Re:Why put BEER in chili?
One thing that hasn't been brought up (except indirectly), and that is that alcohol is a solvent, and will dissolve some things that water won't. That means that, while alcohol itself is flavorless, when added to food, it will dissolve some flavoring agents that the water (or your saliva) does not, and then evaporates, making those flavors available for tasting (usually referred to as "bringing out the flavor", or, as 1bbqboy said, "activates the flavor"). Which explains vodka sauce. However, wines and beers can add additional flavors to dishes which can match them very nicely.
I'm a non-drinker, but I typically keep a hearty red wine, a dry white wine, either saki or a dry sherry, and dark beer in the house for cooking. While the red wine would be good in chili, I typically use the dark beer (although my Texan friends say that if I insist on putting beer in chili, it should be Lone Star). I also have an inherited bottle of Armagnac which I save for special dishes.