Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Get to Know Sawdust City Brewing Company of Oshkosh

If things go according to plan, beer from Sawdust City Brewing Company will begin pouring from the taps at O'Marro's Public House this fall. The emergent brewery is the project of Mike Schlosser and Shawn O’Marro. Both are Oshkosh residents who have long been involved with the beer scene here. O’Marro via his well-known pub, O’Marro’s Public House. Schlosser through his years of involvement with the Oshkosh homebrewing community.

O'Marro (Left) and Schlosser
Their plan is to begin making beer late this summer on a brewing system that will reside at O'Marro's Public House. Schlosser refers to it as a “proof of concept" system. “This will be what gets Sawdust City Brewing off the ground,” he says, “but this system won’t be long term. This is just to get us up and running to see what works.”

The 40-gallon system is designed and built by Schlosser, a network engineer by trade. He’s tailored it to meet the initial concept of the brewery.

The idea is to have three or four Sawdust City beers constantly on tap at O’Marro’s with an eye towards scaling the operation and distributing beer to other outlets within the city. But with a 40 gallon system, keeping up with demand at O’Marro’s pub, may turn out to be the more pressing matter.

“That would be a great problem to have,” O’Marro says. “And if it gets to that point, we’re immediately going to start going towards a larger system.”

“We’re not going to sit on this,” Schlosser ads. “At that point we’ll have shown that this concept works and we’ll have the experience we’ll need to take it to the next level. That’s part of why we chose this size to start with. There’s no upgrading this. It’s not even a negotiable thing. From here we’ll go up to a 7 or 15 barrel system. Then when we ramp up, this will be used for test batches or special, one-off beers.”

The first step, though, will be getting Sawdust City Brewing licensed. They’re currently working on obtaining the necessary state and federal permits. The fact that O’Marro is a bar owner complicates the situation. “We had to make sure that we could brew at the pub and sell our beer there without having to go through a distributor,” says O’Marro. “We’ve actually had two lawyers involved with this. They had to go down to Madison to get it straightened out.”

They now anticipate having the licensing process completed by late August or early September. At that point, Schlosser will begin brewing pilot batches with the intent of having beer on tap at O’Marro’s by October or November.

O’Marro and Schlosser are still determining what the original line-up will look like. “We’re going to decide on two or three beers that we’ll have on regularly,” O’Marro says. “Then we’ll do a series of specialty and seasonal beers that will rotate through. I like IPAs, but it would be good to bring some maltier sessionable brews back around.”

Schlosser, who will be brewmaster for Sawdust City Brewing, points out one of the benefits of small-batch brewing. “We’ll be able to shuffle the deck as we go along and see what people are responding to,” he says. “That’s what’s nice about this system. It’s small enough that we can be flexible and respond quickly.”

O’Marro and Schlosser have been kicking around the idea of doing something like this for at least six years. If it comes together as planned, Sawdust City Brewing will mark the return of commercial brewing to the South Side Oshkosh after a 43 year lull. It’s a part of town where breweries flourished for much of this city’s history. The time appears ripe for that tradition to be revived.

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