Friday, December 21, 2012

A Dozen Ways to Improve Your Life at Gardina's

Whether you’re dug out from yesterday’s blizzard or not, the weekend is here and that means beer. And the place to soak it up this weekend in Oshkosh is Gardina's Wine Bar & Cafe. Last week, they added six more taps, bringing their total to twelve. There’s been no drop off in quality. Each of the new lines is pouring the sort of high-end knee bucklers that’s been the Gardina’s leitmotif since they began tapping kegs last May. Here’s the inaugural flight of their dozen.
  • 3 Floyds – Gorch Fock Helles Lager
  • Clown Shoes – Tramp Stamp Belgian-Style IPA
  • Goose Island – Bourbon County Stout
  • Central Waters – Lac du Bay English-Style IPA
  • Cider Boys – Mad Bark Cinnamon-Apple Cider
  • The Bruery – 5 Golden Rings Belgian-Style Golden Ale
  • Flying Dog – Citra Single Hop Imperial IPA
  • Ommegang – Biere d'Hougoumont 
  • Founder's – Breakfast Stout 
  • Destihl – Oak-Aged Imperial Pilsner
  • Rogue – Dad's Little Helper Black IPA
  • Bell's – Oberon Wheat Ale
Where the hell do you start? If you’re an Oshkosher who loves good beer, Gardina’s needs to be on your route. Check the latest Oshkosh Beer Garden column for more on what has turned into one of the best spots for great beer in our city.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Beer Ads in Oshkosh No. 5: Here is Real Christmas Cheer

In the midst of today’s blizzard, here’s something we could all use: A bearded freak in red pajamas who cruises around town in a sleigh delivering cases of Peoples “high test” Holiday Brew.
This ad is from December 1933 (originally b/w, now colorized to enhance your ogling pleasure) and hawks the first “strong” beer Peoples had produced in 16 years.

When beer became legal again on April 7, 1933 brewers were limited to producing nothing stronger than 3.2%. With the repeal of Prohibition on December 5, 1933, the alcohol cap was doffed and Peoples was quick to take advantage of their new freedom. How strong was this “high test” beer? Can’t say for sure, but probably in the 5% range. Not exactly a towering brew by our standards, but it certainly beat the pants off that 3.2% stuff they’d been pumping out for the previous eight months.

The sands of time have blasted the type at the bottom half of this one, so I’ll save you the squinting; here’s how she reads (and check out those prices!):

The Peoples Brewing Co. Offers...
A special high test holiday beer, aged, mellow and
fine flavored.
This extra fine beer is a holiday presentation at
no extra cost. You will find no better or finer flavored
beer at any price, anywhere.
Order your holiday case now. Our delivery system
is at your service. A phone call and your Holiday Spe-
cial is delivered promptly. It is also sold at all leading
taverns throughout the valley.

Price $1.90, plus $1.00 for case of 24 bottles
Price 95c, plus 50c for case of 12 bottles

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Beer Ads in Oshkosh No. 4: Let Rahr Supply Your Xmas Beer

Click the Image For a Better View
Today’s ad is a tad happier than that ornery thing from yesterday. This 97-year-old gem appeared in the Oshkosh Daily Northwestern on December 22, 1916 and features the east-side’s favorite, Rahr Brewing Company of Oshkosh. There’s some nice, bubbly text in this one, including this:

“Can you imagine anything more pleasant than to get your family and friends together before a nice bright fire and go over old times. Everybody feels good and bubbles over with that 'Good will toward men' feeling that is so much a part of Christmas.”

Speaking of bubbles, how about adding a few bottles of Elk’s Head Beer to the mix. The Rahr’s suggest downing a case of their “old fashioned” suds to enhance your “health” and “cheer." Sounds good to me.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Beer Ads in Oshkosh No. 3: Bah! Humbug! From the Brewers of Oshkosh

Click For a Better View

I have loads of holiday-season ads for beer in Oshkosh and I’m going to try and get some of them posted here in the next few days. This one goes out to all the Scrooges. It’s a bitchy note that appeared in the Oshkosh Daily Northwestern just before Christmas, 1904. What it boils down to is the brewing community here telling its customers to go to hell. Starting January 1, 1905, they were tacking on a returnable surcharge of 50¢ for delivery of pony kegs. Better yet, starting next year they had “decided to discontinue the distribution of beer or any other articles as Christmas present.” Bah! Humbug! This collective “piss-off” was aimed directly at Oshkosh’s saloonkeepers who were having a fine time playing the breweries against one another for the best deal on beer.

