Last Sunday thousands of beer and chili loving CT residents descended upon Mohegan Sun for the Craft Beer and Chili Challenge. Thirteen restaurants traveled from across the state to throw down their winning recipe for the great American classic. There was enough heat to keep you warm through winter and the sweet smell of cumin wafted all the way up to the slot machines. And what to wash down this fiery feast? Certainly water was not the proper pairing. 40 breweries with over 100 beers were present to quench our thirst, some local, some National, but all pouring. Here are some of the highlights:
Upon entry, each participant was handed a small cup and a voting ballot to be used throughout the 3 hour event. VIP tickets priced at $75 granted early entry, but we went with the masses for $45 and had no problem elbowing our way through the crowd to procure our chili samples. After about two hours of diligent eating and drinking we were faced with some difficult decisions. Our group of six was all over the map with no clear winner for best beer, but there was solid support for the Mahogany Ale served up by Bloomfield CT based Farmington River Brewing Company as well as Wolaver's certified organic ales. To be honest, by the end of the event, I'm not sure what I was drinking.
The chili choices seemed to narrow themselves down more easily (but not neatly as we slurped through our 13 cups) as we had some picky palates in the group. In the end there were two clear stand outs. The Fire House Chili from The Wood N' Tap Room in Southington CT, and the Plan B Burger Bar Certified Natural Beef Chili (closest location in Glastonbury) were the favorites…only granted that honor after repeated sampling. Hey you gotta be sure, right? Honorable mention went to the Mohegan Sun's Exec Chefs for their sweet BBQ Smoked Beef Brisket Chili, and the CTbites award for most unusual recipe went to Foster's in New Haven for their Ostrich and Heirloom Butterscotch Bean Chili. Hmmm….
While we are on the topic of unusual, I would be remiss if I neglected to mention the premium 16% butterfat beer infused ice cream from The Brewers Cow. With flavors like "Ten Penny Beer Nut Parfait" made with craft brewed Scottish Ale, and "Stout Creme Brulee" made with Guinness Extra Draft, you could eliminate that tough late night dessert decision, alcohol or ice cream? It's beer in a cone! The beer enthusiasts in the group loved its decadently creamy texture and richness, while the wine drinkers complained of a slight bitter aftertaste. If you like beer, this place might be worth the trip.
Ballot boxes were filling up as we left The Mohegan Sun Arena, and although we've made up our minds, the official winner will be announced on Wednesday August 25th on The Craft Beer & Chili Challenge web site. Don't miss this sold out event next year. We will be there ready with cups in hand.