Monday, August 18, 2014

Lafayette, Indiana, August 19, 1968

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A captured moment in time. The picture here was taken inside the Kroger Supermarket in Lafayette, Indiana on Monday, August 19, 1968. It shows a 150-case display of Chief Oshkosh Beer. The beer is packaged in non-returnable, 12-ounce "stubbie" bottles. It’s being sold in 8-packs for $1.24. Sounds like a great price now, but that would have been about average for something like this in 1968.

The Oshkosh Brewing Company had been trying to expand its reach beyond Wisconsin and Michigan since 1964. This form of packaging was part of that strategy. The non-returnable bottles were cheaper than the costs associated with hauling cases full of empty bottles back to Oshkosh. Regardless of the package, Chief Oshkosh Beer never caught on in Indiana. That may have been because of what was inside the package.

The recipe for Chief Oshkosh Beer underwent significant changes after 1961 when the Horn and Schwalm families of Oshkosh sold controlling interest in the brewery to David V. Uihlein. Brewer's logs from 1968 show the recipe continuing to devolve. During this period, the recipe was typically composed of 70% barley malt and 29% of a corn syrup designed for brewing named NuBru. Soy flakes and sometimes pale malt made up the remaining 1 percent. At the same time, hop extracts as opposed to actual hops began playing a more prominent role in the bittering of the beer. It’s a dismal mix, but it’s reflective of the state of American brewing during the period.

Looking at that stack of beer makes me wonder how many people who pulled an 8-pack off that pile ever had the urge to come back for another. At this point in time, Chief Oshkosh wasn’t a beer to write home about.

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