Are you wondering what a good beer to use for cooking brats is? Well, you landed on the right page. In this article, I’m going to share with you what’s the best beer for brats and 4 seasonal options.
But first, the classic go-to cooking beer for bratwurst is a lager/pilsner style, like Miller Lite, Coors Lite, PBR, or Bud Light. Use any of these for brats because you can get them anywhere, they are cheap and the overall flavor works really well with the meat.
The reasons I use a lager:
- Flavor – Nice crisp beer taste that doesn’t take away from the brat.
- Cheap – Depending on how many you are cooking, you will use 2 cans at the minimum for a 6 pack of brats.
- Cooking – Lagers generally won’t boil over when cooking, others may boil over and make a mess.
- Availability – You can get lagers anywhere, especially cheap ones, and it’s ok to use cheap ones for cooking.
What is the best beer for brats?
As I mentioned above, my go-to is a Lager style, usually, I will use Miller lite. And as the season change here in the midwest, my flavor for beer brats does as well.
Spring – Miller Lite Lager
Summer – Citrus IPA
Fall – Oktoberfest Marzen
Winter – Stout
In the springtime when baseball is just starting, I cook with miller lite. In the mid-summer, I might switch it up and use a Citrusy IPA, this defiantly adds a sweet and hoppy note to the brat. But that’s Ok, my theory is to cook with what you will be drinking with, it compliments everything.
You could look at it like, if your guest isn’t fans of hoppy beer and are drinking a different style, this might way might throw them off.
In the fall, the air is crisp and football is on. Farmers are harvesting and that makes me crave a more flavorful bold beer, like an Oktoberfest Marzen style. It’s an amber, herbal hops with extra spices to bring that bitter bold flavor out. Works well with brats.
Winter is cold and it’s ok in cold parts of the world to carb up, so I like to add a nice stout to cook with. The color does change the brat just a little but that’s not even the slightest problem. The flavor is bolder, and nice brown mustard really compliments the stout and brat.
Do you need to soak them in beer first?
The short answer is no, you’ll be fine to cook them from the package. However, soaking them overnight is a great way to add that beer flavor to the meat.
Take them out of the package and if needed reshape them so they are rounded and not flattened from the package. Place in a pot or large container you can fit in the refrigerator. If you like onions, peel and cut an onion in half, you don’t need to chop the onion because we don’t want all those pieces everywhere.
You can use the beer you soaked the brats in to cook with as well or open a couple of fresh cans, your preference.
Soaking overnight would be idle for enhancing the flavor, but 30 minutes to an hour before cooking is a must.
How to cook beer brats
We can go over a few ways to cook them, each way works fine if you do it right.
My favorite way is grilling them first and then simmering in beer and onions.
- Soak brats in beer for a few hours or overnight
- Drain and dry before cooking is ideal, to make sure you’re not putting out the fire or smoking the coals.
- Make sure your grill is about medium heat and not scorching hot and cook each side for 2-3 minutes and put on the warmer side of the grill for another few minutes
- Have a pot of beer and onions simmering
- Add the brats and let simmer for about 20 minutes
- Turn off heat and let sit for another 20 minutes
- In hot pan or skillet, sear the two sides of the brat for 2-3 minutes
- Turn down the heat and add 2 cans of beer for every 6 brats
- Add some onion if you like
- Let simmer on low for 40 minutes and then let sit for another 20
- Sear or brown the brats in a pan first, this is important as it seals in the juices of the meat
- Place them in the crockpot and top with onion, garlic, salt, pepper, and butter if you like all those.
- Add 3-5 cans of beer
- Cook on high for 4 hours or low of 6-8 hours
- I recommend searing before cooking, sear each of the two sides for 2-3 minutes each in a hot pan. Skip this step if you want.
- Place on a sheet pan 1 inch apart.
- Turn the oven to 350 degrees and bake for 15-20 minutes.
- Beer brat style in the oven I would sear and then put in a baking pan with beer and onions and cook for 40 minutes
Ultimate brat tips
- Stick to a good brand like Johnsonville or bought locally at your butcher shop
Cheaper brats are, well, cheap. And if you can, avoid buying them in bulk.
- Use a lager/pilsner beer and soak overnight
Lager is the way to go!
- Do not poke holes in a brat
It has been suggested to poke holes in the casing, but it is not OK. Poking holes will allow the fat to leak out, and in the end, you will have one of the hardest brats to eat because it will be so tough and chewy. The small amount of fat that is put in, is in there for flavor and the science of cooking, so don’t poke!
- Do Not boil brats
Grill or sear first, and then simmer. Boiling takes the flavor out of the meat.
- Do not grill over hot heat
I will admit I like a crispy slightly charred hot dog, that’s ok. But a brat is a special sausage that is held together in a pretty tough casing, but fire is no match for it. It will burst, and sadly all that delicious juice will be gone. The juice is flammable and will spill onto the flame and cause more flame and then you have a flavorless charred brat. Grill on low heat instead.
- Use a beer to cook with that will also be served as a beverage
It’s Ok if you don’t, but to overall compliment, the food and drink, keep them in the same ballpark.
The taste test
A few Wisconsinites decided to test out the different beer theories, they used 3 different beers. Miller High Life, Johnny Blood Red, and Night Rain (Dark Porter).
They each tested just the brat, no bun, no mustard, no Saur Kraut.
The results were interesting, it was a 3-way tie! All the beers won!
So the conclusion is, it probably doesn’t make the biggest difference which beer you use. You can experiment and find the one that you like best, but for the sake of a delicious brat, cheap American lager is the way to go.
In my opinion, adding more flavorful beer does add some sweetness and malty notes. And as I mentioned above serve with the same beverage you will be enjoying with your bratwurst.