Monday, May 19, 2014

The Oshkosh Brewery and Saloon

A portion of an1858 map showing the location of the Oshkosh Brewery
If you travel down Bayshore Dr. in Oshkosh today, you find a serene residential neighborhood that reveals not a hint of its beer-soaked past. But beginning in 1850 and going well into the 1880s, the neighborhood between Bowen and Eveline streets was host to three breweries and at least one saloon. Today, I want to take another look at the little brewery that was on the south side of Bayshore Dr. just west of Eveline St.

The brewery was owned by George Loescher and was known simply as the Oshkosh Brewery. I wrote about Loescher’s brewing exploits in Oshkosh HERE, but not long ago I came across some new material that gives a better glimpse into his operation.

In 1872, George Loescher and his wife, Regina, leased the Oshkosh Brewery to their son Leonard Loescher and a man named Andrew Ackerman. The five-year lease was recorded by the Winnebago Country Register of Deeds on April 8, 1872 and a copy of it still resides at the Deed’s office in volume 77 of land records. The document holds some interesting nuggets about the brewery.

Here’s the pertinent language from the lease:
“Let & Lease the Property known as the Loescher Brewery and all utensils belonging to same, also 87 1/8 kegs, 18 1/4 kegs now being on the premises... also the lager beer cellar and the road to same belonging to said brewery.... and not to carry on any offensive business upon or in the same brewery & saloon.”

Thrilling, don’t you agree? Is for me. Let’s unpack it. So, Loescher had 87 kegs on premise that could hold approximately four gallons of beer, and just 18 quarter-barrel kegs that held 8 gallons of beer. That’s not much keg capacity to run a brewery with. Perhaps there were more kegs already in use by saloons in the area, but you would expect there would have been some mention of that in the lease.

Then again, perhaps Loescher wasn’t relying on the saloon trade to keep the brewery afloat. The lease indicates that he was operating a saloon in conjunction with the brewery. Loescher may have had been selling most or all of his beer in house. This is the first mention of Loescher’s saloon that I’ve seen. His saloon isn’t listed in any of the Oshkosh city directories of the period, but it’s not too surprising to find that he had one. It wasn’t at all unusual for breweries of that time to sell their beer on premise.

One more thing: that deal about the lager beer cellar. The lease doesn’t give its location, but it mentions a road leading up to it. Where was that? Loescher owned a number of  properties around the brewery; it’s possible his aging cellars may have been located off-site somewhere nearby. There’s a good chance remnants of that cellar are still in the neighborhood. Wouldn’t that be a lovely find. I think a dig is in order. I have more on Loescher, but that’s enough for today. I’d hate to over excite you.

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