Bratfest Advice


The rule for the fest always has been to NEVER run out of anything.  I'm sure this is one of the main reasons the fest has lasted so long. If you expect people to pay $20 year after year for 'all-you-can-eat', you want to be sure that's what they get.  Therefore, it is necessay to always order somewhat more than you think you will need.  We have almost never run out of anything with this philosophy and we have also never gone broke (although it has been close).  But it would be a mistake to try to cut corners by buying just what you think you need or less.  Then people feel they are not getting their money's worth and the next year you don't collect enough money to pay for the goods.  Make sure people are happy; then the funds will take care of themselves.  (Most all leftovers get gobbled up by someone anyway).

Bratfest Components


These days we order our brats from

The Sausage Shop
1015 W Prince Rd #141
Tucson, AZ 85705
(520) 888-1701

We've gone with them for years now; they remember us.
Rule of thumb: 4 brats per pound, generally (but the shop will know for sure). Assume at least 2 brats per person. Their chicken brats are really good, so even though they are not the traditional pork brat, order a good proportion of these. Also, we normally order most of our potato salad from them (see below). We generally place the order ~3 weeks ahead of time.

We have The Sausage Shop precook the brats. In true tradition, we would boil them in beer to cook them before putting them on the grill, but that is a task that is always behind the others and holds up our operation.  Buying the brats precooked means the brats will not be ruined by possibly overboiling on the stove. The brats will be fully cooked and just need to be browned on the grill, which is also safer for serving. To get the beer-boiled flavor, one could have a squirt bottle with beer instead of water but I wouldn't recommend doing anymore this due to several fest-attendees having gluten allergies (beer has gluten).

The Numbers:

Recent orders from The Sausage Shop:


Pork Brats

Chicken Brats German Potato Salad
2016 50 lbs 50 lbs 25 lbs
2015 50 lbs 50 lbs 25 lbs
2014 (DPS) 60 lbs 90 lbs 20 lbs
2013 50 lbs 60 lbs 15 lbs

I've thought about starting to buy horseradish from the Sausage Shop as well...

Historical Bratfest Info:

Back in the day, "THE best and ONLY good place for brats" (with a loyal following from us for every single bratfest ever) was Dreher's, 7340 E. Broadway, 298-1691. They no longer exist (like most places from back in the day), but here are the numbers from ordering with them. We would get brats, rolls, kraut, potato salad and brown mustard from them:

                                               used    used   bought  used    EST

                                              1992    1993   1994    1994   1995

brats  (lb)                                    95      140?   160    127    150
rolls  (doz)                                   27       30?      45      33      40
kraut, wine  (lb)                                                  45      25      15
kraut, regular (lb)                       35?         ?          -       -         20
German pot salad (lb)                 65          ?        80      65      70
Boarshead mustard (1 gal)                        1         1         1       1


Order bolillo rolls from La Estrella Bakery ~2 weeks before the event. Though, call them birote or they'll know you're a gringo.

5266 S. 12th Ave.
Tucson, AZ 85706
(520) 741-0656

You may need to put down a deposit if you go in person, but were very casual with how much. So in 2015, I gave them a 50% deposit on the order and paid the other 50% when picking them up. They are $3.50/dozen, and they baked them the morning of the event, for an early afternoon pickup (usually ~noon). They will come unsliced, so we need to slice them right before the event. See below for advice on slicing. La Estella has mentioned they are amenable to customization if we decide at some point we want something a bit different with the rolls from them. But, so far, so good.

Number of Rolls Ordered:

year rolls
2016 400

The perfect brat roll, per Bratfest tradition based on Wisconsin tradition based on German tradition...., is 2.0-2.1 oz and 5.5" long. Hoagie rolls are too huge in all dimensions, and hot dog buns not fat enough. It should be something like a Bavarian semmel roll, or possibly Kaiser-roll style. Semmel (derived from Latin: simila, wheat flour) is the common name for any kind of roll in Austria and the German state of Bavaria, equivalent to Brötchen in Northern and Western Germany. The best are generally short, hard brat rolls with sort of a french bread base (but not super hard or crunchy). The Mexican bolillo roll is as close as we can find to this style given the bakers used back in the day for the Fest aren't around anymore. The bolillo roll is easily found in Tucson bakeries (though there can be a decent amount of variation from bakery to bakery), adding a bit of a Tucson Flair! La Estrella makes bolillo rolls with near perfect dimensions. Why bolillo rolls?