And who are these irritated people? Fenn & Nachtrab, Fred Neumueller, John Sitter, and Robert Ihbe were all independent bottlers of beer in Oshkosh. The Oshkosh Brewing Company and Rahr Brewing were, of course, the two production breweries located here in 1904. Emil Thom was an agent for Schlitz. Pabst and Miller need no introduction. The inclusion of these last three is what really makes this ad interesting. It’s a rare example of the Milwaukee brewers and Oshkosh brewers working in concert. Sworn enemies united in their disdain for their customers. How’s that for a bit of the old Christmas spirit?

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Oshkosh Beer Sampler 003: Smokin’ Beers at O’Marro’s

A slanted and endless survey of what’s pouring in Oshkosh... tallied one two beers at a time.

What: Pearl Street’s Smokin’ Hemp Porter & O’so’s Bamrique Smoked Lager

Where: O'Marro's Public HOuse

Why: Beers featuring the flavor and aroma of smoked malt often seem to divide drinkers of good brew into distinct camps. You either love ‘em or hate ‘em.  Those who have had something like the Märzen rauchbier from Aecht Schlenkerla and found its meaty smokiness too aggressive, tend to get turned off from the style all together. But smoked beers don’t have to be such an either/or proposition. There are now a couple pouring on tap at O’Marro’s that you might find more inviting, if you’ve found yourself on the hate ‘em side of the smoked-beer divide.

Pearl Street’s Smokin’ Hemp Porter and O’so’s Bamrique Smoked Lager are both currently on tap at O’Marro’s. Both are gently smoked beers with the smoky notes playing nicely with the other flavors. Smokin’ Hemp Porter is a medium bodied beer that’s toasty and roasty with just enough porkiness to keep the hard-core smoke lover interested. The hemp thing in the title is from the toasted Canadian hemp seeds they throw into the mash. Nice idea, but don’t throw away that secret brownie recipe. The Bamrique Smoke lager steps up the smoke a notch, but it’s still nowhere near too much. Body wise it’s similar to Smokin’ Hemp Porter, but this one has a tasty jerky-like spiciness that I really enjoyed. This is a fine beer. These would be great beers to drink side by side and then blend them when you get to the second half of each glass. No saying how long they’ll last. Get ‘em while the smoking lamp is lit.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Oshkosh Beer Sampler 002: New Glarus Apple Ale and the Return of the Hotch Pot

Hotched & Potted
A slanted and endless survey of what’s pouring in Oshkosh... tallied one beer at a time.

What: New Glarus’ Apple Ale returns to Oshkosh as a seasonal offering and it’s just begging to be adulterated.

Where: You can pick up NG's Apple Ale at a few places around town, with Festival Foods and the Pick 'n Save stores being your best bets. The spiced rum used to fortify the beer can be found almost everywhere.

Why: This is a fine beer in no need of enhancement, but hell, it’s the holiday season and getting damned cold to boot, so why not give it a boost and make the spirits a bit brighter. Now, the purists among us may cringe at what is about to come of this beer, but I can assure you, there’s a great, though mostly forgotten, tradition of mulled ale. It’s called Hotch Pot and they were drinking it in the colonies back when Jean Nicolet was paddling through here looking for a short cut to China and telling lies to Indians. Ahem. 

Here’s what you do: First, splash a jigger or two of spiced rum into a fancy glass. Now, heat your Apple Ale (we did ours in the microwave) until it’s nice and warm, but not too hot. Pour the warm Apple Ale into your fancy glass and watch the fizzy, little battle that ensues when ale meets rum. Drink.

It’s good! First couple draws are a little strange, but as it settles it becomes quite nice. Like drinking an apple pie. After a cup or two of this, you’ll be just itching to go a-wassailing.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Firkin and More at Dublin’s Irish Pub

Here’s something that would be nice to see more of. This Saturday (Dec. 15) at 7 p.m. at Dublin's Irish Pub, Lakefront Brewery will tap a firkin of its Holiday Spice Lager. A firkin is essentially an almost 11-gallon barrel of unpasteurized, unfiltered beer allowed to naturally carbonate in the cask. This is Real Beer, the sort that used to be served all over Oshkosh 150 years ago – before industrialization changed the way beer was conditioned and dispensed. These days, the firkin scene has become the province of ale brewers, but they were doing it in Oshkosh with lager for decades before filtering and forced carbonation became standard in the latter half of the 1800s. This is an excellent chance to get a taste of true lager beer, with all its inherent flavors still intact. I like seeing this!

