GRAND RAPIDS — A slightly breezy, little chilly day in March was perfect for the 3rd annual Chilly, Blues & Brews event at The B.O.B. on Saturday.

Over 20 chili teams offered a wide ranging variety of chilis to attendees, with tastes available for only 50 cents. Part of the proceeds went to benefit MSU Gran Fondo Skin Cancer Research, and live music was playing throughout the building.

The best part about this event? Each dish featured a Michigan brew in their entry.

Professional and amateur competitors alike set up their booths, sporting team names like Tres Chilies, Chilly Willies and Liz and Team America, all showing off their chili prowess to the large group of singles, families and other assorted guests who streamed through the event throughout the day.

Meeting up with Seth Rivard, co-owner of Rockford Brewing Company and apparent chili connoisseur, we tried as many samples as our taste buds could take. His ingenious use of a muffin tray to carry around six samples at a time made it a little easier.

Dragon Spit / The Holiday Bar team came full force with a chili featuring a Founders KBS base. The strength of the coffee, vanilla and bourbon came through in the aroma, and actually worked really well with the chili and offset the heat. Apparently, everyone else agreed, since the team won first place in its category and first place overall.

This event seemed well-received by the crowd — the bar remained busy and the chili samples were hopping. Everything was delicious in its own right. We spoke with Ron Koelhler from Let’s Get Sauced! who shared a little bit about his entry. “This is our first year in this event, but we’ve been competing in BBQ competitions for about seven years. Our chili is a Texas Red, with Italian sausage, beef and a range of spices, plus chipotle pepper chilis and mole. We used Right Brain Brewery Firestarter — a chipotle pepper porter — that worked really well for our chili style.”

Laura Barbrick, President of the Board for High Five Co-Op Brewery, was present, representing the High Five organization as well.

“We used Saugatuck’s Serrano Pepper Ale as well as a smoked porter and an oatmeal wheat stout homebrew from one of our home brewers. It has five different types of peppers — some of them are roasted so you get that great smoky, roasty flavor — it’s not super hot but it’s got that excellent burn in the back. I think it’s the best one here, but I’m probably biased!”

There were many different categories for the competition, including Best Brewery / Micro Pub / Brew Pub Chilli — competitors included Tapistry Brewing (who told us they’ll be starting canning soon), Rockford Brewing Company, B.O.B.’s Brewery and Founders. The prize? A passable yearly trophy and bragging rights.

This years’ winner was Rockford Brewing Company, which featured Linda Cook Reeds’ awesome chili featuring a variety of meats and Rockford’s Paradigm MPA — a 100% Michigan made IPA whose sweet, malty base worked wonderfully with the richness of the chili.

Speaking briefly with Jeff Mox, homebrewer, competitor and attendee, he shared the appeal of this event.

“It’s a great social event, and we had such a good time the last time we competed and attended, we decided to go it again, it was so much fun.”

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