Beer Brats!


By Joshua Rosenthal

Beer Brat

Beer Brats History and Recipes

Every New Year’s Day and Super Bowl Sunday, my father would always put together a menu for us and for our neighbors to enjoy, as we would watch the bowl games on New Years and the final NFL game on Super Bowl Sunday. The main star of the menu was my father’s beer brat!!!
I remember going grocery shopping with him, watching him choose the right bratwurst, beer, onions, rolls, and the toppings (grainy mustard, sauerkraut, pickled onion). He would mutter to himself on how he was going to put the flavors together. I could not wait to get home and help him cook before guests would arrive. The aroma of the brats braising in the beer and onions would fill the kitchen and drift into our family room. Hearing the sizzling of the brats on the grill and the onions in the pan, you knew it was going to be a great day! There was nothing like it as a kid and now as an adult. You could not wait to sink your teeth into his beer brat! I knew they were perfect because everyone would always tell my father they would be back next year for his beer brats.
My dad was always amazed how people loved his brats. He would always tell me, “It’s the simplest dish to make, not complicated, its quick to complete, and people love them.”

Quick History 

German immigrants brought brats to the United States during the years of 1820 – 1910. More than 5 million German immigrants settled in Wisconsin during this time. It is well known that the population was 34% of German descent.
Wisconsin became a state in 1848 at the same time a major rebellion was underway in Germany, where the majority of the middle class fled to America for a prosperous life brining their skills and values to Wisconsin along with their German cuisine.
The new immigrants brought two major skills with them: brewing beer and making brats! Milwaukee was made famous for Schlitz beer, Pabst, and Blatz also had market share and drove competition. The major names that assisted in developing breweries were Fauerbach, Sprecher, and Breckheimer. They also introduced their amazing cuisine through restaurants and delis.

Bratwurst is a Sausage, but a Sausage is not a Bratwurst

Sausage can produced from being dried, smoked, or fresh. While the bratwurst are always fresh instead of being smoked or dried. Typically, bratwurst is a fresh sausage of pork and veal, using seasonings like caraway, coriander, and or nutmeg. The different regions in Germany will use different flavorings.

Creating the Beer Brat!!

Beer brats are juicy bratwursts that have been boiled in beer with sautéed onions, served on a bun with toppings. You can steam, grill, and even boil brats! You can serve them on a plate, on a steamed bun, or soft roll.  

Bratwurst sausage:

When choosing a brat, choose quality! If you can buy them fresh from a butcher or better yet a German deli, do so. Take your time to find the perfect brat to showcase the taste and also pair with your onion, spices, and beer. I am extremely picky, like my father. I typically want a fresh bratwurst with traditional German seasonings. Pay the extra dollar because it will make the difference.


Use yellow onions and slice them thick, so they don’t dwindle during cooking. Just make sure to add your beer right when they turn golden if you want the fresh taste of onion. The other option is to caramelize them, leaving them to sauté longer in the pan prior to adding your beer. This will promote a wonderful sweetness to the beer and bratwurst. Once again think about your bratwurst and beer when choosing how to cook your onion. In some cases sweet onions can be used if you want a different flavor profile. 


You can use any spices you want. One tablespoon will do. Caraway seed is popular due to being a German spice, but you can choose to you use: garlic cloves, fresh ground ginger, red chili flakes, mustard seed, and coriander seed. In some cases, brown sugar can be used to add a sweet molasses caramel rich flavor to the onions. I am a traditionalist, so I leave my spices to the German profile. I will use coriander and caraway to assist in showcasing the bratwurst and beer.


You can use any beer you like. Lager's are a popular choice due to tradition. Some individuals will use an IPA (be careful due to bitterness), while others will use pale ales, ambers, and stout/porter to provide a wonderful background profile flavor. The beer will add a nice malty flavor that will sweeten the onions and brats as it cooks down. Have fun with your selection, as each type of beer is going to enhance your bratwurst flavor and bring a great background flavor to your onion too. I personally go with tradition and use a crisp German Helles (pale lager): I have used both Spaten and Lowenbrau. They both provide subtle malt sweetness; both are full bodied with a spicy German hop flavor and have light hop bitterness. They are perfect for boiling and making a light reduction (sauce) with the onions. The beer’s profile really enhances the brat’s spices providing the perfect background. Remember, you can also pair your beer with your brats, providing another layer of flavors.