Advice on slicing:

You MUST use a bread knife (this is a long knife with large serrations.). The action is back/forth slicing gently only and not pushing. This avoids crushing the roll of course. You can slice only about 75% of the way through the bun.  Much less and it requires the user to tear it apart.  Any more and it will break in two, ruining it as a bun. Try to slice them as close to the event as possible as so they don't dry out. Don't cut all of them (maybe do ~75%) because for any leftovers they keep best frozen, unsliced. But, keep an eye on the stock during the event and send someone to slice more if you are close to running out of sliced rolls.

The Numbers:

Get slightly fewer buns than there will be brats.

2015: 38 dozen and had a couple dozen leftover
2013: ~37 dozen (440 buns)


Official Cheesecake recipe (PDF with the grasshopper variation)

It is best to print these out and laminate them to make them reuseable and wipe-off-able when they get spilled on, inevitably. The key is to at least make a bunch of the standard cheesecakes. Make ~20 cheesecakes, with 1/3 using an oreo crust, 2/3 using normal crust and then a couple with no crust for gluten-free people. We have made all our own crusts in the past but that's overrated and takes additional oven time, prep time, ingredients, etc. Overrated.

Make ~50% with the topping described in the recipe but you can make some plain ones as well for people to add their own at the event (fruit, nutella, etc). Possible toppings: frozen fruit medley reduced down over stove, chocolate sauce, caramel sauce, strawberry sauce, Nutella, oreo cookies (to be crumbled), chocolate chips, peanut butter...

There's also a list of more advanced cheesecakes (PDF) one can bake if feeling adventurous.

In recent years, we've also baked a few pies (apple, fruit, pumpkin) to offer a bit of variation, especially for those of unfortunate lactose intolerance. Here is the fruit pie recipe (PDF) we've used. Pie takes longer to bake, keep that in mind for planning out the oven useage schedule. We have made the pie crust from scratch in the past too. Also overrated. Don't go too nuts. Cheesecakes night is more fun when it does not go until 6 in the morning, and when there is less stress of trying to make every kind of pie and cheesecake known to the history of humankind. Make a bunch of cheesecakes, drink some beer, make a couple pies if you want, drink more beer, call it good.


Ordering It:

There used to be growers in Wilcox that could provide corn directly and allow us to pick it fresh that morning. However, most of these farms went under a while ago. And, keep in mind the corn season ends about October 15, depending on the year, weather, etc. We have not been able to get fresh, hand-picked corn in recent years so we've gone through the produce department of local supermarkets. We have had good luck with the produce department at Sprouts on Speedway the last few years finding corn very late in the season from Mexico and California. Sprouts: 4645 E Speedway Blvd, Tucson, AZ 85712. (520) 325-1320, ask to talk to produce. They won't be able to guarantee anything more than a week in advance, and even then they may ask you to call back the ~Wednesday before the event when they have a better sense of what might come in and they can plan to reserve a couple crates of corn for you on Saturday morning (if they are getting some's not a guarantee, especially for late-in-the-year Fests).

But, in case you find a place where you can pick your own corn again/have bratfest early enough in the season to be able to pick out the ears you want from the supermarket, here is some advice from Bill courtesy of "The Reluctant Gourmet":

How to Buy Fresh Corn

  • The most important thing to remember when buying fresh corn on the cob is that it starts converting sweet tasting sugars to starches immediately after it is picked. So ideally you want to buy it, cook it and consume it the same day it is picked or as close to then as possible. I have read that sweet corn has an 80:20 sugar-starch ratio when harvested but within 3 days that ratio will shift to 20:80. That's the difference between really sweet-tender corn and mealy tough corn.
  • When buying, pick up each ear and look for ears that feel full and plumb in your hand. Take a look at the silk sticking out at the top, it should be golden pale, slightly sticky, and the more the merrier.
  • Even though it's sometimes messy and gets all over you when shucking, the more silk, the more kernels of corn. You also want the husks to have a good green color - not brown. Even though most stores don't appreciate your doing this, try popping one of the kernels with your thumbnail. If the juice from the kernel is milky, the fresher the corn. And don't buy corn that has been sitting out in the sun all day. The sun and heat will speed up that conversion of sugar to starch.
  • Look at the bottom of the ear of corn where it has been broken off at the stalk. If it has already turned brown, it most likely is at least 2 days old.
  • If you are not going to cook and eat your fresh corn that day, store it in the refrigerator with the husks left on. Cooling it will help slow down the sugar - starch transformation. You may also want to remove the long stem and outer most big leaves to prevent loss of moisture. Will it last more than a day? Sure it will but as the clock ticks, so does the sugar/starch ratio.

