The first thing you notice about beer is its scent. Not earthy hops, not caramelized malt: chili.
An unlikely collaboration of two Minnesota companies has produced a one-of-a-kind beer inspired by a hall-of-fame party dip, just in time for the Super Bowl snack.
Chili Cheese Brew fuses the Modist Brewing Company’s penchant for brewing craft beer with non-beer-like ingredients (bagels, gummy worms, and marshmallows come to mind), with one crockpot dish: Hormel chili sauce.
“We’ve brewed a lot of quirky beers over the years, but this one takes the cake,” said Jack Greer, head brewer at Modist.
Austin-based Hormel approached Modist with the idea.
“The Super Bowl snacking opportunity is really huge, so Hormel Chili plays a huge part in that, especially our Hormel Chili Cheese Dip,” said Jason Hron, brand manager at Hormel Chili. Last year, Hormel capitalized on this by inventing the chili keg, a half-barrel keg that dispensed its famous sauce.
“We wanted to try and level that up, but also taking into account our dive opportunity and own it. And so we came up with this crazy idea of hey, how do we top our dive with anything as far as a drink?”
Greer was up for a crazy challenge.
“Basically, we were just trying to figure out how to incorporate this without making it sound gross,” she said. “There were a lot of what ifs.”
He started with a simple American corn lager. It’s light and neutral, with the added bonus of tasting something like corn chips.
Next, he added cheddar powder and more — the orangey stuff you find in a bag of macaroni and cheese. And a chili seasoning concoction that made the brewery smell like a tailgating party. “The scary part is, you can’t really take it off after you add it,” Greer said. “You can’t add more mayonnaise to the sauce.”
The boiling liquid was infused with these two magical ingredients, then fermented and centrifuged until it was a clear, golden brew that surprisingly works. Cheese Dust remains under the radar. The chili seasoning isn’t exactly subtle, but paired with the corn ale, it comes together like chips and salsa washed down with a sip of beer.
“It smells like [chili], but it still drinks like a beer,” Greer said, clearly enjoying his concoction. “You’re not like, drink liquid chili cheese. I think we nailed it. I do not know. I’ve never had another chili cheese beer.”
Four limited packs of Chili Cheese Brew will go on sale January 24 at 7:00 am at HormelChiliCheeseBrew.com; the $24 price includes shipping. (It will also be on tap in Modist’s taproom, 505 N. 3rd St., Mpls.) If you happen to stock up, Greer says the beer should have a shelf life of about six months. Just in time to get into the State Fair season. Ready Pups could be next?