Tuesday, January 30, 2018

When Inky Drank Beer

Clarence “Inky” Jungwirth died January 21, 2018. After digesting that news, I thought about how much I enjoyed the time I spent talking with him. I wish there had been more.

I first met Inky in 2010. It was shortly after I started this blog. I contacted him to tell him how much I liked his books. I told him what I was doing. I said if he ever felt like writing anything about beer, I’d be happy to post it here. He invited me to his home.

My wife and I went to see him on a warm Saturday at the start of summer. The first thing I asked was how he got his nickname. I worked in printing. I thought with a nickname like Inky maybe he had too. “No,” he said laughing. “I was so small as a kid they called me incubator baby. They shortened it to Inky.” After that, practically all we ever talked about was beer.

“I just loved beer," he told me. “The local beers were the best!” He grew up next door to Steckbauer's tavern. He said that was his usual place. But he added, “I’ve been in every tavern in Oshkosh.”

Inky, on the left, having a beer at Steckbauer's. Mid-1950s.

"Beer drinkers of my generation tended to stick with one brand of beer," Inky said. "You’d stick to the beer that satisfied you.” His favorite was Chief Oshkosh out of the eight-ounce Cub bottle. He said something to the effect that the small bottle made him look bigger. He laughed at that idea

By the time I met him, Inky wasn't drinking beer anymore. He was 90 then. At that point, he hadn't had a beer in 20 years. But he still seemed to relish his memories of it.

"My uncles got me drunk for the first time when I was 12," he said shaking his head and laughing. He talked about his grandpa and uncles. How they made beer in their basements during Prohibition. He said their homebrew was his first taste of beer.

I asked him if it would be okay to record him talking about this stuff. He was for it. He told all kinds of stories. I liked the ones that were slightly crude. One of those was about his uncles delivering beer in growlers to Oshkosh factory workers in the 1920s. I put the audio of Inky telling that story into a video.

After our first conversation at his home, Inky and I talked on the phone from time to time. He'd call from his office at Oshkosh Truck. He said he was thinking about writing a short history of beer. I said if he'd write it I'd post it on the blog. In June 2010, he sent me A Brief History of Beer by Clarence “Inky” Jungwirth.

Inky had an idea for another blog post. It was about when he was in the army in 1944 and got beer for Christmas. He titled that one Beer for Christmas By Clarence "Inky" Jungwirth.

Inky, 1944.
Last January I finally got around to putting together another short video with narration by Inky. This one was about beer and homebrewing in Oshkosh during Prohibition.

A couple years ago, I met up with Inky at an event for the Winnebago County Historical Society. I mentioned that there was a new brewery trying to get started on the south side. That it was going to be named HighHolder Brewing. "Good, Good!" he said. He like that reference to the Highholders. They were beer-loving immigrants who lived in the old “Bloody 6th Ward” where Inky grew up.

On the day Inky died, HighHolder Brewing came out with the new logo it plans to use. It's an image of a boy totting a couple growlers of beer, just like Inky had talked about his uncles doing.

At that time, I didn't know Inky had passed. I downloaded the logo to my phone. I was going to show it to him the next time we met. That won't happen now. But I'm sure Inky would have loved it.


  1. What a great story! Thanks Lee. :-)

  2. Really Awesome………very nice post. You are Expert in your profession. It's very interesting in a post. I appreciate you keep do a posting. Jean Alberti

  3. Good work here Lee. This is what is so good about first hand accounts of history and also what makes it so sad. You always wish you had gotten more when you realize that it is too late. It is wonderful that Inky shared as much as he did.