Cooking It at the Fest:

Rent this sucker: 5' Charcoal Grill (2.5'D, 3'H)
You can't rent it online; you have to call them in person (they close at 4pm) to officially reserve it and put down the deposit.

It's about as close as we can get to the old "Cornasaurus" from Hawthorne House as we can get these days.

The legend of the Cornasaurus: it was an old swing set, upon which the grads hung plumbing (of Gramps's design) to hose water onto a grill made of rebar and overlain with heavy-gauge chicken wire-like stuff. It was optimal. It's gone.

For future possibilities: the best style would be to find someone (like Mike Williams) to get a hold of a couple of 55 gallon drums, slice them in half with the gas axe, and then cut holes in the bottom. We could do that for much cheaper than buying/continually renting the above grill. But, for now, we order the grill from Arizona Party Rental, who is closed on weekends. So schedule to pick up on Friday (find someone with a pickup truck to bring it during load in) and return Monday. Without this grill, it is really hard to have the space to grill up the corn.

Serving It:

Melt butter and water in tubs (we have some tall, juice pitchers) for people to dip their whole cob (peeled) directly into and provide salt for them to pour on it afterwards!

The Numbers:

1992 fest ate 17 dz, but it was produce house corn, and low turnout
1993 fest ate maybe 28 dz; it was Wilcox and big turnout
1994 fest used about 21 doz; it was Qual. Fresh, and regular turnout
1995 fest planned to order 20-28 doz depending on the source
1996 fest ordered 60 doz with several dozen leftover


Through "our sources", we choose from among the kegs his rep happens to put on sale the week that we need them. This is what we've done at least the past couple years, and it saves us something like $50+/keg for good beer! I don't think this guy wants the public knowing we get kegs through him, so, ask around if you need to know what/who our source is for the 15 gallon kegs. In recent years, we've tried to buy beers fairly local to Arizona while offering variety in types of beer (though keeping it to types that are most likely to be drank). We also have gone through Borderlands to offer 5 gallons of various local Tucson brews as well.

The Numbers:

2013 (had about 200 people - small year due to halloween - and ~keg leftover)
15 gallons Home brewed cider
15 gallons Dos Equis: $120
15 gallons Fat Tire: $130
15 gallons Blue Moon: $120

Our Current Beer Serving/CO2 set up:

As of 2013, we have our own CO2 taps system with 4 lines, 1 of which is often set up for a soda keg (which we own, for brewing 5 gallons of cider at a time). The other 3 connect to normal store kegs through this coupler. 3 of these couplers were donated to us by 1702 and Brandon Swift. Brandon helped us set up and make the entire system, and has donated equipment and odds and ends to us over the years. He's great. Thank him.
Example of a keg coupler:

Example of soda keg connectors (separate 'in' for CO2 and 'out' for liquid):

We'll can hook up 3 normal kegs to our CO2 system, 4 if we buy another coupler at some point.

We've often hooked up three 15 gallon kegs to the system (cider + 2 beers), and then have gotten three local 5 gallon kegs from Borderlands (Prickly Pear, Noche Dulche and another) and then rent equipment from Borderlands for serving the 5 gallon kegs.


The grad students of LPL have started brewing our own hard cider for bratfest! We have brewing equipment and a CO2 line system for serving it, as of 2013. Brewing cider takes a couple weeks (to be on the safe side), more if you want to experiment a little with the brew. We have a 5 gallon soda keg but these days it is used more for holding any leftovers (or can be used by grads for other events). The cider is popular enough that we try to brew closer to 15 gallons, making it in a couple 6-gallon brewing tubs, and then transfering it to our 15 gallon standard keg a couple days before the event to start the carbonation process.

How to brew and serve our home-brewed cider!


