Monday, November 21, 2016

Then and Now: Thanksgiving and Beer in Oshkosh

November 1936. Prohibition has been consigned to the past. Beer has been legal for three years. The trip to the beer depot seems normal again.

People in Oshkosh are getting ready for the Thanksgiving feast. They’re stocking up on beer. Most of what they buy is brewed locally: Chief Oshkosh, Peoples Beer, Rahr's Elk's Head.

The Oshkosh Brewing Company places an add in the Northwestern trying to sway people towards their brew.

Oshkosh Daily Northwestern, November 24, 1936

This fine beer makes good food taste even better… It blends… A whole day of enjoyment… the thoughtful hosts way of saying “Good Cheer.” I love that!

Let’s jump ahead to 1955. Otto’s at 16th and Oregon is offering Thanksgiving specials on beer from all three Oshkosh breweries.

Let's take a short detour. Here's what Otto's looked like back in the day...

Here's what 1528 Oregon St. looks like today...

The local-beer tradition gradually faded. It was extinguished in 1972 when the last of Oshkosh’s breweries failed. Now it's returning.

This weekend I was out running around doing what a lot of Oshkoshers have always done this time of year: picking up beer to share with their friends and family on Thanksgiving. I came home with these....

When I was carrying them into the house, it dawned on me that I’d never done this before. I had never gone out to buy beer for Thanksgiving and come home with 6-packs of Oshkosh-brewed beer. It felt good doing that.

I write all this stuff about Oshkosh beer history, but I’m observing it from a point off in the distance. It can be somewhat alienating. Walking into the house with those sixers the other day was the exact opposite of that. There was no separation. I was doing something that was once common here. I was bringing home Oshkosh beer for the holiday.

That used to be a thing taken for granted. It shouldn’t be. Like the ad says, that’s something to really be thankful for.


  1. my Mom's parents lived on 16th and Arizona. Would buy comics at Otto's when visiting my grandparents back in the 60's. I was too young to buy beer.

    1. Nice, Jim! That place was run by Merlin Otto. He had his store there for almost 50 years.

  2. Years ago, I looked forward to the special Hoilday Beer brewed for the season...I thought Chief Oshkosh's Holiday Beer was better than Peoples, & the Braumeister Brewery in Milwaukee, turned out a great Holiday Beer too....I've looked for years now, & I can't find a seasonal beer to compare.