Three day weekends are my jam.
Memorial Day weekend is especially exciting because it’s the official kickoff of summer. The pool opens! School’s almost out! You can rock a seersucker suit! Temperatures are climbing! The sun is out longer! Outdoor activities! Wearing white pants is acceptable! Time to fire up the grill!
While I associate summer with all of the above (especially the fashion rules since moving down South), some of my strongest summer memories involve grilling. My family grills all year round; grilling is not a cooking method limited to sunshine and steaming temperatures. My dad will fire up the grill mid-January, and shovel direct door to grill path in the snow if necessary. But grilling is definitely more prevalent in the summer: backyard barbecues, neighborhood block parties, beach trips, chowing down on juicy cheeseburgers and brats at the picnic table on our screened porch.
My dad is no culinary master, but he does have a couple standard recipes in his wheelhouse. He’s from Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin (home to Leinenkugels and Jack Dawson in Titanic) and is proud of his Wisconsin roots (he is the most dedicated Wisconsin Badgers and Green Bay Packers fan I’ve ever met).
While my mom handles most of the dinner duties, Dad is in charge of dinner when we eat beer brats.
Brats are Wisconsin’s soul food; you’ll find them sizzling on grills across the state at football tailgates, summer cookouts or on for a random weeknight dinner. They’re perfect for parties; totally hands off so you can focus on your guest and will totally please a crowd. Start with a beer bath, finish them off on the grill, then let your guests go crazy and top them how they want. A BYOB (build your own brat) situation, if you will.
With Memorial Day quickly approaching, Dad and I wanted to share our tried and true beer brat recipe. Start the brats on the stove in a beer bath: one whole beer, enough water to cover the brats and sliced white or yellow onion. Any beer will work for the bath (brand doesn’t matter), but you do want to stay on the lighter side, like a lager, wheat ale or saison. Pop those puppies on the grill and get them nice and brown, and they are ready to eat!
When it comes to toppings, there are a few for you to choose from. You can go classic, and lay out everyone’s favorite condiments to have your friends and family squirt on as they please. Dad recommends brown mustard (a must) and ketchup if you want it (ketchup on brats is a great debate, but they allow it in Sheboygan, the brat capital of Wisconsin, so Dad approves). Make sure it’s brown mustard, not yellow mustard, “these ain’t hot dogs.” (Thanks, Dad. You may see in the photo above yellow mustard making a cameo at our tailgate. We had hotdogs too). You can also use horseradish too, but make sure it’s just a little bit (don’t want to overpower the brat). You can top with raw or grilled onions (Dad prefers raw, but you can also take the onions that boiled with the beer brats, wrap them up in foil, stick them on the grill, and use those). Sauerkraut is another brat topping debate, but according to Dad, “do not use kraut, ruins a good brat.” Brown mustard and onions is the way Mark likes them.
Take your beer brats to the next level and go all out Wisconsin, by whipping up a smoky, spicy beer cheese sauce and slather that on top of your sausage. I would love to bathe in this beer cheese sauce; the flavor is bold so it’s perfect on it’s own as a dip, but also compliments a grilled brat’s flavor. Beer cheese pairs great with caramelized onions, and throw some brown mustard on their too, because brown mustard is delicious. Load your plate with potato salad, grilled corn and watermelon while you’re at it.
Crack open a cold one, and you’ve got yourself a good, old fashioned, Wisconsin family barbecue.
- For the brats:
- 6 brats
- 1 light beer
- ¼ cup water
- one large onion sliced
- For the beer cheese sauce:
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 2 teaspoons paprika
- 1 teaspoon hot sauce (optional)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 bottle beer (we used IPA but you can also use a light beer)
- 1 cup half and half (you could also use greek yogurt to lighten it up)
- 2 cups sharp cheddar cheese (8 oz)
- 2 cups colby jack or monterey jack cheese (8 oz)
- 4 oz cream cheese
- a few shake red pepper flakes (optional)
- For the caramelized onions:
- 2 tablespoons butter
- ½ tablespoon olive oil
- one large red onion, sliced
- 1-2 teaspoons brown sugar
- salt and pepper to taste
- Place brats in deep pot. Pour beer into pot and add water until liquid covers brats. Add sliced onion. Bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to medium low and simmer until brats are cooked. Finish brats on the grill until brown.
- While brats are simmering, make caramelized onions and beer cheese sauce.
- Caramelized Onions: Melt butter in large nonstick skillet. Add olive oil and onions. Cook, stirring frequently over medium heat until onions soften, about 5 to 10 minutes. Add brown sugar, salt and pepper, and cook for about 20 minutes, stirring frequently, scraping caramelized bits off of bottom of pan.
- Beer Cheese Sauce: In large saucepan or pot (we used a pot), melt butter over medium heat. Add flour and stir frequently for about 3 minutes, until flour and butter have formed thick paste. Add spices, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce. Add beer. Stir until flour mixture is blended into beer. Add heavy cream. Stir to blend. Reduce heat to low and add shredded cheeses and cream cheese. Stir until cheeses are melted and blended into beer sauce. Keep sauce warm, on very low heat. Stir the sauce before serving.
- Top grilled brats with brown mustard and onions (chopped raw onions or grilled onions from beer bath mixture). Or top brats with beer cheese sauce and caramelized onions.
**I’m a member of the North Carolina Pork Council Blogging Network and was compensated for the cost of the ingredients used in this post.