In 2016, we switched to The Gloo Factory for our shirts. Our contact person there is Aaron R. They are a "community-minded union print shop" and can get the shirts to us within a week of ordering.

Before the switch, we had been using Aladdin Graphics for the last 5 years or more. Sizes above XL, women's fits, and multiple colors in the screen printing adds up pretty fast (like, $1/shirt for each feature). I think they were close to $13/shirt for large sizes or womens sizes of more colors (which means, at least in 2015, we barely made money on them by asking for $ prices might need to increase soon for shirts. damn inflation). But Aladdin occasionally would give us the wrong quotes, forgetting to account for the women's cut and XL+ prices so then we would get surprised with $100s of dollars of extra fees. We ended up losing money on shirts in 2015, and this partly prompted the switch to finding a new company to print out shirts. Prices were based on ordering 100 shirts so we usually bump up our order numbers to get to 100. The shirts were usually done within 3 weeks with Aladdin, but we expect the turnaround to be a lot faster with The Gloo Factory.

The quality with Aladdin had been okay, though occasionally the shirts have had small holes or threads at the bottoms/sleeves that come loose. They've messed up things about our order a few times, almost critically in 2015 when they just didn't put in the order and then tried to blame us for not sending them our design (we had sent it to them weeks before, just from James' email address). They rushed the order and got them in in time, but then as mentioned above, we found out they gave us the wrong quote and we were out an additional couple hundred bucks. Wah. That year we ended up losing a couple hundred dollars... so, no bueno. We'll see how the switch to a new company goes this year.

The men's shirt style and sizing we've ordered are Gildan 2000.

The women's style and sizing of shirts are Gildan 64000L.

Keep in mind and warn people that these women's shirts are junior fits and run very small. If you are not going to order these women's shirts, the women's small-larges generally fit into men's smalls, and women's XL-3XL translate into men's mediums. We go with this style because it's a much better length-to-width ratio. The standard women's cuts of the 2000L or 5000L tend to be extremely wide and short shirts. The junior fit, while needing to order larger sizes, at least have a much better length, which is why we keep going with this style. The last two year's worth of data show consistency in terms of the size frequency distribution.

The Numbers:



Size Men's style (Gildan 2000) Women's style (Gildan 64000L)
small 3 6
medium 15 14
large 15 4
xl 8 0
2xl 2 1
3x 4 2

Numbers bumped up to 100 to get a discount, and to have extras to sell at the event:

Size Men's style (Gildan 2000) Women's style (Gildan 64000L)
small 6 9
medium 19 17
large 20 6
xl 9 1
2xl 3 2
3x 5 3

2014 pre-orders:

Size Men's style (Gildan 2000) Women's style (Gildan 64000L)
small 4 6
medium 15 9
large 14 6
xl 8 0
2xl 0 1
3x 2  



Silver Spring at Safeway or Fry's has good Wisconsin horseradish (in the refrigerated section where they have the refrigerated pickles).

Whole Green Chiles:

Bob is particularly good at acquiring, roasting, and preparing green chiles. We should solicit his help to bring this tradition back of putting whole green chiles on the brat with horseradish.

Potato Salad:

In recent years, we have ordered potato salad from the Sausage Shop when we place the brat order. We ordered 15 pounds in 2013 and 20 pounds (DPS year) in 2014 and ran out (also had several tubs of vegetarian potato salad from Costco those years). The Sausage Shop's potato salad is *not* veggie-friendly (has bacon), so it is good to also buy/make a veggie or vegan potato salad as well. If you want to make your own potato salad, here are some Bratfest-approved Recipes. Would recommend having at least 30 pounds to serve.


Sauerkraut is another standard bratfest food, used as a topping for the brat. We've bought it in jars at the store heated up before with some cider in a crockpot before, or you can also make it from the Bratfest-approved Recipes page.


Ice used to be a big deal to bratfest. It isn't anymore. Just buy it from Costco when you can, as Costco ice is super cheap and easy since we go there for other supplies anyways. We could try contacting some of the old suppliers though.

For legacy sake, here are the directions on ice from the 90s, seems like maybe these places still exist...??

Crystal Ice
1000 E 17th
(one block E of Park and one block N. of 17th St)

It is a back of a warehouse-looking thing - pull up to the loading dock.

