Spend enough time in the Midwest, and you’ll definitely end up sampling a bratwurst. Whether you’re at a ballgame, a friend’s barbecue, or happen upon a bratwurst stand, the Midwest is famous for these beer-infused, grilled delicacies.
If you can’t find the same level of bratwursty heartiness when you get back home, we’ve got a killer beer brat recipe that will impress your friends (even if they’re true Sconnies). Read on.
Origins of the Brat
Bratwurst, nicknamed “brat,” originated in Germany. In the early 1920s, there was a heavy German influence in Wisconsin. This German immigrant population brought bratwurst with them when they settled in the Wisconsin area. They began preparing them much like Americans prepared hotdogs; they boiled them.
Sometime around the mid-1950s, grilled brats were introduced at Milwaukee County Stadium during a baseball game and the rest, as they say, is history. Americans couldn’t get enough of these juicy, German-style dogs.
Today, you can’t visit Wisconsin without sampling a brat, and if you get hooked, you can bring the flavor home with you. There are countless beer brat recipes all over the internet. However, one small yet crucial debate is whether or not to soak your brats in beer before or after they’ve been grilled.
Beer Before or Beer After, That Is the Question
Some say it’s a matter of opinion; some argue it’s a matter of impeccable taste. What it really appears to be is a matter of location. In some parts of Wisconsin, like the extreme southeastern corner of the state, pre-cooking your brats in boiling beer is a must.
In other parts, just a bit farther north, this pre-boiling business is a bust.
The pre-boilers always precook their brats in beer prior to grilling. They claim it:
- Enhances flavor and keeps the brats juicier
- Eliminates the possibility of serving undercooked meat (the brats are already cooked through before they reach the grill)
- Help keep the sausages from splitting
As such, they drop their raw brats into hot beer to soak and cook for up to half an hour before the brat ever touches the grill. The pre-cooked brats are then placed on the grill long enough to brown and then served immediately.
Post-grill beer bathers claim that this pre-boil business isn’t necessary and may actually cause the brats to end up overcooked. A good grillmaster should be able to tell when his brats are cooked through, and if not, a meat thermometer can help ensure they’re done.
As such, they opt for the post-grill beer soak. After the brat comes off the grill, it is immediately placed in a dutch oven with simmering beer until it’s time to be plopped on the roll. They contend this keeps the brats juicy and warm and infuses them with flavor before they are plated.
Our Decision on the Beer Soaking Business
We found a ton of pre-soak beer brat recipes, most of which involve soaking raw brats in cold beer overnight in the fridge. That didn’t sit right with us for two reasons:
- Brats are sausages that are enclosed inside a casing. This casing wouldn’t allow penetration of cold beer because there wouldn’t be enough heat to make them porous.
- It’s a waste of a good beer because of point #1.
We also thought in terms of how the flavors in beer work. Once a beer has been bottled, the flavors are preserved and ready for consumption. If you add high heat to beer, some of those flavors are simply going to be lost. If you’re pre-boiling your brats in beer, the beer isn’t retaining its original flavor.
For that reason, we decided to grill our brats first and soak them after.
The Best Beers To Use
We know you love your IPAs, but this is no time to waste your double dry-hopped imperial IPA on cooking. The best beers to use for post-grill beer bathing are lagers.
Lagers are crisp, lightly flavored, and highly carbonated. Lagers are fermented at low temperatures for long periods of time. This results in light, drinkable beer with a mild flavor.
Ales are fermented hot and fast, which gives your ales a stronger, fuller body. However, the goal of the beer bath isn’t to showcase the beer. It’s to showcase the brat. As such, here are three lagers we recommend for beer-bathing (and for imbibing while you’re grilling).
Gay Beer Golden Lager. This is a golden lager with a light flavor on a mission to give back to the community that built it. Its combination of malt grains and Bavarian hops makes it the perfect beer for infusing your brats with just the right amount of beer flavor.
Singlecut Beersmith’s Smiles Returning to Faces. Made for post-lockdown revivals, this lager is light and slightly spicy, which will pair well with your bratwurst.
- Sunday Beer Company’s Light & Tight. This drinkable lager is perfect for any occasion, has a completely light body, and is a classic that works with practically any food.
Once you’ve selected your lager, it’s time to get grillin’.
TapRm’s Beer Brats
For this recipe, you’ll need minimal ingredients, a preheated grill, and a dutch oven that you can place either on your grill, a hot plate, or your stove. You’ll need to be able to easily transfer the brats from your grill to the dutch oven once they’re done.
Oh, and if you’ve not yet mastered your grill skills, grab a meat thermometer so you can make sure your brats are done without cutting them open (which causes them to lose their juiciness).
- 1 lb of good-quality bratwurst. A local butcher is your best option.
- 1 medium yellow onion, sliced
- 1 tablespoon of butter (the real stuff, leave the margarine behind)
- 24 oz of lager beer
- Hard rolls-enough for the number of brats you have. *
*A note on hard rolls. If you don’t have a bakery where you can buy hard rolls, white, crusty dinner rolls are your best option. If you want to use hotdog buns, you can, but we wouldn’t advise telling your Midwestern friends.
Making beer brats is simple, quick, and an easy, go-to dinner recipe you can whip up in little time. It’s also a cookout favorite, so if you make it once, plan on being asked to repeat it. Here’s how to get the job done.
- Plop your brats in a bowl of lukewarm water for a few minutes prior to grilling. This will allow the casings to soften, which will help prevent splitting.
- Preheat your grill to medium-high heat, and assemble your ingredients.
- Place your beer, sliced onion, and butter in the dutch oven. Don’t place it over heat yet. Just have it ready.
- Assemble your brats and head to the grill.
- Place your brats on the grill. The brats should take about 20 minutes to cook. You’ll need to turn them several times, so all sides of the brats get a good, caramelized color.
- You can tell your brats are done by inserting a thermometer into the end of them. You need a temperature of 160 degrees to ensure they’re completely done.
- While your brats are cooking, set up your post-grill soak. Your beer bath shouldn’t be as hot as a boil; it should only simmer. Look for a temperature between 170 and 180 degrees.
- When your brats are completely cooked, immediately remove them from the grill with tongs and place them in the simmering beer bath.
- Allow the brats to soak in the beer bath for 5-7 minutes. Long enough to turn off the grill, go grab the rolls, and let everyone know it’s time to eat.
- Remove each brat from the beer boil and let it drip dry before placing it in the hard roll. If you’re using true hard rolls, a little extra drops of the beer soak won’t hurt, but it can absolutely destroy a hotdog bun, so be warned.
- Enjoy! We could write an entirely separate article about how to dress your brats, but for now, we’ll just say if you put ketchup on your brat while visiting your Midwestern friends, you might be shunned for life.
This recipe makes grilling beer brats easy and authentic and is always a crowd-pleaser.
Find the Beer of Your Dreams
Whether you’re looking for the perfect beer for cooking or want to try a true West Coast double IPA, TapRm is your source. We make it easy for beer enthusiasts to connect with the most obsessed, passionate brewers all over the nation.
By getting great beer into your hands, we’re building a better beer infrastructure that is accessible to more people, helping microbrewers grow their businesses, and letting you enjoy never-before sampled brews.
Go ahead and grab a few of our lagers and turn next Monday night’s dinner into a true Wisconsin beer brat experience. Cheers!