While making this chili isn’t complicated, it does take some time. But it’s incredibly worth it! It has a rich, smokey undertone with a spicy bite. The layers are complex with a depth that surprises you. This is the first time I ever used beer in a chili recipe! I’m pleased that I did and you will be, too. The beer adds another dimension to the taste. I used the same beer in the chili and in the bread. I’m more of a wine girl, but in this case, beer is the only option. What flavor beer is up to you, but I prefer a smooth, caramelly lager. Sam Adams Boston Lager is one of my favorites.
Slice up some scallions to sprinkle on the chili. Drop a dollop of sour cream on it. Throw a handful of cheddar cheese in the mix. Add that crumbled bacon you have leftover from rendering the bacon drippings. Pretty much anything you like on top of a chili! Stir it all together, let the cheese melt, and the sour cream liquefy and you have such beefy, creamy goodness it’s like eating heaven in a bowl…if your heaven is made up of beans, beef, tomato, and beer. It’s okay if you lick the bowl when you’re done. I won’t tell.
If you don’t have bacon fat on hand (like any good Southern cook does), you can cook 6 slices of bacon in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat until crisp, 6 to 8 minutes per side. Drain the bacon fat into a heat-safe bowl, leaving 1 Tablespoon in the skillet, and set aside. Crumble the bacon, set it aside, too, and use it as topping for the chili later! You can also use butter or an oil for less calories.
Increase the heat to medium-high, add the beef to the reserved bacon fat in the large skillet, cook until browned, about 8 minutes, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon. Transfer to a plate with a slotted spoon; wipe out the pan.
Heat 1 Tablespoon of the reserved bacon drippings in the sauce pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and bell pepper and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and 1 teaspoon salt and cook 2 minutes. Add the garlic and 1 teaspoon salt and cook another 2 minutes. Add the chili powder, cumin, paprika, oregano and tomato paste and cook until the tomato paste is brick red, about 6 minutes (add a splash of water if the mixture begins to stick). Stir frequently so it doesn’t burn! Add the beer and simmer until almost completely reduced, about 3 minutes.
Add in the beef, cocoa powder, tomatoes, beef broth and beans and bring to a simmer over low heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the chili thickens slightly, about 1 hour, 30 minutes.
Stir the hot sauce into the chili and season with salt to taste. Add some beef broth if the chili is too thick. Ladle into bowls and top with the crumbled bacon, cheese, scallions and/or sour cream.