Suggested for the 1995 fest: 800 lb cubes in 40# bags and 400 lb  solid block in 100# chunks

In 1994 we got about 1400#. This should do it though. Don't skimp on this either -- plenty of ice is necessary.

They also have a 24-hr emergency (and warm beer is one!) delivery service: 446-3479.

They close at 4:00 on Saturdays, so a person needs to get over there well before then.

Others Places you could try based on advice from the 90s:
Sparkle Ice (now perhaps called Reddy Ice???)
2720 S. Dodge
also has 7 day delivery

Valley Ice (NOW a recycling center at this address soooo pretty sure this doesn't exist anymore)
4161 E. Tennessee
also has 7 day delivery

The Money Situation

See the Bratfest accounting page if you are assigned to deal with the money (must be logged in). Here is a record of how how the numbers work out each year, as to avoid losing money, which does happen occasionally if a lot of people who RSVP don't show or we get a mis-quote on tshirts, etc. (we try to have a little bit of a buffer built in for when this does happen). We also need to keep a balance from one year to the next to be able to put down the rather large deposits on shirts (~$1500), brats (~$600) and beer ($500) orders, as well as being able to pay for everything else (corn, charcoal, plates, cups, cider brewing, cheesecake making supplies, corn grill reservation, etc) leading up to the fest. It is important to also collect as much money up front as possible from early donations, sponsorships and shirt orders to help offset these costs, which in total ends up being on the order of $4000-$5000.


~Months Before

  • Settle on a weekend for the event. Try to avoid other events, conferences, and home football weekends if possible (to make it easier to get in and out of LPL that Saturday if you forget anything). We tried the event around the main weekend for halloween festivities and we had low attendance, as we were battling for people to choose our event over other parties.
  • Make sure that weekend works for Joe Gotobed and Sonoran Cohousing to host.
  • Email accordion player asking if he can play 6:30-7:30pm on night of event in exchange for all you can eat food, beer and a free tshirt
  • Solicit grads for themes/logo ideas. Pick a theme and design the logo. Think about shirt colors.
  • Send out "Save the Dates" to grads, postdocs, postgrads, Bill Merline, beers list, and allLPL list.
  • Put date up on website

6-8 Weeks Before

  • Finalize logo. Update the website with it. Email Bill Merline to put the flyer/logo up on
  • Get quotes for tshirts and ask when they will need the order by in order to the get the shirts done by the Monday before the event (leaves a little bit of room for error, and allows you to hand them out before the fest)
  • Be updating website, making the online order form and automatic email confirmation script.

4-6 Weeks Before

  • Take tshirt order numbers and bump up numbers to equal 100 tshirts; usually you can get a deal once you get above 100 shirts. 
  • Really be harassing people for RSVPs and tshirt orders and try to get money/donations/sponsorships from them to help pay for all the deposits on stuff, which need to go in before the event! It is stressful to head into the event thousands of dollars in the red, and hope you recouperate costs. The more donations and tshirt money you can get ahead of time, the better.
  • Plan to put shirt order in about 3-4 weeks before (maybe more) depending on what the screen printing company needs.

2-3 Weeks Before

  • Place brat and potato salad order with The Sausage Shop for pick up on day of the Fest
  • Start cider brewing (latest time to start it because leaves minimal room for error! The longer it goes, the drier it will be and the less funky flavors from the fermentation process)
  • Talk to Eli at Bentley's about getting a couple gallons of their potato salad, made vegan.

1-2 Weeks Before

  • Call Sprouts, talk to produce manager about ordering corn.
  • Go to La Estrella bakery to place the bolillo roll order. Talk to them about picking up the order Saturday afternoon with the rolls being as fresh as possible (i.e. that they will make them that morning/afternoon)
  • Reserve big grill for corn through Arizona Party Rental.

1 Week Before

  • Get shirts in so you can hand them out for people to wear to the event and collect the money for them ahead of time.
  • Send out email to grads with the weekend schedule for those that haven't done bratfest before and to get people to sign up for shifts on the grill, at the donations table, etc.
  • Order vegan potato salad from Bentley's if you're doing that.

Thursday Night

  • Costco run for supplies, including cheesecake night baking supplies (and some candy and supplies for making pinatas), and bagels and OJ for Sunday morning. Try to inventory before you go so you know what we need.
  • Meet up with Joe to get key; drop all the supplies off at Sonoran Cohousing Community Room.
  • Figure out when to pick up/drop off the rented grill.

