Tuesday, March 20, 2018

HighHolder Brewing Company of Oshkosh

March 21, 1894. That was the last time Oshkosh had four breweries. Today, there are four breweries here again. HighHolder Brewing Company of Oshkosh, Wisconsin is up and running.

HighHolder brews have made a couple of previous, albeit brief appearances recently, but this past weekend the beer became more widely available. On Friday, HighHolder’s Bloody Sixth Irish Red Ale went on tap at both O'Marro's Public House and The Roxy.

HighHolder is the brainchild of Mike Schlosser and Shawn O'Marro. “We started this idea like 10 years ago,” says Schlosser. "We were really naive.”

Shawn O'Marro (left) and Mike Schlosser

After a name change, a muddle of lawyers, and a tangle of permitting issues, HighHolder received the final piece of its licensing puzzle in February. The brewery is located in the suite behind O'Marro's at 2211 Oregon Street in the Lake Aire Center.

HighHolder becomes Winnebago County's first nano-brewery. Schlosser designed and built the brewery’s one-barrel system. "What we’re trying to do is proof of concept,” says O'Marro. "If this works out the way we think it will, then we’ll take it the next level."

For now, O'Marro's Public House is your best bet for finding HighHolder beer. The next beer up will be a German Altbier. Once the brewery settles into a consistent production schedule, its beers will likely begin pouring in other Oshkosh area bars. Don’t wait for that. Get it now!

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Miller's Famous Bock Beer

On this day in 1905...

The Miller bottling plant was near the SW corner of Market and Pearl Streets; about where City Center now is. J.C. Voss was elected mayor of Oshkosh in 1909.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

A Colorful Past #2

Here’s more from Oshkosh artist Paul Nickolai, who has taken a series of vintage Oshkosh brewery photos and added new life to them. This is the second installment of photos. The first can be seen here. Let’s get on with this.

Here’s the Rahr Brewing Company of Oshkosh at the turn of the century.

And here’s the Rahr brewery some 40 years later. Demolition of this brewery began in 1964.

Long gone is the old Gambrinus Brewery that once towered over Harney Avenue. It was torn down in 1914.

This next one goes back even further. The original Horn & Schwalm Brooklyn Brewery was built on Doty Street in 1865. It was destroyed by fire in 1879.

Further south was the Glatz Brewery at the end of Doty Street. Glatz Park is there now. Here’s the Glatz staff with one of the brewery’s beer rolls. The Glatz Brewery was taken down in 1915.

That’s all for this time. But there’s more to come. Thanks, Paul!

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Winn. Co. Brewing History Talk

There are reasons I've been so negligent in getting anything posted here. In addition to writing that damned book about the history of brewing in Winnebago County, I've been preparing for talks that I scheduled before agreeing to write that damned book. A couple weeks ago, I gave a talk for Learning In Retirement about the history of Prohibition in Oshkosh. That one wasn't open to the public. This next one is.

On Tuesday, February 20, I'll be talking about the history of Brewing in Winnebago County. It begins at 6:30 p.m. in Reeve Union Theater on the UW-Oshkosh Campus. This presentation is free and open to the public. There's more info here. Hope to see you there.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

When Inky Drank Beer

Clarence “Inky” Jungwirth died January 21, 2018. After digesting that news, I thought about how much I enjoyed the time I spent talking with him. I wish there had been more.

I first met Inky in 2010. It was shortly after I started this blog. I contacted him to tell him how much I liked his books. I told him what I was doing. I said if he ever felt like writing anything about beer, I’d be happy to post it here. He invited me to his home.

My wife and I went to see him on a warm Saturday at the start of summer. The first thing I asked was how he got his nickname. I worked in printing. I thought with a nickname like Inky maybe he had too. “No,” he said laughing. “I was so small as a kid they called me incubator baby. They shortened it to Inky.” After that, practically all we ever talked about was beer.

“I just loved beer," he told me. “The local beers were the best!” He grew up next door to Steckbauer's tavern. He said that was his usual place. But he added, “I’ve been in every tavern in Oshkosh.”

Inky, on the left, having a beer at Steckbauer's. Mid-1950s.

"Beer drinkers of my generation tended to stick with one brand of beer," Inky said. "You’d stick to the beer that satisfied you.” His favorite was Chief Oshkosh out of the eight-ounce Cub bottle. He said something to the effect that the small bottle made him look bigger. He laughed at that idea

By the time I met him, Inky wasn't drinking beer anymore. He was 90 then. At that point, he hadn't had a beer in 20 years. But he still seemed to relish his memories of it.

"My uncles got me drunk for the first time when I was 12," he said shaking his head and laughing. He talked about his grandpa and uncles. How they made beer in their basements during Prohibition. He said their homebrew was his first taste of beer.

