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Best Beer for Brats


Chris Hennes
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Growing up we always boiled our brats in beer before grilling them. The beer of choice was Leinenkugel to start, then changed to Pig's Eye Pilsner when that arrived in town (I grew up in Minnesota, dontchaknow?). Now that I am older and wiser, I prefer to poach my brats gently at 150°F before searing them off to finish. But, what beer to use?! Suggestions? They don't sell Pig's Eye in Oklahoma, alas...

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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Back when I was in Wisconsin for college, we always used Blatz. We used to grill brats for our closest 50 friends every so often. And, it being college, this was always an opportunity for jackassery. Did you know that if you dump a coffee can full of rendered brat fat from the beer simmering onto a bed of hot coals, it can create a column of flame two stories high? Then there was the time we almost blew our arms off lighting the charcoal with gasoline, but I digress...

Isn't the point of simmering brats in beer that you want to use the cheapest, least-drinkable local beer you can find? That certainly informed our decision to use Blatz. Although the name was also part of the reason. We could have used Goebel, Rheinlander ("Refreshing as Wisconsin's North Woods," fer cryin' our loud) or Augsburger for right around the same price... or even Old Style for a little more if we were gonna get fancy der once.

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I grew up in Wisconsin so I was raised around the same culture as you were. However, all of the brats that I ate (which is easily over 1000) were grilled first and kept hot in a beer/onion/garlic broth. This is a debate that I've had with countless people, but this discussion-thread isn't about that so...

Like you, Leinie's Regular was the beer of choice for our broth. Port Washington Brewery's Lager replaced Leinie's Regular somewhere in the 1990's. And MGD would be used if there hadn't been proper planning.

Cheers.

-tw-

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In Stevens Point, where I lived for two wonderful springs, summers and autumns and three cursed winters we used the cheapest beer at the IGA - usually Point Beer. Just checked their website. Things seem to have improved since the 70's.

Too this day I still order in my fresh brats from Usingers.

Holly Moore

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Around here, we use Utica Club, Old Style if we've imported any, or whatever other cheap beer we have on hand. Pig's Eye isn't found in this area, alas.

MelissaH

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Leinenkugels is always a good choice. I grew up in Northern Wisconsin and now live in Western Wisconsin. I don't think most people "pair" brats with poaching/boiling beer. It seems you poach/boil your brats with what ever beer is in the fridge. Many times that beer is Leinenkugels Original. Other potential suspects include Miller, Pabst Blue Ribbon (a personal favorite), Budweiser.

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I have lived in Wisconsin my entire life. I grew up in Kiel and now live in Stevens Point. I was surrounded by small meat markets that did an amazing job making great sausage. I was raised that to boil a brat prior to grilling was an affront to nature itself. After grilling, it you had to do a large amount, it was acceptable to place them in the beer, butter and onions to keep them moist, but not to drown them. I find that to pre-boil brat before cooking causes them to lose their flavor and texture.

The boil vs. no-boil debate is one that I have came across way to many times, but I have never had a pro-boil person tell me their boiled version was better than my grill only version. Trying to be objective, I have never had anyone's boiled brats that I thought were better than a straight grilled version.

I can name few foods I like better than to have a double brat on a good "Sheboygan Hard Roll" (Semmel Roll), a nice slice of fresh raw onion and little bit of stone ground mustard.

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I grew up in Bavaria and nobody I know ever boiled a brat. Ever. They're made fresh on the grill and then served, not held or anything.

That being said, I've done the boil thing here myself out of curiosity and if you boil them before you grill them, I'd almost be willing to bet that you can't taste a difference between boiling in beer, water, or broth. Good brats are so fatty, that none of the liquid will soak in there in the relatively short time.

Nowadays I don't do that at all anymore, they go on the grill and that's where they stay until done, then I pile them on a plate and by the time I set it down they're usually already gone :-)

As a side note, the best - meaning most authentic tasting - brats I've found in this country are the regular Johnsonville brats, oddly followed relatively closely by the small breakfast brats from Costco. I grew up close to Nuremberg, where the brats are small and thin like a finger, very much like the breakfast ones.

And soon, very soon, I'm gonna use my meat grinder and sausage stuffer to make them just like that, with a recipe from a butcher in Germany.

I won't but them into a beer bath though, I don't buy cheap beer and wasting a good beer on bathing a sausage is quite possibly a capital crime in Bavaria..... :raz:

"And don't forget music - music in the kitchen is an essential ingredient!"

- Thomas Keller

Diablo Kitchen, my food blog

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The advantage of the water/beer bath is the precise temperature control it affords (imagine a sausage as a meat blend in an edible sous vide bag). I can cook the sausage to exactly 150°F and then finish on a very hot grill, pan, or with a torch, without risking overheating the exterior while trying to get the interior to temperature. I make my own sausage, and after going through all the trouble of ensuring a good bind during the construction, it pains me to just toss them on the grill and hope for the best.

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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I am also a Wisconsinite and have developed a great way to prepare brats. I begin by caramelizing onions, then I add peppers, garlic, and fennel (if I have it on hand). I deglaze with Schlitz beer and will add fennel seeds, crushed red pepper, black pepper corns, etc. (I also may add sauerkraut at this point) then poach the brats in the beer and veg. "soup" until cooked through. They are then put on a hot grill to caramelize the casing, and returned to the beer where they sit on very low heat for the Packer game. During commercials they can be served with mustard and the veg/kraut piled on top.

I don't know if this makes the brats themselves taste any better, but I assure you that the veg and kraut benefit from sharing a pot with the brats.

Edited by meicjos41 (log)
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Wow, that's the highest-class use of Schlitz I've ever seen. Very nice, and no doubt those veg. do taste fantastic. I haven't really extensively studied the benefits of poaching the brats in anything with flavor, I mostly do it as a matter of habit. Has anyone done a side-by-side comparison?

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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I've made a number of different styles of bratwurst: starting from the recipe in Charcuterie of course, but I personally like the various recipes in Garde Manger better. They have three in there, from three different regions, and they are all very distinctive. The Bavarian is the one I think most Americans think of when we think of brats, so that one probably wins on nostalgia alone. It's a pure pork sausage, no veal at all.

Chris Hennes
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chennes@egullet.org

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I'm an old Wisconsin gal and we always made our brats with the cheapest beer available. Make sure it is not a Malt beer. Don't forget the onions.

Cook raw brats in a pan with nothing but beer and raw yellow onions for about 4 hours. Cook them slow... then after 4 hours...hit the grill. Drain off the onions and throw them in a pan to glaze... Fantastic!!!

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The last big cookout we had with friends we grilled the brats, then let them soak in a beer-red onion-spice bath. The beer was a Pacific NW brewery brown ale (can't remember which one, there was a lot of beer that evening). We took the juices and reduced it down to make a really tasty sauce.

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We always serve the Johnsonville brats.

We've done them on the grill alone for years,

but last year, faced w a time crunch and unfavorable winds (smoke control),

we kept them in beer and onions just below a simmer for about 4 hours before serving.

Everyone raved.

The brats got very dark, and the texture changed - it was smoother/softer than the grilled brats but still a good texture for a sausage, and the skin retained its "pop".

"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

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