Monday, May 22, 2017

Gilt Edge, a Forgotten Oshkosh Beer

Gilt Edge Beer marked a turning point for the Oshkosh Brewing Company. Introduced in 1900, the brand was designed to raise the profile of the brewery.

Since its inception in 1894, OBC had made its reputation on German-style keg beers sold in saloons. Gilt Edge was a deviation. This was to be an overtly modern beer. An American beer.

Gilt Edge was a light, pale lager. It was just over 4% ABV. It was sold only in bottles. The packaging was elegant. The bottles were clear. They were sealed with a porcelain stopper on a wire hinge. A yellow ribbon was tied at the neck of each bottle.

The intention was to produce a beer that could stand on the same shelf as the pricier, nationally distributed brands. Beers like Pabst Blue Ribbon, Budweiser, and Miller's Buffet. Bottled beers sold in upscale restaurants and posh bars on Main St.

Gilt Edge became OBC’s most expensive beer. The target audience was young. American born. The affluent offspring of German and Bohemian immigrants.

Gilt Edge drinkers in the early 1900s.

By 1905, the marketing of Gilt Edge had taken an absurd turn. Like many breweries at that time, OBC often promoted its beer as if it were a health drink. With Gilt Edge, the brewery amplified that rhetoric.  At times, the claims bordered on parody. OBC suggested that Gilt Edge was non-intoxicating. That it was a stimulant. A tonic. A special kind of medicine to revive invalids.

1907. "She will build up rapidly if you will give her a glass of beer three times a day."

Nobody bought that. And fewer were buying Gilt Edge. The brand lasted until 1913. By then, the porcelain stoppers had been replaced with tin caps. Those yellow ribbons were long gone. The dainty beer with the fancy name was jettisoned as the brewery winnowed its lineup.

But at OBC, they never forgot. After Gilt Edge went out of production, the brewery established a real estate company to manage its saloon properties. The directors of OBC named their new company Gilt Edge.


  1. Wow, those ad guys had an early start on hype. I always think of it as the TV era, and the health thing as just prohibition.

    1. Randy,

      That's a good point. Very perceptive. I've always associated hype starting with the golden age of TV.

      Another great lesson in history.

    2. Someday I'll have to do a post that's nothing but old beer ads making ridiculous claims. I have some doozies. Thanks for reading, guys!