It isn’t summer without beer brats! This step-by-step guide will show you how to cook beer brats and cheese sauce entirely on the grill. They’re perfect for a cookout!
Isn’t the smell of grilling the BEST? I love walking around on a summer weekend and getting hit with the aromas of charcoal grills throughout the neighborhood.
This recipe for Beer Brats has a traditional cooking method, and a slightly untraditional serving method.
The traditional cooking method involves cooking the brats in a beer bath on the grill, and then transferring them to the grill itself to finish cooking and get nice char marks.
The untraditional method is how the brats are served: sliced instead of whole. The slices of bratwurst on the bun make lots of nooks and crannies for the beer cheese sauce to ooze into. The whole thing is irresistible!
Thank you to Kingsford Charcoal for the use of this recipe from their Taste of the Game cookbook.
The best beer for brats
Since the flavor of the beer comes through when cooking the brats, you’ll want a mild tasting beer. Lagers usually work best. Those include varieties like Miller Lite, Budweiser, Coors Light, and Stella Artois.
You can use whatever you have on hand though, with a few exceptions. I would advise against using any flavored beers (like coffee stout) or any beers that are particularly hoppy. The hops will lend a bit of a bitter flavor to the brats which we don’t want.
- You will need charcoal if you make this on a charcoal grill. A gas grill would work, too!
- You want raw bratwursts (not cooked) for this recipe.
- A pale ale or lager works great as the beer. I used Stella Artois, which is a lager.
- Soft and squishy hero rolls are best for holding the brats and cheese sauce without falling apart. Anything labeled “brat bun” would also work great.
- The cheese sauce is made with butter, flour, half and half, spicy brown mustard, beer, cornstarch, and grated sharp cheddar. It adds SO much amazing flavor to the finished dish.
For this recipe, everything is cooked on the grill—even the cheese sauce. Hooray for minimal kitchen clean-up!
How to cook beer brats on the grill
Start by creating a two-zone fire (more info on that here) by heaping charcoal on one side of the grill and leaving the other side empty. The direct and indirect heat zones create better temperature control when cooking. If you have a gas grill, light the burners on one side of the grill but not the other.
I used a small amount of lighter fluid to light the coals, and contrary to some opinions, I don’t think you can taste it in the food. It burns off within minutes of lighting the grill.
Next, use a metal saucepan to make the beer and cheese sauce. Almost any metal pan can be used on the grill (just make sure it’s all metal and doesn’t have a silicone or plastic handle).
The sauce is seriously delicious—I definitely dipped some pretzels into the sauce while the brats were cooking! 🙂
Next, cook the bratwursts in a beer bath over indirect heat. I used a foil pan for this to make clean-up even easier. While the brats are cooking in the beer, grill the onion slices over direct heat.
Then, the brats and onions switch places: the brats go directly on the grill and the onions get a bath in the beer. Both the onions and the brats get a smoky, wood-fired flavor thanks to the charcoal.
You can also grill the buns briefly, cut side down. Grill marks = more flavor!
Finally, assemble these delicious brat sandwiches with the sliced brats, cheese sauce, and grilled onions.
And can we talk about that cheese sauce? It oozes out of the sandwich and pairs perfectly with the grilled brats and onions.
What is the best beer for cooking brats?
The best beer for cooking brats is a pale ale or lager. Examples of lager include Stella Artois, Miller Lite, Budweiser, Coors Light, etc. The flavor of the beer comes through in the brats, so avoid anything too hoppy (like an IPA) or anything strongly flavored (like a coffee stout).
Can I make this ahead of time?
Yes! You can make the cheese sauce ahead of time, refrigerate it, and then reheat it when you’re ready to serve. Give it a good whisk when reheating it so redistribute the ingredients. You can also make the beer brats ahead of time. After cooking the brats in the beer bath, remove them from the beer and refrigerate. When ready to serve, reheat the brats directly on the grill.
What to serve with brats
I often grill brats in the summer, and this recipe is a great way to elevate the meal and impress your family and/or guests. They would be great paired with German Potato Salad and Grilled Corn Salad. Tuna Pasta Salad is another great pairing.
A pitcher of Homemade Ginger Ale would be perfect for enjoying with the meal.
Beer Brats with Cheese Sauce
For the cheese sauce:
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 2 tablespoons flour
- ¾ cup half and half, warmed
- 1 tablespoon spicy brown mustard
- 12 ounces 1½ cups room temperature beer, divided
- 8 ounces grated sharp cheddar cheese
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Cayenne pepper or hot sauce, to taste
For the beer brats:
- 6 bratwurst sausages
- 1 cup beer
- 2 onions, sliced ½ inch thick
- vegetable oil, as needed
- 6 hero or hard rolls, each about 6 inches long, split
- For a charcoal grill, build a two-zone fire by situating heated coals on only one side of the grill, and leaving the other side empty.
- For a gas grill, heat one side of the grill but not the other. You’ll need both sides of the grill and both levels of heat to properly cook your brats.
For the cheese sauce:
- In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over the void side of the grill. Whisk in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Add in the half and half and cook until thickened a bit, whisking constantly, 1 to 2 minutes.
- Once hot and thickened, add the mustard and slowly whisk in 4 ounces (1/2 cup) beer. Continue to cook until very hot.
- Lower the heat and toss the cheese in a bowl with the cornstarch. Slowly add the cornstarch/cheese to the sauce, whisking well to incorporate after each addition until melted.
- Remove from heat; season with salt, pepper, and a pinch of cayenne or hot sauce to taste; and set the sauce aside.
For the beer brats:
- Place the remaining beer and the brats in an oven-proof pan, and place the pan on the grill.
- Boil brats in the beer for 10 to 15 minutes or until the brats turn white, turning them a few times. Use a pair of long-handled tongs to move and rotate your brats, being careful not to pierce or break the skin throughout the cooking process.
- Meanwhile, brush the onion slices with oil and grill them—turning a few times until they’re softened and charred.
- Move the pan over to the cool side and remove the sausages, placing them directly over the coals. Watch your brats closely and rotate to avoid burning. You want even grill marks on all sides, which will take 10 to 12 minutes.
- Place the grilled onions in the beer bath pan when they are done.
- Prepare the rolls by brushing cut sides with oil and grill (cut sides down) until the bread is lightly toasted.
- Cut the rested sausages diagonally into 3/4 inch thick slices and divide among the toasted rolls. Top with the grilled onions and pour the beer-cheese sauce over.
- Serve, with any additional cheese sauce on the side.