I had the traditional college experience. Right down to the delivery pizza in my dorm room, gargoyles guarding limestone buildings, and painting my face cream and crimson for ball games (oh, and learning some stuff, too). For me, that’s what higher education was meant to be. It’s what worked for me. And it helped shaped me into the person I am today.
I know the traditional higher education experience isn’t perfect for everyone. Some folks aren’t ready to head off to a big, impersonal university at 18. Some folks want to learn skills not taught at universities. Some folks don’t want to go into more debt than I paid for my house. And that’s all fine. I believe there is no one right answer to the question, “what’s next?” But for me, the right answer involved those darn gargoyles.
There is something really powerful in having an alma mater. Now, I know lots of folks have colleges they attended and graduated from, but I think considering a place your alma mater is a whole different thing.
Not to get all over-educated, hoity-toity on you, but alma mater loosely translates to “nurturing mother” and for me, that’s exactly what my time at Indiana University felt like—like I had this institution supporting me like my Mama would have been if she wasn’t living 80 miles away. And that’s a connection that stays with you.
Of course, how you feel about your college experience often tints how you feel about your alma mater’s sports teams—and for me, I proudly wear my candy stripes, bleed cream and crimson, and love my Indiana Hoosiers like the alumna I am.
There are exactly three things that people outside of Indiana know us for—basketball, the Indy 500, and corn. And, not to be all stereotypical, but I love basketball, I go to the Indy 500 every year, and corn is delicious. We aren’t know for our football stature—we’re like the only team in the Big 10 that isn’t—but that’s okay, because we all still cheer our heads off like we’re a gosh darn football dynasty (and maybe this is our year!).
My oldest niece started at IU back in August (she’s even living in the same dorm I did during my freshman year 15 years ago!), and I think it’s reinvigorated the entire family’s love of the university. My family is packed with IU alums, and it’s been so much fun to see the next generation experience the awesomeness that we all had our turn at. And, let’s be honest, we’re all reliving our own glory days a bit, too.
And, of course, having a new family member at the university also means we have an extra special excuse to visit my beloved Bloomington, head to Memorial stadium, and cheer on the cream and crimson. And, let’s be honest, EAT. Because when your football team isn’t the greatest, you gotta focus on the good—and tailgating food is goooooood! You know me, if there is a party that is centered around eating good food and drinking good beer, I. AM. THERE.
These beer-braised brats are one of my favorite tailgating foods. Not only are they delicious (hello—beer and brats), but you can do about 95% of the work ahead of time. Which means you have to pack fewer supplies in your tailgate, and you get back to enjoying the party more quickly, all while still having a delicious game day meal.
Since you braise the brats and make the sauerkraut the day before, and all you have to do when you pull in the parking lot is heat up the grill and finish these babies off. It’ll probably take you more time to get set up than it will to cook your lunch.
There was a day and time where I would have gone ALL OUT for a tailgate meal, but as I’ve gotten older (and now have a very rambunctious toddler), I’ve started to realized the glory of simplicity. You don’t need a 10-course tailgate meal. You need a good, hearty main dish—like, ahem, brats—and then you need some easy, crowd-pleasing sides.
Preferably sides that are “grazable”. You know what I mean. Snacks that you can keep munching on while you enjoy the fun. No one is going to graze on potato salad, but they will graze on kettle chips—and that’s exactly what I served as a side to these brats. Kettle Brand chips are delicious, all natural, easy, and, as an awesome added bonus, their bags come in bright, bold colors. Which means, chances are, you can find the perfect bags to match your team’s colors.
I stocked up on the Kettle Brand red bags—Sriracha, Maple Bacon, and Barbecue flavors—and also grabbed a few cream-colored bags of the Kettle Brand Unsalted (which is a great option to pair with already seasoned dips). When something pulls double duty as both a side dish and a decoration? That’s a win in my book.
When you go to pick out your brats for this recipe, promise me you’ll find some good quality sausages to use, k? First up, you want uncooked brats. You can find pre-cooked brats in the prepared meats aisle of most supermarkets, but those suckers tend to be rubbery, and they will not absorb the beer flavor that’s the whole point of the braising process.
You’re looking for raw bratwurst, preferably made my some little old German lady who makes them from scratch every morning. And if not that, at least try to find something locally made—check your local butcher or farmer’s market—the fresher the sausages, the better. We have a large German population here in Southern Indiana, so it’s pretty easy for us to track down great bratwurst. Trust me, it’s worth it! Enjoy! And gooooooo Hoosiers!