The Beer Hog hosts eighth annual Guinness Chili Cookoff in Pelham

Published 9:05 pm Monday, February 12, 2024

By DONALD MOTTERN | Staff Writer

PELHAM – Crowds arrived in droves at The Beer Hog in Pelham to sample and taste bowl after bowl of chili during the eighth annual Guinness Chili Cookoff on Saturday, Feb. 3.

The chili cookoff’s latest outing marked what was easily noted as the most successful and most attended iteration in the event’s nearly decade-long history.

“(In past years,) we typically had a couple hundred people show up,” said Ian Willicott, the event’s organizer. “A couple of years ago, we partnered with the wings of hope foundation and their partnership has really ramped up participation and the amount of people that are coming out.”

The Wings of Hope Pediatric Foundation is a volunteer-based nonprofit that benefits terminally-ill children by primarily providing financial aid to those families in need. It does so in the form of supplied funds that cover payments related to rent, utility, medication and automobiles among a variety of other types of aid. All of which is done to allow families the opportunity to spend their remaining time focused on their child while the time remains.

With live music also serving to draw in a crowd, ticket sales and guest counts place the event’s attendance at an estimated 1,000 people, which easily surpassed last year’s turnout by 200. That achievement, marked not only a record number of attendees to the event, but also represented a new record in the fundraising efforts to support Wings of Hope.

“We raised a total of $25,265, more than doubling last year’s amount raised ($11,300),” said Tonya Willingham, co-founder of Wings of Hope. “The overwhelming support from our community truly exceeded our expectations.”

Those funds will stay local and go directly toward families in the Shelby County area. In addition to the previously mentioned financial aid, Wings of Hope is also known to provide house cleaning, lawn care, meals and appliances for families undergoing the trials presented by terminal pediatric illnesses.

The Chili Cookoff saw 17 individual cooking teams register and produce their own chili creations for the event and collected 28 individual sponsors that helped support and organize the event and fundraiser. The Beer Hog also donated a portion of their day’s sales to Wings of Hope’s cause.

The list of participating teams and sponsors is as follows:

Cooking teams

  •  The Old Guys
  •  Chief Grill Daddy and the Hose Draggers
  •  Chili O’Leary
  •  Lily’s Chili
  •  Damn Yankees
  •  Hillbilly Chili
  •  Oak Mountain Brewing Company
  •  Momma’s Secret Chili Recipe
  •  Southern Root Gals
  •  Lime Green Ninjas
  •  Pardon Our Chili
  •  Joseph Chambers – State Farm
  •  Hot Messes and the Has Beans
  •  Rescuer
  •  The Red Hat Chili Peppers
  •  Team Helena
  •  Rusty’s Swamp Chili

Event Sponsors

  •  Guinness
  •  The Beer Hog
  •  Wheeler Wrecker
  •  Twelve
  •  Joseph Chambers State Farm
  •  CNC
  •  Iron City Fire Protection
  •  Tommy Spina, Criminal Defense Attorney
  •  Tameron Honda
  •  South Oakes Title
  •  Kevin Jones – Keller Williams Realty
  •  The Danielle Turner Team, Keller Williams Realty
  •  Southlake Pediatrics
  •  Central State Bank
  •  Alabama Bureau of Pardons and Paroles
  •  Jason Lee Group
  •  Trident Foundation Solutions
  •  Ally Property Inspections
  •  Mark Wilson
  •  Reli Title
  •  Special Occasions
  •  The Farm Company
  •  Pinky Fancy Faces
  •  Bounce Rentals 4 You
  •  Alesha’s Sweet Creations
  •  Mr. Larry’s Magic
  •  Live Nation
  •  In Memory of Piper & Hanna Willingham

In judging the competition, Ian Willicott was joined by a roster of four additional judges that included Chief Meteorologist James Spann from ABC 33/40 and Rick Karle, a media personality and former television anchor with more than 40 years of broadcast experience in sports coverage and human-interest stories.

Dean Maio, chef and co-owner of Corbeau Wine Bar, and Benard Tamburello, local restaurateur and owner of Vecchia Pizzeria & Mercato in Hoover, also sat at the judges bench for the event.

The judges tasted chili submitted by all teams and subsequently scored them on metrics in four categories that consisted of aroma, texture, overall taste and the creative use of Guinness.

That last category is a principle focus of the event and of its title sponsor Guinness.

“It’s a brand that is very iconic and it’s also a brand that is very common in cuisine—it is a food beer,” Willicott said. “It is very common in cuisine around the world that Guinness is not only paired with prepared food but also used in preparing food.”

As an ingredient, Guinness beer can be found as a primary component in a number of food products including hot sauces, mustards, cheeses, chips and in the case of the competition, chili.

With each team having to utilize a minimum of 32-ounces of Guinness in their chili recipe, the teams presented a collection of creative uses that met the metric in stride. Such uses included several variations of overnight marinades, reductions, braising and incorporations into side items, condiments and chili bases.

The winner for the most creative use saw a tie for third place, with Team Helena and Southern Root Gals taking the spot while Hot Messes and the Has Beans taking second place. Chief Grill Daddy and the Hose Draggers came in first for their creative usage of Guinness that saw two specific usages of the beer.

“This chili was born from a 64-oz. Guinness reduction in delicious Chipotle peppers with adobo sauce, along with a wonderous mixture of juicy meat and scrumptious tomatoes and beans with a warm savory finish,” said Willicott. “The chili was also accompanied by a Guinness infused honey peanut butter sandwich.”

The grand champion prize, valued at $1,500, included a two-night-stay at Hilton Garden Inn Orange Beach and certificates for deep sea fishing through Zeke’s Landing & Marina and a wide variety of Guinness merchandise.

The scores for Grand Champion closely resembled the preceding results, with Team Helena coming in third place, Hot Messes and the Has Beans coming in second and Chief Grill Daddy securing another victory at the top of the category.

The title of People’s Choice was independently decided by event attendees who submitted tokens at the booths of their favorite chili. At the close of the event, tokens at each booth were tallied to decide the winner.

In that contest, the winners for People’s Choice were Rescuer in third, Team Helena in second and Southern Root Gals in first.

Prizes for most creative use of Guinness were valued at $750 and people’s choice was valued at $500.

With the event now concluded, event organizers are already in the early stages of preparing for next year’s event, which is already scheduled to take place on the first weekend of February, on Feb. 1, 2025.