Beer and Bratwurst: A Divine Pairing
While Germany is synonymous with both beer and bratwurst, the genius-inspired innovation to cook them together seems to have originated not in Europe’s most-populous nation but in early 20th century Wisconsin.
Bratwurst itself is a German sausage usually made from pork, though occasionally beef or veal is used. The first appearance of the dish in the historical record traces all the way back to 1313 in Nuremberg. Traditionally in Germany it’s served as a snack, as fast food or as pub fare and remains popular today.
German immigrants to the American Midwest, especially Wisconsin, brought their love of bratwurst to their new homeland and helped to popularize the dish across the United States. Sometime in the early 1900s, bratwurst simmered in beer, grilled and served on a bun (typically with grilled onions and mustard) appeared in Wisconsin and spread to other parts of the country. Wisconsin is still bratwurst crazy. Miller Park—home of Major League Baseball’s Milwaukie Brewers—sells more bratwurst than hotdogs on game days.
The version offered here features a bit of a twist on what many would consider the “classic” beer-and-bratwurst recipe. Instead of simmering the brats in beer before grilling, the beer is paired with the onions and a few other ingredients to create a wonderfully rich, tasty sauce. Once the bratwurst are grilled separately, they’re added to the pan until the sauce thickens, then served on rolls and covered with the savory concoction.
Though usually associated with summertime grilling and fair-going, this recipe hits the spot all year long. Serve with a side of potatoes or potato salad, sauerkraut and a freshly poured beer anytime you want a divine, mouthwatering mashup of classic Old World food meets New World beer-driven innovation.
- Four (4) 4oz bratwurst (fresh, cooked or smoked)
- 2 tablespoons bacon fat, lard or olive oil
- 3 cups onion, thinly sliced
- 1/8 teaspoon sugar
- 12oz Hop Valley Divine Shine Pale Ale
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 tablespoons coarse-ground mustard
- 4 hoagie buns or Italian rolls, split
Heat fat or oil in a deep, 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Add onions and sugar, stirring well to coat with fat/oil. Sauté onions for 10 minutes or until they start to turn golden brown, stirring frequently. Add a full bottle of Divine Shine Pale Ale, scraping up any browned bits from bottom of pan. Add bay leaves, lower heat and simmer for about 10 minutes. Stir mustard into onions, remove from heat and set aside. Discard bay leaves.
Grill bratwurst over medium-hot fire, turning to brown evenly. Keep a close eye on things as the high fat content in bratwurst can quickly invite overcooking and blackened brats. Grill until nicely browned and the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees F. Remove from grill and add to skillet with onions. Over medium heat, cook and stir until sauce becomes the consistency of syrup. Serve bratwurst in hoagie buns or Italian rolls, generously smothered with the onion-mustard-beer sauce.