On a recent sunny afternoon, Brewed Food chef/founder Jensen Cummings met with a panel of tasters in the back of Blue Moon's RiNo brewery to sample and discuss his latest beer-and-food project: bratwurst. The goal, he explains, was to create a sausage that not only proved delicious, but that also showcased Blue Moon's beer.
"Most beer brats fall flat," he points out. "I want it to be clear when someone eats these brats that they represent the beers."
Of course Blue Moon brewer Ben Knutson was on board with the idea, and Erik and Shannon Duffy, owners of Tender Belly, were intrigued, too, so the three companies partnered to create two beer-forward sausages that they plan to sell nationally.
"When Shannon started doing a beer brat, I knew it was time to bring that side of my expertise to support him," says Cummings. "It also gives us such a powerful platform to further the Brewed Food narrative in such an accessible way."
So far, the team is working on two bratwursts: one enhanced with Blue Moon's IPL (that's India pale lager, in case you haven't kept up with the recent explosion of beer styles), and the other with a mango wheat beer, which gets brewed with plenty of fresh fruit. Both are made solely with pork from Tender Belly and contain 18 percent beer. Each brat also gets a mix of spices, yeasts and hops that come directly from Blue Moon's beer recipes. This technique fits in with the Brewed Food philosophy that components of a fermented beverage work well when used to prepare food with which the brews are paired. With that in mind, the IPL bratwurst contains Sorachi Ace hops, nutmeg, white pepper, onion, garlic, ginger, marjoram and caraway.
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This Friday, March 17, the team will send the product to chefs at several local restaurants to sample, cook with and possibly serve before Cummings makes final recipe tweaks. So far he plans to sample the brats at ten eateries, including Hops & Pie, Highland Tap and Burger, the Crafty Fox, Blue Moon's RiNo brewpub, and, in true Cummings fashion, some surprise venues as well.
"A few spots we aren't even telling them, just rolling up and slamming the brats down on their line," he notes. "It's all part of my strange and sometimes effective strategy."
While Cummings isn't sure if any of these trial spots will be serving the beer bratwurst yet, he says he plans to launch the final brats locally on the Colorado Rockies' opening weekend. His next goal is national distribution, something he hopes to accomplish by football season. In early August, Cummings will also host a chef competition in Blue Moon's taproom to see who can make the best beer brat.