Monday, September 13, 2010

The New Beer at the Old Town

If you were a beer enthusiast living in Oshkosh in 1965 you were in a tough spot. It’s impossible to overstate just how uniform and banal the beer in Oshkosh was at that time. There were no pale ales, no IPAs, no wheats, no stouts, no porters. There was nothing amber, brown or black. Unless you possessed an unquenchable thirst for adjunct-laden, pale, American lager, you were you out of luck.

That’s a far cry from the state of things today and it begs the question, when did the beer in Oshkosh begin to change for the better? The harbinger of what would be a long, slow evolution occurred in August of 1966 with the opening of the Old Town Pub and Restaurant. The Old Town, at 1013 North Main Street, was the first establishment in Oshkosh that tried appealing to people who craved something more substantial than fizzy, light lager. The pub featured 16 different imported beers and a brew-pub style menu and when it opened for business there was nothing remotely like it in Oshkosh. In fact, there wasn’t another spot in the city - be it a tavern or liquor store - that promoted their beer based on quality. It was all about quantity and price.

The Old Town came in at a time when the Oshkosh beer scene was at one of its lowest points. Rahr Brewing had gone under and both Peoples and Oshkosh Brewing had been demoted to second tier status and selling their beer at prices well under those offered by the heavily promoted national brands such as Budweiser, Pabst and Schlitz. In addition, the aftershock of Prohibition was in full force. The drinkers who were coming of age in 1966 were the first generation whose parents had been born during the dry years. The beer culture that had been the birth-right of generations of Oshkosh residents had been effectively wiped away.

Considering the atmosphere it was trying to do business in, it's not surprising that The Old Town lasted just six years. The pub closed in 1972 and the building that had been constructed for it was converted into a dentist's office. You can still see it today on the west side of North Main Street between Melvin and Prospect. These days it's the dental office of Dr. Vin Vu and the facade offers not a clue that this was once the place to be if you were on the hunt for good beer in Oshkosh.


  1. I think it was a Pub AND dental office for a few months.... just get a shot and then have your teeth drilled.

  2. Haw! But really, what a terrible thing to have happen to a pub. A dentist's office? Is nothing sacred?

  3. I believe the original B & B, when owned by Smitty & Doc, had over 60 imported beers, Stouts, porters , IPAs, and others. If you could drink one of each in an evening, you could get them for free. Nobody did.