Grilled Beer Brats

Grilling brats is a summertime staple in Wisconsin. Not your average sausage, a good old fashioned beer brat takes any summer meal, barbeque, or party to the next level!

Serving tray filled with grilled beer brats in buns and topped with a variety of condiments. The brats are surrounded by chips, a bowl of beer-boiled onions, and a white linen.

Hi! I’m Dave, husband and chief chopper/dishwasher/taste-tester to your lovely blog host, Meredith. I’ve been asked to chip in and author this post because, well, there are few things I do better in life than grilling brats. My family, by heritage, is nearly 100% German; half my family hails from Milwaukee (known in early 20th century as the ‘German Athens’), and the other half from Sheboygan, WI, a city that until well into the 20th century still had German language newspapers. What I’m trying to say is, if we’re talking bratwurst, the king of German sausages, I’m your guy. So let’s do it!

Beer brats are one of the regional dishes that define Wisconsin. But even within the state, there’s debate over the best way to cook brats. My great-Uncle Clem, from Sheboygan, taught me that the best way to cook brats was to grill the brats over very low heat and to turn the sausages by hand over the flame so your tongs didn’t pop the casing and release the delicious juices. He also would never have cooked the brats in beer, either. ‘Sheboygan style’, at least in our family, means grilling the sausage raw and putting them straight on the bun.

My dad, from Milwaukee, thought that was nuts. He taught me that the best way to cook brats was to simmer them with beer and onions and then brown them on the grill. Since dad knows best, that’s the method I’ll share with in this post: his ‘Milwaukee-style’ beer brats recipe!

TELL ME ABOUT GRILLING BRATS

Level of difficulty: Moderate. There’s nothing particularly tricky about grilling brats, but the brats need your full attention both during the simmering and grilling. You can’t turn your back on them because the casings may burst from too much heat. Burst casings means lost juices, which means lost flavor.

Flavor: Beer, of course, but the spices in the sausage win the day: mace, pepper, sage, celery seed, etc. Adding to that, the soft bite of the onions on top really brings this one home.

Texture: A snappy sausage casing, a soft yet somehow crisp onion, and a hard roll.

Time: You’ll need about 20-25min to make this beer brats recipe.

9 image collage showing how to cook brats with beer. This shows the steps of pre cooking brats in a pan by simmering in beer, then cooking brats on grill. Finally it shows serving the brats with various condiments.

See a step-by-step story series here!

WHAT YOU NEED TO MAKE THIS BEER BRATS RECIPE

Fresh brats: fresh, uncooked brats are key. Some sausages come pre-cooked, but if you use the pre-cooked variety, your sausages will be tough and overdone by the time you eat them.

Lager style beer: the best beer for brats is a classic lager style beer like MGD, PBR, Miller Lite, Coors, etc. No need for a fancy beer in this recipe!

Sliced yellow onion: onions give your beer sauce a nice depth of flavor.

Hard rolls: the best brats are served on a toasted hard roll, like a Kaiser roll or a Semmel roll. But in lieu of those, any sausage roll will work. Just try to avoid a hot dog bun; they’re too wimpy for a brat.

Condiments of choice: besides the onions from the beer sauce, mustard, raw onions, sauerkraut, and horseradish are all great (and traditional) toppings for beer brats!

cooking brats on grill, with a tongs ready to turn a brat.

OVERVIEW: THE BEST WAY TO COOK BRATS – “MILWAUKEE STYLE”

  1. Preheat your grill: Whether you’re using gas or charcoal, get your grill warming now (aiming for a temperature of around 350 degrees).*
    • Note: see helpful hints for how to manage your heat best; don’t skip this section!
  2. Sauté yellow onion: In a large saucepan, melt the butter and then sauté your sliced onion in the butter until softened. You do not want to cook the onion all the way (this is what makes it good as a topping!). Aim for ‘soft on the outside, crisp on the inside’.
  3. Add your brats and beer: Add brats to your pot and top with just enough beer so that the brats are fully submerged.
  4. Low simmer: Simmer the brats on the stove on the lowest possible simmer until they are plump, grey, and there is no visible pink anywhere beneath the casing.
  5. Transfer to grill: Your brats should be mostly cooked at this point, so transferring them to the grill simply finishes the cooking process and imparts that classic ‘grill’ flavor to the bratwurst. Cook turning brats gently and frequently until casing is browned.
    • Note: see helpful hints for how to monitor the brats. If you’re going to temp your brats (to 160°F) by inserting a thermometer in either end of the sausage, not the middle. This will help minimize juice loss! Remember: juice is gold.
  6. Remove from the grill and serve: Serve on your favorite bun, topped with your favorite condiments, and enjoy!

HELPFUL HINTS FOR Grilling Brats

Boiling brats in beer – a commonly mislabeled step in this process. Though beer brat recipes will often talk about boiling brats before grilling, I’m here to set the record straight. If you bring your beer up to a boil, you’re going to lose a ton of juices from the brats in your pan. I’ll say it again: juice is gold because juice is flavor! ‘Boiling brats before grilling’ should really say ‘simmering brats before grilling’! After you’ve added your brats and beer to the pan, bring it up to a very gentle simmer. Your brats will be ready for the grill after they’ve become plump and grey (no visible pink).

