Monday, June 20, 2016

Boiled Alive!

Here’s a tragic tale. I first came across this about five years ago. It made my stomach turn then. Same thing now. I’ve touched on this incident a couple times before, but never posted the entire, gruesome episode. Well, here it is...

We’re back at Horn & Schwalm’s Brooklyn Brewery located at what is now the 1600 block of Doty St.

On the Friday evening of February 2, 1872, a young brewer named Leonard Schiffmann was finishing up a long brew day when things went horribly wrong…

A Man Falls into a Vat of Boiling Beer
On Friday, a young man named Leonard Schiffman [sic], employed in Schwalm’s Brewery, Third Ward, met with one of those horrible accidents which occasionally startle the community and make us wonder at the carelessness of human nature.

A large vat, seven or eight feet deep had just been filled with hot beer which had just been drawn off from out of the kettles where it had been boiling. A plank lay across the top and Schiffman attempted to cross it. The room was dark and in groping his way across, poor Schiffman slipped and fell into the seething hell beneath him. Fortunately he grasped the plank and saved himself from a descent which would have ended his career at once. As it was, he descended into the boiling liquid as far as his waist, and then, after struggling for several minutes, during which his lower limbs were in the boiling beer, he succeeded in extricating himself, with the assistance that his agonizing screams soon brought to his aid. Dr. C. and F.H. Lind were at once sent for and they did what was possible for his relief.

His flesh is boiled and his recovery is very doubtful. The physicians think that the amputations of one or both limbs may be necessary, and even in that event he may not recover.
  - Oshkosh Weekly Northwestern, February 8, 1872

A double amputation in 1872 would have been as torturous as his plunge into the boiling liquid. He was spared that additional agony. Three days after his accident, Schiffmann died on Tuesday, February 13, 1872. I haven’t located his exact birth date, but he would have been about 22 years old at the time of his death.

Some background on young Schiffmann: He was born about 1850 in Prussia and immigrated to America with his parents and siblings sometime prior to the Civil War. The family had reached Oshkosh by 1865.

Early on, Schiffmann worked here as a carpenter while living above his father’s saloon on the east side of what is now the 400 block of N. Main.

But the Schiffmann’s were brewers. In addition to the saloon, his father operated a Weissbier brewery in Oshkosh, first on N. Main and later on Doty. And Leonard’s older brother Andrew appears to have preceded him into the Horn & Schwalm brewhouse.

Leonard Schiffmann took up the brewing trade just months prior to his death. The 1872-1873 Oshkosh City Directory lists his occupation as “saw filer and carpenter.” That directory was being compiled about the same time Schiffmann was changing careers. A move in the direction of a very bad end.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Oshkosh Beer Show #53 - Anti-Hero IPA from Revolution Brewing

This week, we’re drinking Anti-Hero IPA from Revolution Brewing of Chicago. Revolution has just begun distributing its beer in Wisconsin. We yap about the brewery as we down Revolution’s flagship beer.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Oshkosh Beer Show #52 - 3rd Sign Brewery

This week, Adam and I check out a very nice Witbier from 3rd Sign, a new brewery from Waunakee, Wisconsin that just began sending its beer to Oshkosh.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Beer Here, This Week

A few quick words about the beer around here this week…
Last Saturday's Rainbow over Bare Bones

The Launching of the Short’s
You may have noticed beer from Michigan Short's Brewing Company showing up recently on tap lists on store shelves in Oshkosh. This week, Short’s will make a bigger splash with launch parties at Chester V’s and Oblio’s.

• Tuesday, June 7, Oblio’s will host a Short’s launch party from 6-8 p.m.
• Then on Wednesday, June 8, Chester V’s will host a Short’s tap takeover from 7-9 p.m.

If you can’t hit either of those, you can always swing by Ski’s for a taste of Short’s. The downtown market currently has Short’s flagship beers in stock, including Bellaire Brown and Huma Lupa Licious. Speaking of Ski’s, they’re also now offering mix 4 and 6 packs. Check that out here.

And if you want to find out what Short’s is all about, here are two guys who have a few things they’d like to tell you.

Bare Bones Anniversary Party
Hard to believe, but Bare Bones has been up and running for a year now. Seems like only yesterday this was happening.

The celebration at Bare Bones begins Thursday, June 9, with a tent party featuring live music from Bare Bones brewmaster RJ Nordlund. Food will be available from Tasty Weiner's on Wheels.

Then on Friday, June 10th, Bare Bones will have a Pig Roast by Hillbilly Bob with live music by Bad Habitz. It’s been an adventurous year for Bare Bones, they have plenty to celebrate.

Check out the brewery's Facebook event page for more.

Butte des Morts Beer
Sunday, June 12, at 1 p.m., I’ll be speaking at the Butte des Morts Lion’s Club about the history of brewing and salooning in Butte des Morts. For such a little place, Butte des Morts sure had a lot going on when it came to beer.

