To answer the big question first, yes, Booze Dogs — Man’s Best Brat — are infused with real booze. Bourbon, gin and rum.
“The alcohol cooks off,” says Joe McGowen, who spent seven years developing the specialty bratwursts before getting USDA approval and beginning sales last summer. McGowen calls the alcohol level in his brats “perfect proof,” meaning anyone of any age can eat them.
“No one’s going to get drunk or get a buzz,” he said.
McGowen said interest in his brats is growing, but he’s still in the “small batch” production phase, selling “a couple hundred pounds” or so a month online and through other outlets. He just signed a contract to provide them to the home stadium of the Kannapolis (North Carolina) Intimidators, a Class A minor league baseball team affiliated with the Chicago White Sox.
The team’s name comes from legendary NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Sr., who was called “The Intimidator.” Earnhardt bought a share of the club in 2000, but was killed in a crash on the last lap of the Daytona 500 in 2001.
Always interested in new grilling and barbecue experiences, the Posse recently tested all three flavors of Booze Dogs, which were provided by McGowen.
I couldn’t taste the liquor, but others in the Posse could and were enthused. Our taste test, in fact, was almost like a party.
“My favorite is the gin,” Veronica Gagne said.
“My favorite is the rum,” Posse co-founder Chris Wilkins said.
“They are distinctive flavors,” Sherry Jacobson said.
“Gin is growing on me,” Wilkins said.
“Me too,” Veronica said.
The Booze Dogs come pre-cooked and could, theoretically, be eaten right out of the package, or heated in the microwave. But you don’t want to do that, McGowen says.
I cooked them on my Weber grill with a two-zone setup. I let them warm on the grate away from the coals for several minutes, then moved them directly over the heat to get grill marks and some blistering on the casings. McGowen approved of my method.
When done, I removed them from the grill and cut them into half-inch or so pieces so everyone could easily sample each flavor. Generally, Veronica thought the brats were too salty. “And I like salt,” she said.
For a couple of us, the casings on the first piece or two we ate seemed too tough. But after the brats cooled a bit, we didn’t have the same experience. The casings had nice snap.
“I could cook any of these and be happy to serve them at my house,” Wilkins said. “Let them cool down a little before serving.”
Posse member Mike Gagne might be the most advanced foodie among us. He took cooking classes in San Sebastian, Spain, last summer. We’ve written before about his ventures into sous vide.
“Third place by a lot is gin,” Mike said. “It’s not bad, but the other two were good. Bourbon wins out over rum. Rum was way too sweet. . .But the sweetness stays with you. The bourbon had a balance to it.”
The mascot and branding star for Booze Dogs is Hughes, McGowen’s nearly 10-year-old boxer. Another inspiration was a great grandfather who liked to tipple. “Both are fun loving personalities,” said McGowen of Hughes and his great grandpa. McGowen lives in Greenville, N.C., and has a full-time job in finance, one reason the development process took so long.
The Booze Dogs are made at Crescent Quality Meats in Cadott, Wis. They can be ordered online, including a Boozy Bundle sampler pack weighing three pounds for $39.99 plus $9.99 shipping. The bundle includes five Booze Dogs of each flavor. There's free shipping on orders larger than three pounds.
Sherry Jacobson said the Posse taste test was a lot of fun and suggested it would be a good party theme for others to try. McGowen agrees. He thinks his main market opportunity comes at the convergence of food and fun such as ballparks, upscale bowling alleys, and golf/party centers like Topgolf.
“They’re supposed to consumed socially,” McGowen said of his Booze Dogs. “No one should drink alone. No one should eat alone.”