Everywhere you looked at this year's One Pot Showdown—the 8th annual cooking competition hosted at the Saint Arnold Brewery each January—you saw them: Santo and Ale Wagger, Santo and Ale Wagger, Santo and Ale Wagger. To be fair, the two beers, a black kölsch and a brown ale, pair well both with and in food, and that's the whole idea at the cookoff, where the rules are simple: make a dish to serve a few hundred hungry Houstonians, make it all in one pot only, and use at least one Saint Arnold beer as an ingredient.

The prevalance of Santo and Ale Wagger could be why a dark horse team took home first place in this year's competition, however, which took place on Sunday, January 18 at the brewery. Led by Clayton Hodge in its first year of One Pot competition, the team made a Thai red curry made with Saint Arnold's Icon Red—a Sorachi Ace dubbel—that was one of the rarer beers at the competition. The Belgian dubbel added a robust layer of sweetness to a curry paste that had been ground by hand in a mortar and pestle from Thai chiles, galangal, lemongrass, and other herbs and spices. A final burst of acidity from lime juice and a little extra malt for flavor pushed this dish over the top, and the panel of judges—which included chef Claire Smith of Canopy, Shade, and Woodbar and previous One Pot winner chef Matt Marcus of Eatsie Boys in addition to myself—easily proclaimed the Thai red curry as the winner.

Second prize went to a chorizo and wild boar tinga cooked in Santo that was placed on top of fried-to-order sopes, these made with Lawnmower, while third prize went to nicely seared lamb albóndigas made with Winter Stout. A few of my personal favorites didn't quite make the cut, but I was thrilled to see some more unusual and difficult attempts among standards like chilis, soups, and stews: the Carnies team made a seafood risotto with shrimp stock, porcini mushrooms, oyster liqueur, and sherry, while the Tailgate de Oso team made a "Sunday brunch" of bacon pancakes served with a Pumpkinator maple syrup.

To see more from the big competition—as well as the 79 teams who competed—check out our slideshow. 

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