Here’s the best part: There’s going to be beer to sample. I put together a recipe for the sort of beer that was being brewed in Butte des Morts Beer in the 1860s. The recipe was brewed at Bare Bones by assistant brewer Jody Cleveland and will be offered during and after the program. Here’s all the info. Hope to see you there!

Monday, June 6, 2016

Fire at the Brooklyn Brewery!

Saturday Evening, March 29, 1879...
Brewers at Horn & Schwalm’s Brooklyn Brewery are nearing the end of a long brew day. Suddenly, fire breaks out near the boil kettle. The brewers respond quickly.  They’ve been through this before. With pails of water, they wash down the flames before the fire can spread. Catastrophe averted. This time.

Fire was a constant concern at the Brooklyn Brewery. The wood-frame building was not even 15 years old, but it looked much older. Its vernacular architecture was out of step with the production facility it was being used as. In 1878, Horn & Schwalm had produced 1,366 barrels of beer. Walking by, you wouldn't guess the place capable of it.

Horn & Schwalm's Original Brooklyn Brewery
Lit by candles and fueled by wood and coal, the the Brooklyn Brewery was an accident waiting to happen. A few hours after the Saturday-night fire in the brewhouse had been doused, the waiting ended. The brewery went up in flames.

Total Destruction of Horn & Schwalm’s Brewery
About five o’clock Sunday morning the brewery on Doty street just south of 16th which is owned by A. Horn and Leonard Schwalm’s estate was totally destroyed by fire… about four o’clock the building was discovered by neighbors in a mass of flames. Two or three employees slept in the brewery and they barely had time to escape… The brewery itself was totally consumed together with a large amount of stock both in grain and beer.
 - Oshkosh Daily Northwestern, March 31, 1879

Bad enough, but it could have been much worse. Until recently, the Horn and Schwalm families had been living above the brewery. But with the the business and its output growing, both families had moved to separate dwellings nearby. They had homes, but their brewery was gone.

The impact was devastating. The fire destroyed nearly $500,000 (in today’s money) worth of equipment, beer and property. Insurance covered half the loss. The Horn and Schwalm families bore the rest. But there was no compensating for the loss of future business.

The Brooklyn Brewery headed into the summer of 1879 without a product. Beer has always been a somewhat seasonal commodity, but that was especially so in the late 1800s. The brewery relied on brisk sales during the warm months to fund the winter brewing season of its cool-fermenting lager beer. In the summer of 1879, the Brooklyn Brewery had no beer to sell.

Instead of peddling beer, they went to work building a new brewery. By July it was taking shape. This one was nothing like the rustic, wooden brewery they had lost.

New Brewery Building 
The brewery of Horn & Schwalm on Doty street near the city limits, which was burned last winter, is being rebuilt on quite an extensive scale. The building is now up as far as the second story. It is of solid brick with massive stone foundation, and is being built as nearly fire proof as possible, all the rooms being arched in brick and with little wood about them. The main building is 45 by 60 feet, and will be three stories high, which, with the half underground basement, makes a building practically four stories high. All the modern improvements are being put into it, and when completed it will be the largest and finest brewery in the state outside Milwaukee. Later in the season immense ice houses and other additions will be built. The brewery will be in full operation in about a month.
 - Oshkosh Daily Northwestern, July 15, 1879

Here’s a look at the completed brewery. The wooden structure with the cupola was the malt house. The brick brewery is to the right.

This was a brewery built to last. And it has. The malt house is gone, but brewhouse that was the core of the Brooklyn Brewery still stands. It’s the oldest intact brewery structure in Oshkosh. Here’s how it looks today.

Below the original brewhouse, you can still see the aging cellars with their “rooms being arched in brick.” Here’s a look.

This part of the Horn & Schwalm story ends well. The new Brooklyn Brewery soon surpassed its south side rival, the John Glatz & Son Brewery, to become the most productive brewery in the city. By the time Horn & Schwalm merged their operation with that of Glatz and Kuenzl to form the Oshkosh Brewing Company in 1894, the Brooklyn Brewery had become Winnebago County’s leading brewery.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Oshkosh Beer Show #51 – Toppling Goliath’s Sol Hunter

This week, Adam and I are drinking Toppling Goliath’s Sol Hunter Pale Ale, a beer that showcases Equinox (a/k/a HBC 366), one of the newer American hop breeds.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Happy Memorial Day From the Oshkosh Brewing Company

Seeing as it’s a holiday, I thought I’d take a break from Oshkosh's burning breweries and post something a little more pleasant. Here’s a 100-year-old ad from the Oshkosh Brewing Company. This appeared in the Daily Northwestern in anticipation of the 1916 Memorial Day weekend.

Oshkosh Daily Northwestern, May 27, 1916
I don’t have a lot to add other than to ask you to notice that at this point OBC was offering just two beers: Special Lager and Oshkosh. Both were pale(ish) lagers. That’s a far cry from what the brewery was up to just 10 years earlier when it often had six or more beers in circulation, including a dark lager and a Berliner weisse. The blanding of American beer began well before Prohibition (1920). Drinkers in Oshkosh were experiencing that flavor recession first hand. Most appeared to be just fine with that. Those folks would go dizzy if they could see what we have to choose from today.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Oshkosh Beer Show #50 – With ​Leoš Frank of Lazy Monk Brewing

This week we get together with Leoš Frank, co-founder and brewmaster of Lazy Monk Brewing in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Leoš treads a unique path among American craft brewers by specializing in the beers of his Czechoslovakian homeland.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Fire at the Oshkosh Brewery!

