Monday, December 9, 2013

There’s An SOB at Pigeon River

Brett Hintz Brewing at Pigeon River
The December edition of the Oshkosh SCENE is out and available all over town. In this month’s Oshkosh Beer Garden column, I write about the explosive growth in brewery numbers and feature a couple of small, rural breweries that have recently popped up in Northeast Wisconsin. One of those breweries, Pigeon River Brewing of Marion, has a strong Oshkosh connection. Its head brewer is Brett “Bub” Hintz, a resident of Oshkosh and a member of the Society of Oshkosh Brewers.

Hintz started out brewing in Marion while he was still in high school. One day in band class fellow tuba player Nate Knaack suggested that they try making beer. Hintz was up for it. Their brewing adventure had begun. A decade later, Knaack is the owner of Pigeon River Brewing and Hintz is the man behind the brewery’s beer. “It’s come full circle,” Hintz says. “We started brewing and that was it. It’s like our course in life was set at that point.”

In addition to brewing at Pigeon River, Hintz holds down a full-time job in Oshkosh and still manages to find time to homebrew. Over the past few years, I’ve had a slew of his homebrew. One of my favorites is his Dunkelweizen, an ale that’s also in regular rotation at Pigeon River. But going from homebrewer to pro-brewer took some doing. “It was a learning curve for all of us,” Hintz says. “The process is the same, it’s just learning how to deal with the material in such large quantities.”

But that homebrew spirit remains intact. This is still small-batch beer that he’s brewing at Pigeon River – six barrels at a time – and it’s all done by hand. Even the equipment Hintz is brewing on at Pigeon River is home made. Much of it was built by Keith Gillaume in the late 1990s from spare parts and repurposed dairy equipment. Gillaume was a homebrewer who launched Denmark Brewing in Denmark, Wisconsin in 1999. When the Denmark brewery closed in 2008, Gillaume’s system went to O’so Brewing in Plover. When O’so expanded two years ago, the equipment made its way to Pigeon River. It’s been around, but it’s still making good beer. And Hintz is having a good time with it. “It’s been a lot of fun,’ He says. “We’ve done it for a year now, so everything isn’t so brand new anymore. I’m just really excited.”

For more on Pigeon River Brewing, check out their website.

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