Sunday, January 17, 2021

In the Shadow of the Brewery...

One this day in 1927…

After Prohibition arrived in 1920, the Oshkosh Brewing Company stopped making beer. But the dry law meant nothing at the little house next door to the brewery. In the basement of that home (highlighted in yellow) there was a booze factory.

The Oshkosh Brewing Company with what is now 1650 Doty Street, Oshkosh.

The bootlegger there was named  William Van Brocklin. At the time, he was the ringleader of one of the largest moonshine operations in Oshkosh. When the police busted this place on January 17, 1927, they discovered a “huge” still and more than 100 gallons of moonshine. Van Brocklin got four months of labor at the Winnebago County Workhouse. After that, he moved to Detroit. The brewery is gone, too. But the old booze house is still standing...

A recent photo of 1650 Doty Street.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

The Story of Peoples Bock and How to Brew Your Own

We're a couple of months out from what used to be the traditional season for bock beer in Oshkosh. So now would be a good time to start brewing a bock of your own. I've got just the recipe for you.

Peoples Bock was first brewed in Oshkosh in 1913 for the 1914 bock-beer season. When Prohibition arrived in 1920, Peoples Bock went on hiatus but it came back again when 3.2% ABW beer was legalized in 1933.

The low-alcohol Peoples Bock of 1933.

Full repeal of Prohibition arrived in December of 1933. The following year, Peoples returned to brewing its full-strength Bock. The post-prohibition Peoples Bock was discontinued for a period beginning in 1941. However, the brewery brought it back again in 1959 and continued brewing it until 1967. The brewery closed in 1972.

Oshkosh Daily Northwestern; February 20, 1959.

My late friend Wilhelm Kohlhoff brewed Peoples Bock every year from 1959 onward. I first met Wilhelm in September of 2018. He was 91 years old then and still had the ability to recite from memory the recipes he had brewed at Peoples more than 50 years earlier. He loved talking about beer. And we did plenty of that as we went through the old notes that he had kept from his days working at the brewery. Wilhelm passed in May of 2019.

I was thinking of Wilhelm the other day and decided now would be a good time to share one of the recipes he gave me. This is the 1960s recipe for Peoples Bock.

Peoples Bock
Pre-Boil Gravity: 1.047
Post-Boil Gravity: 1.058
Final Gravity: 1.016
Apparent Attenuation: 67%
ABV: 5.5 - 6%
IBUs: 22
SRM: 11-12

44% American 6-Row or 2-Row Pale Malt
22% American Munich Malt (6-10º Lovibond)
8% Caramel Munich Malt (60º Lovibond)
14% Flaked Corn
12% Brown Sugar

60 Minutes Before End of Boil: American Cluster for 11 IBUs
45 Minutes Before End of Boil: German Hallertau for 6 IBUs
30 Minutes Before End of Boil: German Hallertau for 3 IBUs
15 Minutes Before End of Boil: German Hallertau for 2 IBUs

Yeast & Fermentation
Use a clean fermenting lager strain such as SafLager W-34/70.
Pitch at 50ºf and let rise to 53ºf (see the notes below if you don’t have the ability to maintain these temperatures).

A recently opened bottle of Peoples Bock that was brewed in the late 1960s.

Process and Recipe Notes
Peoples Bock was made using a cereal mash coupled with a step mash. It’s a fairly complicated process that I’ve documented here. Don’t let that put you off. This beer can be made with a simple infusion mash at 152ºf.

In the recipe here I’ve replaced the corn grits used at Peoples with flaked corn. If you're willing to go through the pain of a cereal mash, then corn grits is the way to go. If not, flaked corn works just fine.

At Peoples, they followed a standard, cold fermentation for their lagers – fermenting at about 50ºf for 14 days before cold crashing the beer to near freezing. The bock beer was typically aged for two months; sometimes longer if they could afford to tie up their tanks. Again, don't let that stop you from brewing this. I mentioned SafLager W-34/70 in the recipe because that yeast performs well into the mid-60ºf territory. That's the yeast to go for, if you don't have the ability to ferment at those colder temperatures.

I’ve brewed this recipe a couple of times now. I prefer my bocks a little bit darker, so for my most recent batch I tweaked the original recipe by adding 1% black malt to the grist to boost the color. The flavor contribution of the black malt at this percentage is negligible. The beer turned out wonderfully.

I like to think Wilhelm would approve. Prost, my friend!