This chili is terrific for any occasion, a zesty comfort food. It is just spicy enough to give it some zing, but doesn't melt your tongue. It is a family favorite and friends always ask for the recipe. Great for after skiing, boating, football outings etc.
To prep in advance: Cook bacon strips in batches in a skillet over medium heat until crisp, about 10 minutes. Drain on paper towels. Allow bacon to cool, then crumble into pieces and refrigerate for up to two days.
Heat the oven to 400º F . Place the chicken thighs on foil-lined baking sheets and season with salt and pepper. Cover the chicken with foil and bake for 30-40 minutes or until it reaches 165º F on an instant-read thermometer. (Depending on your oven size, you may need to do this in batches.) Cool and refrigerate up to 2 days.
To assemble: You'll need a very large pot, at least 6 quarts, pot. Put olive oil in the pot and place over medium heat. Add onions and bell peppers, and season well with salt; cook, stirring often, until the onion softens and browns slightly, about 10-15 minutes. Add the garlic, chili powder and cumin and cook, stirring, for about 2-3 minutes. Raise the heat to high and add the beer, beans, whole chipotles (if using) and chicken broth. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes.
Chop the chicken into 1-inch chunks. Add to the stew along with the bacon, lime juice and cilantro. Season to taste with salt and pepper. If using dried chipotles, remove and discard. Allow stew to cool (see note), divide among four 1-gallon zip-top freezer bags, label with contents and reheating instructions, and freeze.
To serve: Heat the stew in a saucepan over medium heat. (You can partially thaw the stew in the microwave to facilitate reheating.) Ladle into bowls and serve with your choice of toppings.
Note: Because this is a very large quantity of thick chili, it takes hours to cool down. To help it cool, pour it into a shallow pan, set pan in a sinkful of ice cubes and stir stew frequently.