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Jim Pedley's picture

Cooking Bratwurst with Craft Beer

"Brat Dogs" and beer: A great way to make friends.

My friend Harvey backed the silver with red leather interior Jaguar XJ6 dead center between two grubby, garbage-strewn campsites that were pitched near the Turn 3 fence at Road America.

Located in the glacially carved swells of Wisconsin north of Milwaukee, the track’s four miles of undulating asphalt had been drawing sports car racers and fans from all over the world for almost two decades. The neighbors covered in dried mud – who obviously were on, like, Day 4 of their stay – rubbed party-ravaged eyes as Harvey began setting up our little section of ground on that hot, muggy afternoon in the early 1970s.

Out of the Jag came coolers, collapsible chairs, a small folding table and a full-sized Weber kettle in immaculate black, ready for assembly. Briquettes were lit and out came a six-pack of Schlitz cans – the kind you needed a “church key” to open. To the horror of the neighbors, the beer was dumped into a foil pan on the grill rack.

A plastic bag of onions was dumped into the beer and then a stick of butter. The pan was placed over the hot grill until bubbles and steam began to rise. Then a large bag of brats from the cooler was emptied into the pan.

About this time, the pace car came up over the small hill out of Turn 2 and led the snarling and bellowing field of sports cars past us on their warm-up lap.

Several roaring, full-speed laps later, the brats were deemed sufficiently boiled and the coals at the right temperature to remove the butter/onion jacuzzi from the Weber and put the gleaming sausages on the grill grate.

Three laps of constant tending later, the brats had browned up and were shooting mini-geysers of juice onto the briquettes as the cars wailed past. Into the buns and onto paper plates they went.

The neighbors, who had watched the two hoity-toity University of Wisconsin Madison alums with mild disgust were waved over for hot brats and beer that was actually cold. Harvey could have been appointed pope had the mud-crusted neighbors been elector cardinals.

Those lovingly prepared German sausages were memorable. Juicy, perfectly browned and that wonderful masticated blend of onions and hops. The snap of the casing, the burst of steam, the rivers of liquefied fat.

That was not the first time I’d had beer brats. Just the best time. Brats, beer and the supercharged drama of sports car racing. Terrific.


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