Monday, April 17, 2017

Rahr's All-Malt Beer

In 1953, The Rahr Brewing Company of Oshkosh produced something rare. The brewery made an all-malt beer. In the 1950s, few American breweries made beer this way. At that time, nearly all American beers were brewed with a significant addition of corn or rice. Here's a bottle of the Rahr's 1953 beer.

It was brewed to commemorate the 1953 Oshkosh Centennial. The beer was an homage to the history of brewing in Oshkosh. The Rahr's new that history well. The family had been making beer here since 1865. At that time, every brewery in Oshkosh produced all-malt beers. Corn didn't find its way into Oshkosh's breweries until the 1870s (there's more on that here).

But aside from the grain bill, the centennial beer was quite different from beers made in Oshkosh 100 years earlier. Those beers would have been dark. This one, as the label says, was pale. It was the Rahr's version of a Pilsner. Here's the ad introducing Rahr's all-malt Centennial Brew. This is clipped from the Oshkosh Daily Northwestern of June 8, 1953.

It's wonderful that an obscure brewery in Oshkosh would be one of the few in America to produce an all-malt beer in the 1950s. I suspect the Rahrs saw this as a kind of last hurrah. By 1953, the brewery was sinking fast. The end was coming. It was only a matter of time.

In 1956, Rahr Brewing closed. There wouldn't be another all-malt beer brewed commercially in this city until 1995 when Fox River Brewing Company opened.

One last thing. That bottle of Rahr's Beer at the top of this post belongs to a friend of mine. His name is Grant Peterson. Grant used to be a delivery driver for Peoples Brewing Company.  He showed me that bottle the other day at Oblio's. When I was admiring his bottle, it struck me that here we have a former driver for Peoples with an old bottle of Rahr's in a tavern that was a tied to Schlitz. This city is wrapped in a web of beer.

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