Cooking with: Bonanza Brown Ale
Grilling and BBQ season is in full stride. Good news in Vegas, it probably takes less time to preheat a grill during the summer which saves on propane! Does that make it green cooking? As we have explored in the past on this blog, food and beer can pair in the finish of both products, but what about the prep?
The easiest way into that party, in my opinion, is through beer brats. I’ve done a fair amount of cooking my brats with different styles of beer, and at the moment my favorite is using Tenaya Creek Bonanza Brown Ale. The English style brown is a versatile beast of flavors. Brown ales historically come from humble beginnings.
From The Brewmaster’s Table by Garrett Oliver a bit of history on the style:
“Pale ales were expensive from the start-coke for drying the special pale malt was costly. As the 18th century drew to a close, pale ales strutted their stuff as the bright young things of Britain’s beer world, and the emerging middle classes loved them. Brown ales held sway among the working classes, who came to see the expensive pale ales as effete beers best suited to office clerks. The brown ale style is quite broad, and it eventually developed into four distinct variants.”
Our Bonanza Brown is an English style brown ale with notes of toffee, a little nutty with low bitterness and a smooth finish. As a base of flavor for your brats, once the Maillard reaction (the browning effect that comes from well-cooked food, just remember Golden, Brown, Delicious!) kicks in the flavors all intensify with pleasant results. I have tried many different approaches to cooking brats on the grill. My most successful experiment comes from the following recipe.
10 brats in a pot
Pick up a six pack of Bonanza Brown and put two aside for drinking while cooking. Bonus!
Empty the other 4 in a large pot. Or get a growler filled and empty the approximate amount.
Dice up a large white onion. These days I pick up the pre-diced packs at the market for convenience sake.
Combine the brats and onions with the resting beer in the pot. Now bring it to a boil. You’ll need some room for the boil and the brats should be submerged to some extent. If you find your levels a little low, simply add more beer, but usually I save that to continue drinking and use more water instead. Pro Tip! You will start to see a heavy froth or foam forming on the top of the pot. I walked away once and the resulting overflow spilled out and snuffed my flame. Bad times. One trick I learned was to place a wooden spoon across the top of the boiling pot. When the foam hits the wood stick it dissipates and viola, no overflow!
Once the boil is on a full roll, knock it down to medium heat. It’s time to add some flavors. I use red chili flake, garlic powder, cumin, kosher salt, fresh ground pepper, celery salt, and any other herb or spice I have around at the time. Mostly eyeballed, call it a teaspoon each. Sometimes, a sliced fresh jalapeno is thrown into the mix, total win.
This part I have found somewhat tricky. Really it comes down to watching the meat. On a medium heat where the pot is kind of percolating, not boiling, I give it 10 to 12 minutes. The tell tale is when they float, they are done. Reduce the heat to low and let those other ingredients simmer. It’s time to take the brats to the grill.
You could pan fry them as well which I don’t mind. On the gas grill, those ever pleasant grill marks always please the eyes and you’ll only need a couple minutes to get them golden, brown, and delicious. These are fully cooked at this point*, we just need the final touches of flame. Because the browning happens quickly, I don’t usually invest the time into using charcoal but if you have multiple foods going on for the day, add these with a medium high heat underneath. Either way, if you held your hand over the grill and have to pull it away after 5 seconds that is the level you are looking for. 3-4 seconds, it’s too hot.
Use those onions from the pot for garnish. A pretzel roll, sourdough, or those new King’s Hawaiian Jalapeno rolls make for great compliments to the meal. I’ve done this with pork, chicken, and other various links of meat. Veggie dogs will dance in this party as well! Experimentation is a bunch of fun with this recipe. I’ve used Local 702 Pale ale, The Pilsner, and once played around with Alaskan Brewing’s Jalapeno IPA in the mix. That was fun. Which is really what it’s all about. And eating.
*By the way: since it’s fully cooked you can pack them up in a container and roll out to the friends BBQ since now all you need is the finish on flame!