COAST CITIES — The ponies weren’t the only thing blazing Aug. 1 at the Del Mar Racetrack.
Chili aficionados brought the heat to racegoers at the Western Regional Chili Cookoff presented by the International Chili Society.
Not only did the 75 contestants prepare their best chili or salsa for the judges, they also handed out samples to be judged by the “average Joe” for the People’s Choice Award.
Approximately 3,500 people cast their vote for their favorite chili at the cookoff, which went to Betty Deever.
The International Chili Society judges awarded Karl “Smitty” Smith first place in the Red Chili category. Additionally, Jim Rasey won first place for his verde chili and Howard Choate for his salsa.
The win guarantees Smith, Rasey and Choate a spot at the World Championship Chili Cookoff in Charleston, W.V. this October.
Coinciding with the cookoff was the craft microbrew festival, which featured more than 25 breweries, including local North County brewing companies Stone and Green Flash as well as foreign beers from Palm Breweries of Belgium.
Microbreweries produce a smaller amount of beer than their mass-marketed brethren. Innovation is a hallmark of craft beers with brewers using traditional and at times nontraditional ingredients coupled with twists on historic brewing styles to create distinctive recipes.
In addition to the 50 beers on tap, attendees also had the opportunity to converse with local brew masters.
Donning a white suit and carrying an Oregon license plate behind his back that read “Rogue,” 26-year-old James Tosh, of University Town Center, said he was given the memorabilia by an employee of Rogue Ales after the two talked briefly about beer and the painted labeling the Oregon-based company uses on its bottles.
“When you actually talk to the guys who work for the brewery, it’s kind of an extra experience,” Tosh said.
Mike Toumayan, a cellarman for San Clemente’s Left Coast Brewing Company, said the turnout and response to the variety of beers was overwhelming. He said their company, which also produces beer for Oggi’s Pizza and Brewing Company, ran dry of their two signature brews — Hop Juice Double IPA and Asylum, a Belgian Tripel Ale — within a few hours.
“Just like wine, people like to try different varieties of beer and once they try one, they just continue on,” Toumayan said.
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