Last Thursday was the latest Grant's Hopluck Dinner
out at the Tyranena Brewery in Lake Mills. This was not just any old Hopluck, however, but rather the 4th Annual Chili Cook-Off. The Dulcinea had been honing her recipe the previous few weeks for the occasion and had an exceptionally tasty chili with chocolate and the requisite beer. In this case, it was Chief Black Hawk Porter
. (All dishes at the Hoplucks must have some Tyranena brew in them, you see.) We arrived around 6 and found ourselves to be chili #9. (Number 9…number 9…)
Folks were basking in the glow of the holiday lights in the tasting room readying their stomachs for the night by swilling suds. Well, most folks were. It was a family event and so there was a smattering of kids drinking Tyranena's root beer and even a couple dogs wandering the place. One of them, a little guy, was hopping around in a frenzy at the wonderful aromas emanating from the hallway where the tables filled with an ever-increasing number of chilis.
And so The Dulcinea and I bellied up to the bar. Much to our delight, they had their Spank Me Baby! Barleywine
on tap. I was a little worried at first because The Dulcinea has an affinity for barleywine and a history of losing her bouts with New Glarus' Tail Wagger variety. But one pint proved enough for her and instead she concentrated on chili. I do want to say that we both found Spank Me Baby! to be tasty but that it lacked a certain fullness.
Towards 6:30 folks starting grabbing bowls and eating chili so we followed suit.
The hallway became home to many people contemplating the subtle and not-so-subtle flavors of the chilis and sniffling all the while. Brewmaster Rob Larson hustled in and out of the hallway at a frantic pace stopping occasionally to laugh at me as I stood there sweating. There was one very small crockpot that had a skull & crossbones on it that was called "Death's Revenge". I didn't see many folks go beyond lifting the lid and peeking inside. A group of boys who were around 8 or 9 displayed wisdom beyond their years and let it lie undisturbed.
I, however, was not so wise and put a few teaspoons into my bowl. As you can hopefully see from the picture above, whole peppers and chunks of peppers with seeds intact floated atop the heady stew. And there were slices of habaneras. I began by leaving the peppers alone and just sampling the broth and meat. It was, obviously, very hot, but nonetheless quite tasty. The problems really started when I began eating the peppers. I swear to you that I didn't mean to serve myself 3 strips of habaneras but I did. So I'd run to the bar and swill down some suds which cooled my mouth for about 3 seconds which was long enough to get back into the hallway and start inflicting more pain on my palate. At some point I began salivating profusely. My mouth was on fire and my body was doing everything it could to put the fire out except force itself to stop eating. (Stupid mind-body duality!) My face was flushed and I was sweating up a storm. Uff da! But it was such a good pain.
The green chili above was excellent and won the award for most unusual chili. It has Brussels sprouts in it and I believe the meat was turkey. I guess you've gotta deal with those Thanksgiving leftovers somehow.
As we waited for the winners to be announced, I sampled Tyranena's seasonal brew, Shantytown Doppelbock
while The Dulcinea and I indulged in some truffles from Legacy Chocolates
that were made with Tyranena beer.
The chipotle variety had some zing to 'em and were quite tasty.
Finally Stacy hopped onto the bar and announced the winners in the 3 categories. There was most unusual, which I noted above; spiciest chili that is still edible; and I think best overall was the last category. And here are the winners:
I was really buzzed by this time but wasn't sure if it was from the beer, the peppers, or the chocolate. Probably all three. It would have been nice to have had a hotel room and taken Friday off because I would have liked to have stayed and had some more beer and chili samples. But it was a great time nonetheless. There were a lot of Tyranena regulars and contestants from previous years. While I met one guy there from Madison (who was last year's champion), most folks seemed to be from the area. This was only my second time at Tyranena but the impression I got from my initial visit was reinforced: the tasting room is much more than that. It's more like a neighborhood tavern than merely a place to sample the brewery's beers.
Look for the next Hopluck dinner to happen around St. Patrick's Day with an appropriate theme.