smoky chili got more and more spicy with every bite. We paired it with what turned out to be our beer of the day, the Orange Blossom. A crowd favorite at Papago Brewery, this ale is smooth and creamy, with a strong flavor of vanilla (In other words: Hey, you got your cream soda in my beer! You got your beer in my cream soda!).
There may have been a surprising number of white chilis in contention this year, but that didn't stop the reds from dominating. The winners were selected by a "Secret Media Panel" that included two celebrities and one media professional (but we couldn't get any more information than that - it's a secret!). Taking the gold medal was Swanny's Chili (by Scott Swanbery of Mesa), a good old Texas Red. Silver went to Matt's Chili (by Matthew Sullivan of Gilbert), a more Southwestern-style chili competing in the "Anything But" category.
Snagging Bronze was another "Anything But" - a no-bean, medium-spice chili by Randy Walters of Chandler's Pittsburgh Willy's, known for their gourmet hot dogs. Walters says the key to his chili is a very special secret ingredient that tasters were trying to guess all day (just like us, with no success). "When Colonel Sanders sells his secret, I'll sell mine!" says Walters.
You can do more than taste these three chilis starting next week (the week of Nov. 7) at the Hungry Monk. Each medal-winning chili will be featured on the menu for one week for three successive weeks of mouthwatering goodness. The Hungry Monk is located at 1760 W. Chandler Blvd., Chandler, AZ 85224.