Cheesecakes Night (Friday)

  • Meet at 4pm (or after Journal Club) in grad hallway. People will move their vehicles to Sonnet loading dock and we will start loading cars up. Full cars head to SoHo (501 E. Roger Rd.)
  • 1-2 cars will meet at Kuiper loading dock to get bins and lights and cords borrowed from Art Show; Full cars head to SoHo
  • Unload cars at SoHo
  • Further trips back to LPL made if needbe
  • Move cars to Fry's (there is very limited visitor parking at the complex)
  • Bring cider keg and set up 1 beer keg. Start drinking.
  • Pizza arrives. Eat!
  • Make cheesecakes
  • Make pinatas
  • Organize shirts and label them with name of person, how much they owe.
  • Make more cheesecakes
  • Make signs for bathrooms, directions into courtyard, etc.
  • Cook (veggie) potato salad and sauerkraut, if doing that.
  • Make playlist of music for tomorrow.

Day of Event

  • Pick up corn from Sprouts. Soak in tubs with water for a couple hours before the event.
  • Pick up brats from Sausage Shop. They close at 4pm on Saturdays!!! Remember this.
  • Pick up buns from La Estrella.
  • Pick up remaining kegs and get them in ice buckets, connected to CO2 system. Set up beeeeeeeer. Label beer.
  • Pick up ~2 dozen(?) veggie/vegan brats from Sprouts or Trader Joe's.
  • Paint and fill pinatas for kids event- remember to bring the plastic bat! Hang the pinatas when dry.
  • Set tables and chairs up (NO TABLES OR CHAIRS ON THE NEW WALKWAY in COURTYARD...will probably set up food closer to the kitchen now)...generally there is enough we borrow from the cohousing complex community room, along with the table we have in the closet.
  • Set up lighting (check with Art Show grads before about borrowing lighting) in courtyard for people to see food tables, grilling area and beer. Try to keep cords as much out of the way as possible so people won't trip. Use tape. Try to have cords follow divisions in sidewalk.
  • Heat up grills (start at 4:45, corn on no later than 5:15, first round of brats on by 5:30!). Try to keep up with rush that lasts the first 2 hours or so. Never let a grill go unused and try to keep charcoal hot. Keep grills separate for the different types of brats, and keep heating trays separate for each kind too. Let's *not* send someone with a chicken allergy to the ER again, eh?
  • Make signs directing to bathroom and donations table and courtyard.
  • Label cheesecakes (normal crust, gluten free, oreo crust, type of pie). Also again, label brats. It is very important to keep the chicken vs. pork brats well labeled.
  • Stock bathroom with supplies (TP, soap, paper towels).
  • Make sure lighting, table and chairs are ready to go for people to be able to sit and eat when it starts getting darker.
  • Set up donations table with spreadsheet of pre-registered/pre-paid people and tshirts. Set up old tshirts that are for sale for $10.
  • Make sure we have enough charcoal, ice and paper towels.

During the Fest

Need people to work shifts at the following:

Donations/Tshirt sales/Attendee counting at the door
6-7pm: 2 people
7-8pm: 2 people
8-9pm: 2 people
9-10pm: 2 people

5-6pm: 2 people
6-7pm: 1 pork griller, 1 chicken griller, 1 corn + veggie brat requests griller
7-8pm: 1 pork griller, 1 chicken griller, 1 corn + veggie brat requests griller
8-9pm: 1 pork griller, 1 chicken griller, 1 corn + veggie brat requests griller
9-10pm: 2 people

Trash: Everybody please help take trash and recycling! If *anyone* sees full trash bins, please take them out and replace the bag. If you need help seeing where in the parking lot the trash and recycling dumpsters are, find someone who knows and we'll show you.

Bathroom: If you see the bathrooms low on soap, TP or paper towels, please replace them! Spare supplies will be in the community room.

Sunday morning

We need loootsss of heeelpp!!! 10am. Need to load up stuff and get it back to LPL. Can be done by 1 if lots of people help out! Generally provide bagels, cream cheese, eggs, orange juice... ideally keep things organized when packing up. Make any notes of items we have a lot of extras of for next year or supplies we're running low on.