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Fourth Avenue's Bar Passe knows how to do Oktoberfest

The mercury in Munich just fell below 50 degrees, so start boiling those bratwursts as one of the most delicious seasons of the year gets underway.

Yes, meine Freunde, it's Oktoberfest, the high season for sausage sophisticates.

But what should we be looking for in a memorable brat moment? What makes a sausage truly stick out from others in a line-up of links?

I threw on my flannel shirt and headed down to Fourth Avenue for the answers, just as local restaurateur Kade Mislinski was filling a large stein of Spaten Oktoberfest in anticipation of my arrival.

Mislinski knows a thing or two about European cuisine. He spent his early childhood years in a Polish neighborhood in Cleveland, where kielbasa, pierogis and kraut were in regular rotation.

Last fall, he decided to purchase the Fourth Avenue brew pub Bar Passe (417 N. Fourth Ave.), and its sister Café Passe, since they filled a void on his list of culinary concepts that were distinctly inspired by childhood memories.

"You couldn't get simpler with what we wanted to do here than beer and brats because they work hand in hand," said Mislinksi.

He currently features six sausages on the menu, all custom-designed and hand-made by Tucson's Sausage Shop, and local is a commitment that Mislinski says will turn a good brat into a great one.

A local vessel for the brat is just as important to him, which is why Mislinski only lays his sausages into buns baked by Tucson's Sunrise Bakery. And the brat must be a bit longer than the bun so it "hangs off the end."

Beer is also a key partner for a brat, and Mislinski's sausage partners go one step further by adding spent grain from Tucson's Dragoon Brewing Company into the meat mash.

"The grain brings an added essence to the flavor, on the mid-palate, acting almost like a bridge to the other flavors," he said.

Technique is of critical importance at Bar Passe as well, where they take special care to follow tradition.

"A sausage is a flavor vehicle system, taking all these flavors and packaging them," he said, "but if you don't slow-boil the brats in beer and grill them up at the end, you're not doing justice to that work."

While the brat itself is the base of the dish, Mislinski tells me that it's just part of the plate, with the kraut, braised onions, and mustard each playing significant roles.

While not technically local, the mustard he uses comes from Cleveland, and that's local enough for this C-town kid. It's from a 1925 recipe that he says yields a "creamier, almost crème fraiche-like" texture.

"We have a pretty good Major League Baseball team in Cleveland, and I think it's partly because of the mustard," he joked.

Though Mislinski talks about his sausages with great pride, he's quick to drop heaps of praise on other local producers who are all committed to quality.

"It's great to be in a market where there are so many sausage connoisseurs who are all pushing and being honest with one another," he said. "Local is really important to all of us, but if it isn't good, none of us would be here; you have to be good."

Ready for some sausages and suds?

Prost!

Contact Matt Russell, whose day job is CEO of Russell Public Communications, at mrussell@russellpublic.com. Russell is also the host of "On the Menu Live" that airs 5 to 6 p.m. Saturdays on KQTH 104.1 FM, as well as the host of the Friday Weekend Watch segment on the "Buckmaster Show" on KVOI 1030 AM.

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