Monday, July 28, 2014

A New View of Peoples Brewery

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Here’s a picture of Peoples Brewing Company of Oshkosh that I recently came across. This appeared in The Wisconsin Brewing Story, a book published by the Wisconsin State Brewers' Association. The book doesn’t give a publication date, but judging by the breweries that are included, it appears to have been written in 1964.

The picture of Peoples brewery isn’t dated, either. My guess is that it was taken in the 1950s. If you look at the sign in front of The Melrose Tavern, you’ll see that it lists Old Derby Ale. Peoples, which brewed Old Derby, discontinued the brand in the early 1950s. It’s possible that the tavern was slow to update its signage, but doubtful that it would have been left that way into the 1960s.

This is also the best picture I’ve seen of the Melrose Tavern. What became the Melrose started out near the end of Prohibition as the Lakeside Lunch. It was launched in 1932 by a former traveling salesman named Louis E. Clute. When Prohibition ended in 1933, Clute began offering beer with lunch. In 1936, Clute went all in. He converted his lunch counter into a proper saloon with a full kitchen. He added a tap room and a bar and renamed it Ye Old Colonial Inn. A year later, Clute was trying to sell the place.

Clute found a buyer in 1943. His name was George Hannes. The son of a German immigrant and a WWI Vet, Hannes had been operating the Melrose Tavern just west of Oshkosh on Highway 21. When he took over Ye Old Colonial Inn, Hannes changed its name to The Melrose Tavern and hung that prominent sign out front advertising the beer of his next-door neighbor. Hannes went on pouring Peoples Beer at 1518 S. Main until his retirement in 1965.  

The Melrose Tavern was followed at this location by Steine’s Bar (1965-1970) and then Jabbers Bar (1970-1980). It was at Jabbers on November 14, 1972 that Theodore Mack, the president of Peoples Brewing, announced that the brewery had halted production. Mack had to hold his press conference in Jabbers because the power and heat had been cut off in the brewery. Two years later, the demolition of the brewery began.

Jabbers held on a little longer. The bar was shut down and the building was torn down in 1980. By that time, there was a Pabst sign hanging over the door. The days of the little tavern in the shadow of the brewery had ended.

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