April showers should be known for more than just bringing flowers. They bring in warmer weather, seasonal allergies, baseball, and most importantly – grilling season. There are few things better on a picturesque Spring afternoon than sitting outside with some cold brews, listening to your team hopefully beat the Yankees and grilling up some bratwurst…or beer brats… wait, is there a difference?
History time kids, but don’t worry, I fully believe in cutting to the chase. Bratwurst can trace its roots back to Germany, with written records of brats dating all the way back to the 1300s. There are regional variants of bratwurst (just like how you’ll see Italian sausage in NYC and andouille in New Orleans) with each variant bringing something completely different to the table. Bratwurst is classically a mixture of many types of meat including beef, pork, and veal that’s seasoned with coriander and sage. The additions of eggs, paprika, some pilsner beer, salt, and pepper round out the mixture that must then sit for up to 24 hours before casing. Once it’s all cased up, the bratwurst is typically boiled or steamed before being grilled over charcoal.
Now beer brats, on the other hand, are a totally American thing. Their origins don’t reach back quite as far as bratwurst’s, as it’s now only coming up on its 100th birthday in a few years. The big difference between the two is that a beer brat will be braised in beer (typically a pilsner) with onion and butter before hitting the charcoal. Serve that bad boy up with a cold beer, sauerkraut, and a bag of kettle chips and it’ll make any Brewers game somewhat watchable!
Hopefully, this little tutorial will help you the next time you’re ordering at the game or in the Biergarten.