Wisconsin Beer Brats with Pickled Sweet Onions

Wisconsin Beer Brats with Pickled Sweet Onions

If there’s one thing you should know about a Sconnie bratwurst is that they are nothing like the ones you find in Germany, or anywhere outside the Midwest, for that matter.  The great ones, like you’ll find at a brat fry in Sheboygan are the shorter, stubbier and spicier cousin to the long, pale versions you’ll find in Bavaria.  Every supermarket, big or small, and butcher shop throughout the state has their own recipe and people are pretty proprietary about their favorite.  Both the German and Midwest versions certainly have their merit, though I’m sure the Europeans would scoff at the notion of adding cheddar or jalapeños to their beloved tubed meat.  But hey, this is ‘Merica and we break the rules.  Speaking of the U-S-of-A, the 4th of July is right around the corner and if there ever were a day more mandatory, almost religious for grilling, it’s this one. In Wisconsin, no matter what the menu is, no matter how fancy or exotic, there will always be the obligatory brats, lest you piss off Grandpa!  If you don’t see them on the grill, you can pretty much bet the host is an imposter, most likely a FIB from some fancy Chicago suburb like Winnetka.

Serves 6


For the Pickled Sweet Onions:

1 sweet onion, such as a Vidalia, thinly sliced

1 cup white wine vinegar

3 tbsp sugar

1 tbsp salt

2 sprigs thyme, leaves chopped

For the Brats:

6 fresh bratwurst*

3 cans of beer

1-2 cups water

1 tbsp Worcestershire

1 onion, chopped

2 bay leaves

Salt, to taste


Hard rolls or pretzel rolls



Whole grain mustard


Heat the grill so that one side is very hot and the other is cool.  If you are using a charcoal grill, natural briquettes are your best option and wood chips can be added too for extra smokiness.

While the grill is heating, make the pickled onions.  In a small bowl, add the onions, vinegar, sugar, salt and thyme.  Mix well and set aside at room temperature for 1 hour.  Afterwards, these onions will keep in the refrigerator indefinitely.

Once the grill is hot, put the brats on the cool side of the grill.  Make sure the vents on the bottom and lid of the grill are slightly open.  Cover and cook for 20 minutes.  Flip the brats, cover and cook another 10 minutes.  It is important to cook the brats over low heat so that you do not split the casings, which would result in a dried out sausage.

While the bratwurst are cooking, prepare the beer bath.  In a medium pot bring the beer, water, Worcestershire, onion, bay leaves and salt to a simmer.  Cook over for 10 minutes or until the onions are soft.

In a medium pot, heat the sauerkraut with a splash of beer.

Once the bratwurst are done, transfer them to the beer bath and simmer over low heat for another 10 minutes.

Butter the rolls and grill until toasted.

To serve, place a brat on a buttery grilled roll, top it with sauerkraut, pickled onions and a smear of mustard.  Prost!

*My bratwurst of choice are from Sheboygan Bratwurst Company, Miesfeld’s, or Nueske’s.  If you happen to live in WI, every supermarket has their own recipe and the ones from Sendik’s in the Milwaukee area are the bomb!