Before we dive down today’s rabbit hole, let’s clear something up. The Oshkosh Brewery mentioned in the title of this post is not to be confused with the Oshkosh Brewing Company.

The Oshkosh Brewery was located near the east end of what is now named Bay Shore Drive. It was launched by brothers George and Frederick Loescher in 1852. This was years before anyone dreamed of starting that similarly named and much larger brewery on Doty Street.

One more thing to clarify: Loescher’s name is consistently misspelled in all sorts of publications from the period covered in this post. We’ll see a number of variants here, but they’re all referencing the same man. Here’s a prime example from an 1868 city directory.

OK, before we begin sifting its ashes, let’s pinpoint where Loescher’s Oshkosh Brewery stood. First a map from 1858. Look for the red circle….

Here’s a recent aerial view of that same area. The white oval represents the location of the brewery.

Time to get on with the pathos. Here’s the Oshkosh Daily Northwestern to tell us of the terrible Sunday morning of April 28, 1878.

Oshkosh Daily Northwestern, April 29, 1878

The Sunday morning fire appears to have brought an end to brewing beer at that particular location. But I’ve stumbled across a couple of post-fire references to the brewery that I’m dying to share. Here goes….

The Webbed-Feet People of Sodom
A couple days after the Oshkosh Brewery went up in smoke, a reporter from the Fond du Lac Commonwealth was sent here to get the lay of the land. The fantastic letter he sent back to Fond du Lac was later picked up and published by the Northwestern. The Fond du Lac hack wasn’t prepared for what he found in Oshkosh. Here are a few of my favorite cuts from his report.

Oshkosh, April 30 (1878) – A Wicked City. This is a hard town to write about, because if you tell the truth you have to write hard things... Three years ago Sunday, Oshkosh was nearly consumed by a fire started by Spaulding & Peck’s mill. To commemorate the third anniversary, a brewery burned Sunday night… Immediately back of the Beckwith House is a man who administers Turkish baths, and he told me nearly all citizens of Oshkosh who have lived here five or more years are web-footed… Many people in this city eat fish with neither salt or pepper, but with their fingers… Yes, Oshkosh is the Sodom of the Northwest.

The other post-fire reference to Loescher’s old brewery is even better. Or worse depending upon how you view these things. I’m calling this one...

The Reinhard Digression
Godfried Reinhardt was born in 1799 in Schönburg, Germany. On the Wednesday morning of September 4, 1878, his lifeless body was found floating in the Fox River just west of Loescher’s recently ruined brewery. A coroner’s jury was hastily convened. Its verdict: suicide.

The inquest into Reinhardt’s death stated that at about 2 p.m. Reinhardt had wandered off from his home at what is now Parkway Avenue. He was in a glum mood and had no apparent destination in mind. That evening the Northwestern published a story subtitled, “Undoubtedly a Case of Suicide.” The paper reported that Reinhardt frequently said he was tired of living and wished he could die.

Reinhardt’s family didn’t buy it. Upset with the rush to label their father’s death a suicide, Reinhardt’s three adult children dug deeper. They discovered their father knew exactly where he was headed that afternoon. And it wasn’t for the bottom of the river.

Two days after Reinhardt’s death, the Northwestern reported the family’s findings: “It has since been ascertained that Mr. Reinhardt, late in the afternoon, strolled down to Luscher’s brewery in the Second ward, and did not leave there until dark.”

Now, I think it’s safe to assume that Reinhardt hadn’t strolled over to Loescher’s to spend several hours staring at the burnt remains of a brewery. So what in hell was he doing there? Perhaps, he passed the afternoon and early evening there drinking beer.

If you recall, the article about the brewery fire mentioned that, “The only portion of the building not wholly burned is a small portion over the cellar where the tubs and some of the stock was kept.”

It’s known that Loescher operated a tap room in conjunction with his brewery. “Over the cellar where… some of the stock was kept” sounds like the perfect spot for a beer bar. I suspect, Reinhardt was there until he’d had his fill and then wandered off into the dark to his watery death.

Born Again
Reinhardt wasn’t resurrected, but the Oshkosh Brewery was. George Loescher built a new brewery, just across and down the street from the old one. It was up and running by 1880. Here you can see their proximity.

I like nothing more than to end a blog post with a gravestone. Beats hell out a punctuation mark. This one goes out in memory of Godfried Reinhardt. May the earth be light on him. Prost!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Oshkosh Beer Show #49 – Get Your Short's On

This week, we crack into a few beers from Short’s Brewing Company of Bellaire, Michigan. Short’s is about to begin distribution in Wisconsin. We get a tasting tour of what the brewery has to offer.