The first thing you notice about the beer is its scent. Not earthy hops, not caramelly malt — chili.
An unlikely collaboration from two Minnesota companies has yielded a one-of-a-kind beer inspired by a hall-of-fame party dip, just in time for Super Bowl snacking.
Chili Cheese Brew merges Modist Brewing Company's propensity for making craft beer out of un-beer-like ingredients (bagels, gummy worms and marshmallows come to mind), with a crockpot staple — Hormel chili cheese dip.
"We've made a lot of wacky beers over the years, but this one takes the cake," said Jack Greer, Modist's head brewer.
Austin-based Hormel approached Modist with the idea.
"The Super Bowl snacking occasion is really huge, so Hormel Chili plays a huge part in that, especially our Hormel Chili cheese dip," said Jason Hron, Hormel Chili brand manager. Last year, Hormel capitalized on that by inventing the chili cheese keg, a half-barrel keg that dispensed its famous dip.
"We wanted to look at leveling that up, but also taking into account our dipping occasion and owning that. And so we came up with this crazy idea of hey, how can we complement our dip with something as far as a beverage goes?"
Greer was up for a zany challenge.
"Basically, we were just trying to figure out how to incorporate this without making it look disgusting," he said. "There were a lot of what ifs."
He started with a simple American corn lager. It's light and neutral, with the bonus of tasting something like corn chips.
Next, he added cheddar cheese powder, and a lot of it — the orange stuff you find in a macaroni and cheese flavor pouch. And a chili seasoning blend that made the brewery smell like a tailgating party. "The scary part is that you can't really take it away after you've added it," Greer said. "You can't add more mayo to the sauce."
The boiling liquid was steeped with those two magic ingredients, then fermented and spun in a centrifuge until it became a clear, golden brew that, surprisingly, works. The cheese powder stays under the radar. The chili seasoning is not exactly subtle, but paired with the corn lager, it comes together like chips and dip washed down by a swig of beer.
"It smells like [chili], but it still drinks like a beer," said Greer, clearly amused by his concoction. "You're not like, drinking liquid chili cheese. I think we sort of nailed it. I don't know. I've never had another chili cheese beer."
Limited four-packs of Chili Cheese Brew go on sale Jan. 24 at 7 a.m. at HormelChiliCheeseBrew.com; the $24 price tag includes shipping. (It'll also be on tap at Modist's taproom, 505 N. 3rd St., Mpls.) If you happen to stock up, Greer says the beer should have a shelf life of around six months. Just enough time to make it to State Fair season. Could Pronto Pups be next?