Thursday, January 28, 2010

State of the Brewnion

Oshkosh Beer Scene Report #1

If you were to pick a building to represent the absolute low point for beer and brewing in Oshkosh, this would almost certainly be it. 1506-1512 South Main Street. This is where People’s Brewery, the last of the Oshkosh lager brewers, bit the dust. People’s went down in November of 1972.  A year earlier the Oshkosh Brewing Company had similarly gone dark. Here was the quick, albeit temporary, end to beer being brewed in Oshkosh.

In 1973 if you drank beer in Oshkosh it came from somewhere else. Homebrewing was illegal. Most likely, your beer of choice was thin, fizzy, pale and made with the cheapest ingredients available to the mega-brewers trucking it into town. Piss water, as they say.

Today, 1973 doesn’t seem so much like another time as it does another planet. Tonight, if you live in Oshkosh, you can walk out your door and find good, even great beer within five minutes. Most of it’s still coming from other places, but plenty of it isn’t.

The homebrewing scene here is thriving. Its cornerstone is the Society of Oshkosh Brewers (SOB), a fun club of brewers producing gallons of high-quality beer. Fratellos, the only licensed brewer in the city, is currently serving an Imperial Stout that is excellent by any measure. And I seriously doubt they’ll be the only commercial brewer for too much longer.

If what’s made in Oshkosh doesn’t suit you, you’ll have a good time exhausting your options with beers made elsewhere. Oblio’s, O’Marro’s and Peabody’s are just three of the local taverns that have outstanding beers on tap. D.B. Paddock’s bottle list is filled with great imports. Restaurants like Becket’s and Dublin’s are seriously into their beer and always have something interesting to try.

If that still isn’t good enough, you can gripe all the way to the nearest grocery store and treat yourself to a bottle of New Glarus Belgian Red. As you take it in you can rest assured that you’re the envy of throngs of beer drinkers who have never even heard of Oshkosh.

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