Called Wisconsin soul food, beer brats are an American addition to German cuisine. By 1860, Germans were the biggest group of immigrants in Wisconsin, later to be eclipsed by Polish workers. Bratwurst became popular during the 1920s when butchers would make them fresh, to order. Always a summer cookout staple, they gradually became popular at sports arenas.
Johnsonville Foods, started in 1945 in Johnsonville, Wisconsin, manufactures and sells bratwurst in 47 US states and 30 other countries. I contacted them about their bratwurst and in response, they wrote: "...we make a variety of Bratwursts which may be fresh, smoked, and precooked. Our fresh products are made of raw pork and we do recommend cooking them to a temperature of 180 degrees F to ensure they are safe to eat. Our fresh Bratwursts are shipped frozen to retail stores to ensure freshness upon arrival." They also wrote that they cannot divulge their spice mixture.
There are two basic ways to cook beer brats: poach before or keep warm in beer afterward, each of which is described in the directions below.
Beer brats are often poached in beer before grilling. This cooks the sausage and seals in the juices so the sausage stays moist. Turn with tongs to avoid piercing the skin or the juice will run out.
Aficionados of Beer Brats will tell you to steer clear of hot dog buns as they are too soft and squishy. Use brat buns or hard rolls, instead.
Poach Before Grilling
1. Add beer, chopped onion and brats to a large pan.
2. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook until brats are done (firm to the touch).
3. Discard liquid and fry onions in butter in a clean pan, if desired.
4. Grill brats over a charcoal grill until browned.
5. Serve with brat buns or hard rolls and condiments. Alternatively, keep them warm in the batter.
Beer Brat Batter for After Grilling
Use fresh ingredients for this. Mix several bottles of beer with a chopped onion and a pat of butter.
2. Bring to a simmer. Place grilled bratwurst in the batter until time to serve but do not let the liquid boil.
3. The beer brat batter can also be used after grilling fresh bratwurst which has not been poached.
Note: Do not forget to visit the Bucyrus, Ohio Bratwurst Festival held the third weekend in August every year.