I asked him if it would be okay to record him talking about this stuff. He was for it. He told all kinds of stories. I liked the ones that were slightly crude. One of those was about his uncles delivering beer in growlers to Oshkosh factory workers in the 1920s. I put the audio of Inky telling that story into a video.

After our first conversation at his home, Inky and I talked on the phone from time to time. He'd call from his office at Oshkosh Truck. He said he was thinking about writing a short history of beer. I said if he'd write it I'd post it on the blog. In June 2010, he sent me A Brief History of Beer by Clarence “Inky” Jungwirth.

Inky had an idea for another blog post. It was about when he was in the army in 1944 and got beer for Christmas. He titled that one Beer for Christmas By Clarence "Inky" Jungwirth.

Inky, 1944.
Last January I finally got around to putting together another short video with narration by Inky. This one was about beer and homebrewing in Oshkosh during Prohibition.

A couple years ago, I met up with Inky at an event for the Winnebago County Historical Society. I mentioned that there was a new brewery trying to get started on the south side. That it was going to be named HighHolder Brewing. "Good, Good!" he said. He like that reference to the Highholders. They were beer-loving immigrants who lived in the old “Bloody 6th Ward” where Inky grew up.

On the day Inky died, HighHolder Brewing came out with the new logo it plans to use. It's an image of a boy totting a couple growlers of beer, just like Inky had talked about his uncles doing.

At that time, I didn't know Inky had passed. I downloaded the logo to my phone. I was going to show it to him the next time we met. That won't happen now. But I'm sure Inky would have loved it.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

The Return of Adler Brau Beer

For those of us who prefer out history wet... This Friday, January 26, Stone Arch Brewpub in Appleton is releasing a recreation of the 1946 version of Adler Brau Beer.

Adler Brau was the flagship beer of Appleton’s George Walter Brewing Company. It was first brewed in the early 1900s. The beer was a mainstay in the Fox Valley until the brewery closed in 1972.

Now it’s back. At least for a little while. This version is a one-off, 7-barrel batch brewed in commemoration of George Walter’s 170th birthday. The beer will be available Friday beginning at 4:30 pm at the pub and in a limited run of four-packs (scratch that, they've decided because of the limited run to sell single bottles, only).

To whet your appetite, check out this history of the George Walter Brewing Company. The Author of the article, Brian Zenefski, is also the guy who discovered the 1946 recipe Stone Arch used. I’ve had a look at the recipe. It’s in-line with the sort of pale lagers being brewed before Prohibition. Should be an interesting beer.

Post-Release Update...

I don’t normally post updates to beer events, but this one came off so well I thought I should make mention of it. The highlight was that so many members of the Walter family came out for it. Here they are enjoying an evening and beer in honor of their forbear George Walter.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

2017: Oshkosh’s Year in Beer

It was another good year for beer in Oshkosh. The big news, of course, was the opening of Fifth Ward Brewing Company. But this year was significant in a number of ways. In chronological order, here are a few of the local highlights from 2017.

The Return of Canned Beer
On February 7, Bare Bones became the first brewery to can its beer in Oshkosh since 1972 (the year Peoples Brewing closed). Bare Bones used a mobile canning unit to package Double Dog Dazed, an 11% IPA. It was also the first time an Oshkosh brewery packaged its beer in 16-ounce cans or sold beer in four packs. Bare Bones had additional canning runs in May and December.

The Opening of Fletch's Local Tap House
Fletch's Local Tap House opened on May 6 at 570 North Main Street. Owner Jeremy West also runs the neighboring Varsity Club. Fletch’s launched with 24 draft lines in a newly remodeled space. The building dates to 1902. With the addition of Fletch's, there are now approximately 200 craft-beer draft lines in the bars along North Main Street between Irving and the river.

Fletch's Local Tap House

Juice Cloud
In September, Lion’s Tail Brewing in Neenah released Juice Cloud, a New England Style IPA. It was the first time the style had been produced by a commercial brewery in Winnebago County. Juice Cloud has gone on to become the brewery’s best selling beer.

Historic Fresh-Hop Beers
For the second year in a row, both Bare Bones and Fox River produced fresh-hop beers. Bare Bones' Wharrgarbl was brewed on September 9. All of the hops that went into the beer were Wisconsin grown. This hasn't been done by a brewery in Oshkosh in more than 100 years.

Bare Bones head brewer RJ Nordlund selecting hops at a Gorst Valley Hop Farm in in Nekoosa, Wisconsin.

Fox River's Big Ed's Hopyard Ale was brewed on September 13. The bulk of the hops used were grown in a Winnebago County hopyard cultivated by Scott Clark and Steve Sobojinski. This year's harvest included hops raised from cuttings of wild hops growing on the site of a former hopyard established in the late 1840s in Allenville. This site appears to have been the location of Winnebago County's first hop farm. The Fox River beer is the first commercial beer since 1879 to use hops from this lineage.

