What is the best beer for brats?
Such a good question for fall, as nothing says NFL Football Sundays like grilling up a dozen flavorful beer brats for the game. Sure, burgers and ketchup-drenched hot dogs are acceptable fare, but why settle for second place when you can boil brats and sweet onions in your favorite beer? Besides, bratwurst, like your liver on Sundays (from 1pm-4pm), could use a good beer bath.
First, what are beer brats?
Brats is short for bratwurst, a German link sausage. They are typically made with pork, veal, or beef. Beer Brats got their start in the great state of Wisconsin. While there are many physically ways to cook a brat: stovetop with a cast iron skillet, slow cooker/crockpot, on your patio grill, there is only one true way to cook a beer brat, and that is, clearly, with beer.
A good, or cheap and mass produced, pilsner is traditionally used in a beer brat recipe. You know the kind we're talking about, Miller High Life, PBR, Bud, the types of beers that craft beer breweries do not produce. You don't need to use a macro lager, big beer pilsner though, you can use your favorite, local, double dry hopped juice bomb New England IPA if you want. We'd recommend you go with something more caramel-based, like a robust, Imperial Porter - Barrel House Z's Campfire King comes to mind.
Guinness is certainly an option if you want to mix things up without going craft brew, as Guinness Beer Brats are quite delicious. Though, if you gave them away, would they be considered Guinness beer gifts?
Easy recipe for Wisconsin-style Beer Brats
Making midwest-style beer brats is a fairly simple process. The total prep time needed is under a half an hour, so make sure to start around 12:15pm on a Sunday so that you don't miss kickoff. To be fair, given the low total time of cooking, beer brats are good for any day of the week. They might be high in cholesterol and carbohydrates, but they're so very worth it.
- 6-12 Bratwurst links. Store bought Johnsonville brats work. Butcher bought brats are another great option.
- 1-2 White Onions. You can substitute Yellow or Red sliced onions if you want to change the flavor profile a bit.
- 1-2 Bell Peppers of any color.
- 1 clove of Fresh Garlic
- 1-2 teaspoon of Salt
- 1 teaspoon of Garlic Powder, Red Pepper Flakes, Black Pepper, or Brat Seasoning
- Half a stick of butter
- A six pack of Wisconsin beer, or if you'd prefer, a four pack of craft beer tallboys. PBR, Miller High Life, it's really your choice. If you're going craft beer, a malty marzen like Burke's Alewerks' Oktoberfest would both delicious and seasonally appropriate. Plus, it might impress the Wisconsinites.
- Optional: Brown Sugar, Golden Brown Mustard, Sauerkraut.
Step by step cooking directions
- Pre-soak the brats in water for a few minutes
- Pre-heat your grill, medium to medium-high heat is fine. Be careful using high heat as it has a tendency to wear down the sausage casing. You don't want to lose the juices.
- Dice the onions and peppers while the grill is heating up.
- Add approximately 24-36oz of beer to a pot on the stovetop as well as the butter, diced onions, bell peppers garlic, garlic powder, red pepper flakes, salt, and black pepper to the mix, placing the stove on low heat and bringing everything just below simmering. The remaining beer is yours to drink.
- Place the brats on the now heated grill for a dozen minutes, rotating as you see fit. The heat should help sear the beer brats.
- Dump the cooked grill brats into the pot to pick up a bit of the beer flavor, and, more importantly, to keep them warm until they are ready to be served.
- Grab a hard roll, if that's your thing, toss a few scoops of kraut onto your plate, and go enjoy some beer brats.
Soaking brats after grilling
Some Sconnies believe that juicier brats come from keeping the links in a warm beer bath after grilling them to a delicious golden brown. They assert that brat submersion in the onion, garlic, pepper beer mixture is the last phase in the recipe. We're told this is how it is done in and around Sheboygan, the (beer) brat capital of the world.
Beer battered beer brats
Beer battering a beer brat may sound like a tongue twister, but it's quite the flavor hurricane. If you are looking for the unhealthiest route to an awesome culinary experience, you've found it. To beer batter a beer brat, you will need to add eggs and flour to the grocery list, along with more beer, of course. The best beer for beer battering is the one that matches the meal. In this case, you should probably just settle on a Wisconsin pilsner.
We've haven't tried this yet, but we're excited to try and pull it off when we have a moment. If you beat us to it, let us know how it goes.
- Mix the egg, flour, and pilsner in a bowl.
- Dip the brat into the batter and fully coat it
- Fry the brat in hot oil for a couple of minutes
- Remove the crispy battered brat and place it into the beer mixture from above.
- Let the beer brat soak for a spell
- Place it into a hoagie roll
So which beer is best?
The rules are fairly simple. First and foremost, the best beer for beer brats is the beer in your fridge.
If you want to be traditional, opt for a pilsner, Wisconsin preferred, but no one would be sad about a Green State Lager from Zero Gravity in Vermont. The best beer could also be seasonal. Maybe it's summer brat season and the case of beer in your fridge just so happens to be Das Weizen, a hefeweizen from Springdale Beer Company. Bonus points for being German-inspired. Or maybe you want to be experimental and use a West Coast Dry Hard Cider, because cider brats sound just as fun.
The (second) best beer for brats, after what is in your fridge, is simply what you prefer.