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Beer, Brats and Beyond
Excerpted from Cafe Wisconsin Cookbook, by Terese Allen and Joanne Raetz Stuttgen (University of Wisconsin Press, 2007)

People don't just celebrate with beer in Wisconsin, we celebrate because of beer. Breweries, in fact, were common here even before the state became a state, thanks to early European immigrants. They quickly learned that the area's cold temperatures and clear waters were ideal for brewing up their favorite drink. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Today, while foamy brown ales, lagers, stouts and pilsners are enjoyed nearly everywhere and at nearly anytime in the state, quaffing isn't the only way we savor beer. Indeed, as any self- respecting brew lover will tell you, beer is food...so why not use it as an ingredient?

…One beer-soaked specialty known and beloved by all is grilled bratwurst. (Okay, maybe there's a few residents out there who don't relish them, but if they know what's good for them, they won't admit it.) Indeed, if there was such a thing as a state aroma, surely Wisconsin's would be the smell of simmered-in-beer, charcoal-broiled brats. Tucked into a bun, topped with brown mustard and raw onions (and, if you like, sauerkraut), brats should also be the state sandwich.

 
brats

The topic of brats-in-beer isn't without controversy, however. Some folk simmer their sausages in a beer-and-onion bath first, then grill them until the skin is deep brown and so brittle it bursts at the touch of a tooth. Others swear by the grill-first, simmer-later method, claiming it the hot barbecued brats soak up more beer flavor that way. Either way, you also have to decide what kind of beer to use, how much water (if any) to add to it, and if you can get away with adding a nice big blob of butter to the mix. If you think such questions can be easily resolved, then tune it sometime while two brat cooks debate the merits of their opposing opinions. You'd think world peace was at stake.

Of course in Wisconsin, these are what we call good problems.

Try a recipe for a Double with the Works.