The Weird Persistence of Gummy Bear Bratwurst
There are two types of people in this world: those who swab their breakfast sausage through syrup, and those who hate joy. I fall firmly in the former category; I love sweet and savory together. Blackberry jam on a turkey sandwich, ham with applesauce, sweet chili sauce on chicken satay—these are all small helpings of sublimity. But even I have to draw the line somewhere, and that line is gummy bear bratwurst.
No, this isn’t something I made up. Warlock and owner of Grundhofer’s Old Fashion Meats & Meat Market Spencer Grundhofer unleashed the gummy bear brat on the hapless citizens of Hugo, Minnesota in 2008. A friend of Grundhofer’s suggested he make the concoction as a joke, and when Grundhofer refused, his friend trolled him by sending customers to the meat market to request the brat anyway. Grundhofer finally called his friend’s bluff and began making the gummy bear brats. This, friends, is a rainbow that no one wanted to taste, yet Grundhofer, perpetrator of the dark arts, hath wrought this unspeakable evil upon us nonetheless.
Please don’t confuse this with the charming hot dog-shaped gummy candies, bubble gum bologna, or bubble gum cocktail wienies, which are innocent bystanders in this depravity. This is pork sausage in a natural casing, seasoned with all manner of traditional bratwurst spices: sage, paprika, onion powder and the like.
Here is a breakdown of what it’s like to eat one: Being primarily composed of gelatin and sugar, gummy bears transmogrify into pockets of molten goo which are wont to squirt into one’s mouth—not unlike the napalm-hot veins of liquefied cheese in a cheddar brat, but distressingly fruit-flavored. One butcher on Reddit breaks it down thusly: “When cooked, the gummy bears melt and leave a void where they once were, but the pork around that spot now has a sweet fruity taste. I'd liken it to a sweet and sour pork flavor. Not at all bad, but not really for everyone. My customer's reviews were very mixed.”
Gummy bears are but one in Grundhofer’s long line of fruit-flavored bratwurst, which includes, but is woefully not limited to, banana cream, kiwi strawberry Kool-Aid, and perhaps the Kid Rock-iest flavor of the lot: Jack Daniels and Tang (together!). That’s not to say Grundhofer doesn’t have an eye on the quality of his product; he claims to use only high-quality pork and “juicier, and shinier” gummy bears, along with the proprietary blend of bratwurst spices that the people of Hugo have grown to expect.
Over the years, others have followed in their unholy footsteps: Kramarczuk’s in Minneapolis; Tom’s Meat Market in Hastings, Michigan; Banger’s in Austin, Texas; Schubert’s in Millstadt, Illinois. Even the meat markets of mainstream grocery stores like Fred Meyer (the Pacific Northwest’s Kroger) picked up the mantle and carried their own version for a few years. Most have since come to their senses and ceased production of the gummy brat, but the diabolical sausage seems to be maintaining a stronghold in the Midwest.
Some people will always be better off not seeing how the sausage is made, so to speak, but maybe there is room in this world for a bratwurst that tastes like sweet and sour pork. (I say this as an admitted lover of pineapple on pizza, so take this with a grain of salt.) It’s no Reese’s, but like peanut butter and chocolate, some great tastes really do taste great together.