Brewers tailgating guide
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Quick quiz: What's the difference between Miller Park and Wrigley Field? Yes, about 86 years of bad baseball. But more importantly, you can tailgate outside our stadium in Milwaukee, and it's pretty hard to grill in Wrigleyville. For Brewers fans, tailgating is as much a part of baseball as what happens between the lines. In Wisconsin, we've made it into an art form.
During the stadium debates of the '90s, there was lots of talk about where to put County Stadium's replacement. Many then-opponents of a downtown park are probably kicking themselves being so stubborn, but at least one good thing came from the decision to plant Miller Park right next door to the old stadium: Tailgating remains a major part of the Brewers experience.
There's no right or wrong way to tailgate, though it doesn't hurt to have plenty of beer, a grill and a baseball around to get you ready for the game.
Sara Hayden, a Kaukauna native, grew up close enough to Lambeau Field and Milwaukee, and is by all accounts, a tailgating pro.
Hayden says that tailgating should begin at least an hour before you even pack the car, as preparing the quintessential staple of tailgating -- the brat -- takes a little time. Here's her "not so famous" brat recipe (chime in with your own recipes using the "talkback" feature below this article):
1 beer for every 2 brats
Half a red onion
Red pepper to taste
Boil your beer with an adequate amount of water. Cut up some onions and dump them in. When the mixture boils, add your brats. And don't use those gray cooked ones. Use good old fashioned Usingers, Johnsonville or Klements made-in-Wisconsin sausages. If the thought of real brats is just a little too icky for you, try turkey. You can find them at most grocery stores in town, and if you're feeling particularly fancy, Sendik's makes fresh ones, too. Most stores also carry Boca brand veggie brats, which don't taste bad, either.
After about an hour, those brats should be gray in color and bursting with flavor. Now that they're cooked, put them in some baggies and get in the car. It's time to tailgate.
Your target time for hitting the ballpark is approximately two to three hours before game time. With a few Saturday exceptions, Brewers night games start at 7:05 p.m. Most day games begin at 1:05 p.m.
To top your brats (that are still resting in baggies), you'll need kraut, Polish mustard, ketchup and Secret Stadium Sauce. Brat buns are slightly larger than your average buns, but they really make the package. Don't skimp on this ingredient, says Hayden.
As you prepare your grill for grilling, you can start playing some tunes to get everyone in that baseball mood. Hayden suggests a little hard rock, but "not Jock Jams, please." Be respectful of those tailgaters around you and keep the volume at a reasonable level. A big and common tailgating faux pas is assuming that everyone in the entire parking lot wants to hear your AC/DC greatest hits CD.
Once your coals are ready, put those brats on the grill and let them do their thing for just a few minutes. Remember, they're already cooked, so you're just trying to brown them. When they're ready, enjoy them with a side order of coleslaw, fruit salad or a cookie.
There are several other things you need to bring along to make your tailgate party a good one, says Hadyen. Obviously, don't forget the beer. No, not that fancy microbrew stuff, and certainly not any Budweiser product. A Brewers tailgate party calls for a good old macrobrew, like a Miller High Life, perhaps.
Hayden recommends keeping those brews cold in a cooler full of ice. A frequent oversight among tailgaters, she says, is not bringing enough ice.
Most tailgaters bring a football, baseball or frisbee for a little pre-game warmup. You'd think that beer, a bunch of tightly parked cars and a hardball don't mix. You'd be wrong. Just be careful, please.
Make sure to stake your place by putting your favorite window flag on your car. Hayden says she's not sure where this odd tradition came from. "Perhaps it's to make sure you can find your car after the game."
Don't forget one final pre-game necessity on a blistering summer afternoon: sunscreen. Back in the day, Hayden says her friends would buy colored sunscreen to match team colors. "But the bad thing," she recalls, "was you'd put a big 'B' on your cheek and you'd get sunburned around it, and then you'd have this big white 'B' on your face the next day." So be forewarned.
If you have timed your party right, the game should begin within a half an hour. If you are running late, don't worry, it's par for the course. Sara says that's the difference between tailgaters at Packers games and Brewers games.
"Tailgaters at Packers games actually make in before kickoff, because it's too expensive not to go to the game on time. Brewers fans, on the other hand, waltz in sometime around the third inning. And if the bleachers section is full, they just go back to the parking lot and keep on tailgating."
Some hearty fans will tailgate after the game, as well. "We used to make bets on the winner and loser with a point spread," says Hayden. "During the post-game tailgating, the loser had to drink the old brat juice." Yuck!
Though this contest is not recommended, a little post-game tailgating never hurt anyone. Recalls Hayden, "If the Brewers are losing, we'd just leave early to continue the partying. It was more fun than watching the Brewers get beat. Anyway, with the radio on, it was like we were still there."
Game on, and go Brewers!
sam H said: best layout: two mini vans back to back with a tarp streached over the tops to make a sun umbrella>> Miller Park lot doesn't give you much shade on a hot weekend!
fred said: Where can one purchase the famed secret stadium brat sauce? Ladyfriend is screaming that I find a bottle asap, and you know what happens to she who is not pleased. thanks!
Scott Clayton said: Just found the coolest tailgating grill. I'm bring to the next game. Check out the Freedom Grill at www.freedomgrill.com
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