It is a must to use a fantastic bun! You can choose a plain bun or flecked with seasoning, but make sure you are using a quality high-end bun. Also choose a bun that will fit your brat and the fixings. I personally use a top quality roll that will support your brat, onions, and toppings. Your beer brat is a meal in a bun with side dishes. I always use French Roll because it is has a slight sweetness and the perfect softness. I want the brat’s juices to absorb into the roll for the perfect bite. 

Let’s put it together

Cooking the Brats

The only way you will get the true flavor of a beer brat is to boil them in beer and onions, making sure they are absorbing all the beer’s flavor and cooked onions. Take your time on this step. Let the brat marry the beer, onions, and spices.
First, you will want to let the slice onions cook down in some oil or butter (adds flavor and richness) then braise the brats with beer (adding to the pan/pot). As the brats cook, the onions will soften in the beer broth and will create a thick sauce, perfect to adding to the brat for topping.
After the brats have boiled for 10-12, 15, 20 minutes, you will then want to add a crust to them. It is your choice to either grill or sear them for 5-10 minutes or you can serve them soft after boiling.

Showcase your Brat

You can serve your brat on a steam bun/roll, toasted bun/roll, or what you think is best. A great tradition is to use German mustard or combine yellow and grain together. You can also use those onions from the pan/pot, sauerkraut, or sweet and sour cabbage. It really depends on how you want to showcase your brat.

Recipe Steps (Basic)

Prep time: 5-10 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
Total time: 25 – 30 minutes
  1. One – four (12-ounce) beer(s), depending on how many brats you will be cooking. 
  2. One beer is great for 4 brats, while more beers will be needed if you are going to cook 10 plus brats or if you want to increase the beer flavor.
  3. One large yellow onion sliced into thin pieces
  4. Tablespoon of oil or butter
  5. Six bratwurst sausages
  6. Six buns/rolls
  1. Preheat grill over medium – high heat (make sure to clean and oil the grate)
  2. In a large pot over medium – high heat, add brats, onion, and beer
  3. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until the brats are cooked through, about 10 minutes – 12 minutes
  4. Remove brats from the pot and place into a bowl or onto a plate. 
  5. Continue to cook onions in the beer while grilling the brats. 
  6. Increase the grill heat to medium and cook the brats, turning often, until browned, about five minutes
  7. Serve on buns/rolls (either soft, steamed, or toasted) and use the onions from the pot as a topping along with other toppings you may want to include

​Recipe Steps (Alternative)

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 50 minutes
Total time: 1 hour
  1. One  (12-ounce) beer (amber or nut brown ale)
  2. One and half large yellow onion sliced into thick pieces
  3. Two tablespoons of butter
  4. Tablespoon caraway seeds
  5. Two teaspoons of chili flakes
  6. ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  7. Six bratwurst sausages
  8. Six buns/rolls
  1. Use a cast iron or heavy bottom skillet, turn stove on to medium high heat, and add the butter
  2. Add the onion and caraway seeds and cook for five minutes or when the onions begin to soften become translucent. Season the onions with kosher salt.
  3. Place the bratwursts into the onions, making sure the bratwursts are covered with the onions
  4. Add the beer and bring to a low boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 30-40 minutes, turning the brats sporadically
Options: Browning the brats in the skillet
  1. Transfer the onions and beer to a bowl and set aside. Add the brats back to the skillet and increase the head to medium high. Brown the bratwurst evenly on all sides and if necessary add more butter or oil. 
  2. Add the onions and beer back into the skillet and keep warm
  3. Serve on warm buns with onions, mustard and sauerkraut as an option
Options: Grilling the brats
  1. Preheat your grill to medium – high heat. Grill the bratwurst on the grill for 2-4 minutes per side or until they are browned on all side
  2. Add back to the skillet with the onions and beer to keep warm
  3. Serve on warm buns/rolls with onions, mustard and sauerkraut as an option

Relax Have Another Homebrew & Enjoy!!

These are just two types of recipes to showcase variations on how to go about cooking beer brats. It is truly up to the cook on how they want to showcase their brats. Just remember, you only need three ingredients; beer (preferably homebrew!), brats, and onions! The rest is truly up to you as you can create your own spin on this wonderful German tradition by using either a pan or pot, boil or sauté, sear or grill, and using different types of beer, brats, onions, spices, sugar, toppings, and rolls! 
You do not have to wait for New Years Day or Super Bowl Sunday. Beer brats are perfect for camping, tailgating, poker night, Oktoberfest, or for any night! Create your own beer brat version and make it a tradition!

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