Thursday, March 5, 2020

Here Comes the Fourth Beer in the Oshkosh Heritage Series: The Busch Brewery's Salvator

The fourth beer in the Bare Bones Brewery Heritage Series arrives this weekend. This time we're going all the way back to 1858 when the Busch Brewery of Oshkosh released a bock beer named Salvator.



Our story begins in 1857 when German immigrants Tobias Fischer and Christian Kaehler teamed up to launch a new brewery in Oshkosh. They bought land in the old Fifth Ward and went to work digging beer cellars and building a brewhouse. By the winter of 1857, Fischer and Kaehler had the Busch Brewery up and running. It stood near the southeast corner of Algoma and Vine on land that's now part of the UW - Oshkosh campus. Not a trace of the old brewery remains.

The northwest end of the UW Oshkosh Campus, former home of the Busch Brewery.

That first winter, Fischer and Kaehler brewed a strong bock beer they named Salvator. At the time, Salvator was considered a style of beer; like Pilsner or Porter.  Some 40 years later, the Paulaner Brewery in Munich would trademark the Salvator name. But prior to that, dozens if not hundreds of breweries made a Salvator beer. The little Busch Brewery in Oshkosh was among them.

Fischer and Kaehler released their Salvator at the brewery on May 1, 1858. They announced its coming in the Oshkosh Deutsche Zeitung newspaper. Here’s their ad with a translation following it.



Salvator Bier
“Oshkosh’s beer-thirsty souls
Will soon rejoice
That above Bacchus’ majesty
Gambrinus reigns supreme!

This famous Salvator Beer, which was
brewed on the coldest day of this
winter, has now finished its lagering
period and is to be tapped at our
brewery on the coming Saturday
evening, the 1st of May.

We invite all Oshkoshers to visit us on
Saturday and the following days in our
Busch Brewery, and we promise to give them
a pleasure like never before.
Come, come all to
Fischer and K√∂hler.”

The Busch Brewery's Salvator would have been quite unlike the Salvator you find on grocery store shelves today. The Salvators of old began with a concentrated wort that was fermented in a manner that left plenty of residual sugar in the finished beer. It was sometimes referred to as "liquid bread." The beer was moderately strong and especially hearty; perfect for ushering out the remaining cold days of winter.

Jody Cleveland, head brewer at Bare Bones, and I knew we were taking a shot in the dark when we decided to try to replicate this one. The Busch Brewery had lasted just a couple of years. No brewing logs from it are known to have survived. But we did have a fair amount of information on how this type of beer was being brewed in 1858. We coupled that with known tendencies of Oshkosh brewers during the era that Fischer and Kaehler worked here. I'm pleased to say, the beer turned out just as we expected. You probably haven't had a lager like this one before.

Here's a look under the hood: We started with a blend of malts that included Wisconsin Munich and 6-row to emulate the sort of grist Fischer and Kaehler would have worked with. The beer was hopped with Cluster, which was almost certainly the hop of choice at the Busch Brewery. The original gravity was 1.074 (or 18 plato). The finishing gravity was 1.025 (or 6.3 plato). The result is a 6.4% ABV beer with an apparent attenuation of just 65%. Hat tip to Jody Cleveland for hitting that mark. An attenuation level like that one is tricky to obtain using modern ingredients and equipment. But it's essential if you're trying to reproduce the character of a 1800s-style Salvator.

The Busch Brewery Salvator is going to get a fairly wide release around Oshkosh in the coming days. Its first appearance will be at the Bare Bones Winter Beer Fest this Saturday, March 7. On Tuesday, March 10, a limited-edition bottle release (six-packs labeled with the 1858 advertisement seen above) will take place  at 5 pm at the Bare Bones taproom. Then on Wednesday, March 11, Jody Cleveland will be at Dublin's Irish Pub pouring Slavator from 5-7 pm as part of the Bare Bones tap take over for Oshkosh Craft Beer Week. Jody will be at Chester V's on Thursday, March 12 for another Oshkosh Craft Beer Week event starting at 6:30 pm. That event includes a wing-pairing that'll feature Salvator as part of the gustation. Meanwhile, Salvator will continue pouring at the Bare Bones taproom.

Here’s to Fischer and Kaehler. Prost!

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