Speaking of juices, what’s this about managing grill heat? This might be the most important step you take when you’re grilling brats. If the brats are subject to too much direct heat, their casings will pop, and all that delicious juice will run into your grill. How do you avoid that? I’ll explain for charcoal and gas grills:

  • For a charcoal grill: Just before adding your brats to the grill, bank your heated coals to one side of your grill. When you add the brats to the grill, cook them on the opposite side of the coals and keep the lid on your grill. This will ensure your brats get cooked over indirect heat.
  • For a gas grill: preheat all burners like you normally would, but when you add the brats, turn the burners directly under the brats down to a low/medium low temperature.

Cooking for a crowd? You can easily double (or triple) this recipe! This recipe is the best way to cook brats for a crowd. Just make sure you use one medium yellow onion for every 5-6 brats, and ensure that all the brats are submerged in the beer while you simmer. Simple!

DELICIOUS SIDES TO GO WITH YOUR BEER BRATS:

GREAT DESSERTS TO BRING TO THE BBQ:

close up of a serving tray covered with beer brats on buns and topped with a variety of toppings like donions, mustard, and ketchup.

Beer Brats

Grilling brats is the epitome of summer! This beer brats recipe is exactly what you need to serve at your next backyard BBQ or cookout. Simply double or triple the recipe for a large group.
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 2 mins
Cook Time 23 mins
Total Time 25 mins
Course Mains
Cuisine American
Servings 6 Servings
Calories 293 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 1 package of 5 or 6 uncooked brats
  • 1 medium yellow onion thinly sliced
  • 2 Tbsp salted butter
  • 16-20 oz lager style beer
  • buns & condiments of choice

Instructions
 

Beer Boil + Gas Grill Instructions

  • Preheat your grill by turning on all burners to high
  • (aiming for a temperature of around 350 degrees)
  • In a large saucepan, melt the butter and sauté the sliced onion in butter until softened. You do not want to cook the onion all the way – aim for soft on the outside, crisp on the inside (about 5-7 minutes for this entire step)
  • Add raw brats to the saucepan and top with just enough beer to fully submerge the sausages. Simmer the brats on the lowest possible simmer until they are plump, grey, and there is no visible pink anywhere beneath the casing (about 5-7 minutes)
  • Transfer brats to the grill. Immediately turn the burners directly under the brats down to a low/medium low temperature. Cook turning brats gently and frequently until casing is browned (about 5-7 minutes)* 
  • Serve on your favorite bun, topped with your favorite condiments, and enjoy!
  • Place grill grate aside, and light coals and place lid onto the grill to pre-heat.
  • In a large saucepan, melt the butter and sauté the sliced onion in butter until softened. You do not want to cook the onion all the way – aim for soft on the outside, crisp on the inside (about 5-7 minutes for this entire step)
  • Add raw brats to the saucepan and top with just enough beer to fully submerge the sausages. Simmer the brats on the lowest possible simmer until they are plump, grey, and there is no visible pink anywhere beneath the casing (about 5-7 minutes)
  • Just before adding your brats to the grill, bank your heated coals to one side of your grill. When you add the brats to the grill, cook them on the opposite side of the coals. Cook by turning brats gently and frequently, placing the lid over the brats in between turning, until casing is browned (about 5-7 minutes)*
  • Serve on your favorite bun, topped with your favorite condiments, and enjoy!

Beer Boil + Charcoal Grill Instructions

  • Place grill grate aside, and light coals and place lid onto the grill to pre-heat.
  • In a large saucepan, melt the butter and sauté the sliced onion in butter until softened. You do not want to cook the onion all the way – aim for soft on the outside, crisp on the inside (about 5-7 minutes for this entire step).
  • Add raw brats to the saucepan and top with just enough beer to fully submerge the sausages. Simmer the brats on the lowest possible simmer until they are plump, grey, and there is no visible pink anywhere beneath the casing (about 5-7 minutes).
  • Just before adding your brats to the grill, bank your heated coals to one side of your grill. When you add the brats to the grill, cook them on the opposite side of the coals. Cook by turning brats gently and frequently, placing the lid over the brats in between turning, until casing is browned (about 5-7 minutes)*.
  • Serve on your favorite bun, topped with your favorite condiments, and enjoy!

Notes

*Note: If you’re going to temp your brats during grilling to confirm they are done (to 160°F), insert a thermometer in either end of the sausage, not the middle. This will help minimize juice loss.
*The nutritional value of this recipe is calculated without a bun or toppings (as this will vary widely based on your personal preferences)

Nutrition

Calories: 293kcalCarbohydrates: 6gProtein: 10gFat: 23gSaturated Fat: 9gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 11gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 59mgSodium: 592mgPotassium: 278mgFiber: 1gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 121IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 27mgIron: 1mg
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
*Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, which means at no additional cost to you I may receive a small commission for purchases made through these links. However, please know that I strive to provide links to products that I actually use and wholeheartedly recommend whenever possible.
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