Being stationed in Germany for six years gave me a deep appreciation for two things: beer and bratwurst (sausages) of all kinds.
This Brats and Beer Cheese Dip was born out of my love for this German fare and for hosting Super Bowl parties. Honestly, I have no clue about how football is played—I just love any reason to have a party.
This dip comes together so quickly—just cook the sausages and the onions on the stovetop, then mix with the cheese in the slow cooker and let everything melt together. Set out some chips or pretzel bites for serving, and you're done!
This dip also keeps exceptionally well on the warm setting of the slow cooker. You can hold it for hours without compromising its velvety texture, which makes it perfect for what I like to call “party grazing.” If you happen to have leftovers, it also reheats in the microwave surprisingly well.
Look for beer brats, which are made with actual beer. They give some added flavor of beer without watering down the dip. If you can’t find them, regular bratwurst would be a great substitute without compromising flavor.
I prefer to stay true to the theme of this dip by using only European cheeses. If you can’t find them in your local food market, cheddar and Swiss are acceptable to use instead.
A little-known fact about being stationed on military bases overseas: You don’t always see the same commercials from American television programming.
Since cheesy Super Bowl ads are what many of us look forward to the most, we were really left wanting! Military communities abroad make a big deal out of the Big Game, but without the commercials, I always felt like there was something left to be desired.
Now that I'm back stateside, I'm thankful that I can enjoy my beer, brats and Super Bowl commercials . . . especially since I still have no idea how the game is played.
Slow Cooker Brats and Beer Cheese Dip
- 16- to 20-ounce package beer brats (about 5 links)
- 1/4 cup white onion, minced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 12 ounces German beer (Pilsners or ambers work well in this recipe)
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 1 1/2 cups whole milk
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper (optional)
- Pinch of cayenne pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 8 ounces Gouda cheese, shredded
- 6 ounces Asiago cheese, shredded
- 3 ounces Gruyere cheese, shredded
- 3 ounces goat cheese or chevre, crumbled
- 2 tablespoons diced pimentos, drained
- 1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped
- To serve:
- Tortilla chips
- Pretzels or pretzel bites
- Cooked brats cut into 1” pieces
Remove the sausage from its casing:
Using a very sharp knife, make a slit in the casings by running the tip of the blade down the length of the sausage.
Remove the casing from each of the bratwurst and discard.
Cook the sausages:
In a cast iron skillet, or other heavy nonstick skillet, brown the brats over medium high heat and cook for 5 to 6 minutes, until the meat is cooked through and developing some caramelized spots. Break up the sausages with a wooden spoon or a potato masher as you cook—aim for bite-sized pieces the size of raisins, which are perfect for scooping with chips.
Use a slotted spoon to transfer the browned sausage to your slow cooker. Leave the fat behind in the pan; you will use it for the next step.
Cook the onions and garlic:
Add the onions and garlic to the hot pan and for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the vegetables look translucent and glossy.
Add the beer:
Lower the heat to medium-low, and carefully pour the beer into the pan. The beer will steam and fizz, so be careful. Using a wooden spoon, scrape up any browned bits of food that are stuck to the bottom of the pan. This deglazing of the pan is important as it adds tons of flavor to the finished dip.
Bring the liquid to a boil and let it bubble for about 2 to 3 minutes, until slightly reduced. (This also cooks off the alcohol.)
Prepare and add the thickener:
While the beer is cooking, whisk together the cornstarch, whole milk, Dijon mustard, salt, white pepper, cayenne pepper, and the ground nutmeg in a mixing bowl to form a smooth mixture.
Once the beer has reduced, carefully pour the cornstarch mixture into the skillet, whisking constantly. Increase the heat to medium and bring the mixture back to a boil. It should thicken quickly.
Once the mixture has the consistency of gravy and the whisk leaves a ribbon when pulled through the sauce, remove the pan from the stove and carefully pour the sauce into the slow cooker.
Add the cheese to the slow cooker:
Stir the cheese, one type at a time, with the other ingredients in the slow cooker. Make sure to stir thoroughly before adding the next one.
Stir in the drained, diced pimentos.
Cook the dip:
Cover the slow cooker and cook the dip on high for 30 minutes to melt the cheese.
Hold the dip on the "warm" setting and serve:
Once the cheese has melted completely, switch to the warm setting and stir the dip. Add the chopped cilantro and stir once more. Adjust the seasoning to suit your taste by adding more salt and/or pepper. I've found that the flavors deepen as the dip sits and it may seem to get saltier, so I recommend erring on the side of under-seasoning at this point.
This dip will keep (on warm) for up to four hours. Give the dip a stir every half hour or so to prevent a skin from forming on the top. If you feel like it's getting to thick, stir in a little milk to thin it out again.
Spoon the dip onto individual plates, or into bowls. Enjoy with tortilla chips or good ol’ Bavarian-style pretzels!
Leftovers can be stored in a food storage container in the refrigerator for up to two days.
To reheat: Heat on high for one minute in the microwave. Stir the dip and reheat at 30-second intervals, stirring after each interval, until warmed through.