Simply put, beer brats are bratwursts that have been boiled or soaked in beer. My parents tell me this is a recipe from the Old Country, but they're probably only half-right. Regardless, beer brats are a mainstay of the Northwoods dining experience. This is my family's fail-safe method for cooking beer brats in the comfort and safety of your own home:
- Open the beer bottles, and set one aside to drink while cooking. Pour three into a pot, and apply low heat. If you're adding the garlic, break it into cloves and add to the beer - the garlic taste will come through by cooking on "low to medium" heat.
- Cut the onion and pepper in half, equatorially. Then cut each half into six or eight parts - just make sure that the biggest piece of each will rest comfortably in the bun with room for the bratwurst. Add onion and pepper to the beer, and then add the brats. When you can see through the onions, the brats should be about done. Just for the record, this process usually takes about 15-18 minutes.
- If the bratwurst are pre-cooked, then they should be firm enough to eat! If they are not pre-cooked, then you will need to boil them for another 6-8 minutes (or until the casing tightens), or grill them. Using the casing as the indicator for "done" is helpful, because bratwurst will plump as you cook them, tightening the casing and dulling its natural sheen.
Once the brats are done, fish them out, and add peppers and onions as you see fit. Ketchup and mustard are the typical condiments at this point, as is horseradish. The beer you use will have a noticeable effect on the taste of the brats - personally, I've had the best results with O'Doull's and Leinenkugel's Honey Weiss (or other any wheat beer). And if I had a choice, I'd make the garlic compulsory, because it blends very subtly with the meat when you cook it this way. But some people just aren't garlic people.