Big Ed’s Hopyard
Fox River Leading the Pack
Production at local breweries has been strong all year. By the end of October, Bare Bones, Fox River, and Lion's Tail had each produced more beer than they had in all of 2016. At Knuth Brewing in Ripon, production has more than doubled. The final numbers aren't in yet, but it appears likely Fox River will unseat Stone Arch this year as the largest brewer in the Fox Valley.

The Return of Casks and Caskets
After a three-year hiatus, Wisconsin’s first and only all-homebrewed beer festival returned to Oshkosh on November 4. Sponsored by the Society of Oshkosh Brewers, Casks and Caskets was suspended after state revenue officials deemed the club’s 2014 festival unlawful. This year, the SOBs staged the festival as a free event to conform to the latest interpretation of Wisconsin’s homebrew law. The $6,000 in donations collected at the festival went to the Oshkosh Hunger Network.

Casks and Caskets, 2017
The Opening of Fifth Ward Brewing Company
On November 8, Fifth Ward Brewing Company opened at 1009 South Main Street. It marked the first time since 1956 that three breweries have operated simultaneously in Oshkosh. Co-founded by Ian Wenger and Zach Clark, the brewery had been in planning since 2012. The first beers issued by Fifth Ward were Burl Brown, a brown ale made with cinnamon and molasses, and Hades’ Secret, a porter brewed with chocolate and mint.

Zach Clark (left) and Ian Wenger, opening day at Fifth Ward Brewing.

The Opening of the Granary
The Granary Brew Pub opened in early November. The craft-beer bar and restaurant began with 30 Wisconsin-brewed beers on tap. All four Winnebago County breweries were represented. In all likelihood, this was the first time beer from four separate Winnebago County breweries has been served on tap in the same bar.

The coming year is bound to be interesting. On the tavern side, I doubt we’ll see the launch of another full-fledged craft beer bar. We may have reached a saturation point there. But on the brewery front, we’ll likely see more development. HighHolder Brewing, which has been threatening to open for months, may finally break through. Let’s hope so. New breweries are also slated for Omro and Menasha. If each comes to fruition in 2018, we’ll have seven breweries in Winnebago County. That hasn’t happened since 1894. The beer scene here is maturing. Room for growth remains. Onward!

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Fox Valley Winter Beer Fest

A few years ago, a beer festival like the one coming in January would have been impossible. We didn't have the breweries for it. All that has changed. It's time we celebrate the revival of our local beer culture.

On Saturday, January 13, 2018, Bones Brewery in Oshkosh will host the Fox Valley Winter Beer Fest. There's been nothing like this in our area before. All of the beer poured at the festival will be from local breweries. Eight of them in all: Appleton Beer Factory, Bare Bones, Fifth Ward, Fox River, HighHolder, Knuth, Lion's Tail, and Stone Arch. Rushford Meadery and Winery will be there, too, pouring cider, mead, and wine.

This marks the first time these breweries (and winery) have worked together on an event like this. So, of course, they're going to do something different. Each of the breweries will present beers that deviate from their core line-up. There'll be a host of barrel-aged beers, cellared beers, and one-offs brewed for this event.

There’s another thing we haven't seen before. A beer festival held outdoors in winter. The fest will take place in the parking lot at Bare Bones. It ought to be cozy enough. There'll be a bonfire, games, music, and barbecue from DD's BBQ Company. Wear your boots and let it rip. And when it's over there'll be an after party at O'Marro's Public House where The MadPolecats will play from 7-11 p.m.

OK, here's the where, the when, and the how of it....
Fox Valley Winter Beer Fest
January 13, 2018, at Bare Bones Brewery in Oshkosh.
General Admission tasting runs from 2 p.m. – 6 p.m.
VIP tasting begins at 1 p.m.
General Admission tickets are $40.
That ticket includes 20 - 5oz samples and a commemorative glass.
The VIP ticket is $60.
VIP includes early access to the festival, 25 - 5oz samples, the commemorative glass, and access to the VIP lounge, better known as the taproom.
Tickets are now available at all the participating breweries. You can also get them up online at Brown Paper Tickets.

This has been a long time coming. See you there!

Monday, December 18, 2017

A Colorful Past #1

Oshkosh artist Paul Nickolai uses vintage photographs as his canvas. Imbuing color and texture, Nickolai creates something new from source material that's quite old.

I first came across Nickolai's work on the Oshkosh Memories Facebook page. I thought it would be interesting to see what he might do with older photos related to beer and brewing in Oshkosh. The results are coming in.

Over the coming weeks, I'm going to post a series of old photos re-imagined by Nickolai. We'll start with Oshkosh's two most well-known breweries: the Oshkosh Brewing Company and People Brewing Company. I've been posting pictures of these breweries for years. But nothing like this...

More on the Oshkosh Brewing Company.
More on Peoples Brewing Company.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017


A new one from Fifth Ward for the growler collection. This is the first time since 1956, that we’ve had three breweries in Oshkosh.