Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Happy John’s Happy Tap

Here's a quirky cul de sac of Oshkosh beer history. We're going back to 1907 when Oshkosh saloon keeper "Happy" John Wawrzinski came up with a better way of pouring kegged beer.

Wawrzinski ran Happy John’s Algoma Liquor House and Sample Room at the southwest corner of Oshkosh Avenue and Sawyer streets. The best picture I have of the place is from the early 1950s when it was Gordy's Bar. Here you go...

All that is long gone. It was wiped away by the City of Oshkosh after it purchased the property in 1974. The city knocked it down, paved it over, and made the land part of the street.

Let’s get back to that happier time with Happy John in 1907. Wawrzinski was serving up the Oshkosh Brewing Company's beer when he hatched an idea for a beer tap that would pour less foam and more beer.

The “novel construction” of the Wawrzinski tap prevented pressure within the beer keg from entering into the tap line. And that helped to eliminate excessive foaming when pouring a mug of nickel beer (the going rate at all Oshkosh saloons in 1907). It was also supposed to help keep contaminants in the tap from entering into the keg and spoiling the beer. Sounds great.

It was a complicated piece of work. Here is the design Wawrzinski submitted when he applied for a patent on his improved beer tap.

“Be it known that I, John Wawrzinski, residing in Oshkosh, in the county of Winnebago and State of Wisconsin, have invented new and useful Improvements in Beer-Taps.”

Wawrzinski's application was filed on April 12, 1907, by Benedict, Morsell, and Caldwell; a Milwaukee law firm specializing in patents, trademarks, and copyrights. On February 18, 1908, Wawrzinski was granted US Patent 879604 A. His patent expired in 1925. By that time, he was no longer pouring the Oshkosh Brewing Company's beer. OBC had halted production. Prohibition was on.

One of these days I need to get something posted here about the history of Wawrzinski’s saloon. It was quite the place in its day. A beer palace! I'll get to it... some day.

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