Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Return of The Chief

Last week, Fratellos in Oshkosh brought back The Chief and that pleases me to no end. It’s a Classic American Pilsner and is based upon the version of Chief Oshkosh Beer that was brewed here by the Oshkosh Brewing company from 1950-1961. The beer is easy drinking, yet substantial, with a creamy mouthfeel, a mellow bitter/sweet flavor and a fast, dry finish that urges you back to the glass. When done well, I love this style of beer and this is an excellent example of how good it can be. When you taste one like this, it becomes a little easier to understand how the American Pilsner came to so throughly dominate the American beer landscape.

This is the second time that Fratellos has put The Chief on draught. The first tapping was back in September 2012. In May of 2012, Jay Supple of Fratellos had the idea of recreating one of the bygone Oshkosh beers to coincide with the release of The Breweries of Oshkosh, the book Ron Akin and I had written about the history of brewing here. For a couple of reasons, I suggested we do the 1950s version of Chief Oshkosh. For one, it was the best known of all the beers that had once been made here. More importantly, I had slew of information about the make-up of the beer. In the course of researching the book, I had collected a solid base of material for recreating the 1950s version of Chief Oshkosh, including brewers logs, chemical analysis of the beer and some fairly detailed tasting notes. And I knew it was a good beer. I had brewed it several times myself and served it to numerous people, some of whom were quite surprised that a true American Pilsner isn’t the insipid thing that the big brewers have made it out to be.

In late June of 2012, I turned over my collection of information and a recipe I had used for the beer to Kevin Bowen, brewmaster at Fratellos/Fox River Brewing Co. Kevin modified it to fit his brewhouse and went at it. When the beer was served three months later, I thought it was fantastic. And the two pints of The Chief that I had yesterday were every bit as good. Of course, you can see my bias here and when it comes to this beer I make no claim of impartiality. I love that I’m able to step up to the bar and get a taste of the sort of beer that was once common in Oshkosh. The only problem is, this is going to be another limited release of The Chief. Get it while you can.

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