Dublin’s has quite a bit going on at the moment. Right now, they have a spate of good winter brews pouring (you can check out their current tap line-up HERE) and coming soon to the pub are a bunch of choice brews including Weyerbacher’s Quad and Southern Tier’s Jahva. These are double-digit ABV beers that’ll keep you nice and toasty as we descend into the dark season.

Then there’s this: for a couple months now, Dublin’s has been posting short videos that feature some background info and tasting notes about one of the beers they’re currently pouring. Good stuff for making you thirsty. Here’s the new one. Check out Dublin's YouTube page to subscribe to the stream.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Beer Ads in Oshkosh No. 2: Horn & Schwalm Rockin’ the Kulmbach

Here’s a deceptively simple ad for Horn & Schwalm’s Brooklyn Brewery* swiped from the 1891-1892 Wisconsin State Gazetteer. It doesn’t look like much, but what this piece lacks in flash, it makes up for in unadulterated geek allure. Here’s why: Horn & Schwalm’s ads were typically skinny on details about the beer they were pumping out. Sure, it was all lager beer, but what kind of lager beer? Well, this number adds a bit of focus to that blurry portion of the brewery’s past.

They’re saying here that they have four beers on the market. Actually, we know they produced at least one other beer during this period; a wheat beer named Edelweiss. Of the quartet listed, specifics are lacking about what constituted the brewery’s Select and Lager Beer. In all likelihood, Select was their premium brew, a pale and light-bodied lager targeted towards consumers of bottled beer. The Lager Beer would be their saloon beer, a darker and richer brew that was unpasteurized and dispensed on draught from barrels made of white oak.

The naming of the other two beers is more informative. It was common during this time for regional lager brewers to identify their various brews by place. In good, old Oshkosh, we were still pasting the names of European real estate on our beer. Nobody around here needed to have it explained to them what those names implied. When you asked for Horn & Schwalm’s Bohemian Beer you knew you’d be getting their Pilsner, a somewhat hoppy, golden lager. It might have tasted something like New Glarus’ recent seasonal Hometown Blonde. The Kulmbacher is the one that grabs me. This is the only Horn & Schwalm ad I’ve seen that mentions this beer. It would have been a dark, malty, lager (a Schwarzbier) along the lines of Mönchshof or Köstritzer... or maybe even Leinenkugel's Creamy Dark (if the brewer had a bad day). I’ll bet it was lovely. Just the thought of it makes me thirsty.

*Horn & Schwalm’s Brooklyn Brewery was established in 1866 by Leonhardt Schwalm and August Horn. Located in Oshkosh on east side of Doty, just south of 16th, the brewery merged with two other Oshkosh breweries in 1894 to form the Oshkosh Brewing Company. For the complete story of the Horn & Schwalm’s Brewery, check out The Breweries of Oshkosh. If you need a more immediate fix on the brewery, check out the Oshkosh Beer Timeline, where you’ll find links to a number of stories about the brewery.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Oshkosh Beer Sampler 001: Bourbon County Brand Stout

The start of a slanted and endless survey of what’s pouring in Oshkosh... tallied one beer at a time.

Thought I ought to kick this series of posts off with something big, so here's a dominating, beast of a beer that's huge in every respect.

What: Goose Island’s Bourbon County Brand Stout on draught. An Imperial Stout, aged in bourbon barrels that delivers a whopping 15% ABV .

Where: For a limited time at Gardina’s Wine Bar & Cafe, 448 N Main St., Oshkosh.

Why: It’s one of those rare beers that leaves you in awe. A penultimate geek brew that every beer lover ought to try at least once in his or her lifetime. It pours black as pitch with a boozy, smoky aroma. The mouth feel is thick and coating. The flavors evolve from vanilla to caramel to coffee to bourbon... and that’s just the start. Take your time with this beer. Get comfortable, sit it and let it grow warm. It’s a sipper that you can easily spend a happy hour with. But get it while you can, this beer won’t last long.

Speaking of Gardina’s, the new Oshkosh SCENE has just hit the streets. In it, you’ll find my Oshkosh Beer Garden column and this time it’s all about Adam Carlson and the incredible beer selection he’s bringing in at Gardina’s. If you haven’t checked out Gardina’s yet, you ought to remedy that; you’re missing some great beers.

Monday, December 3, 2012

O’so Takeover at Barley & Hops

Time, once again, for the best beer deal in town. Wednesday night, Barley & Hops continues its terrific beer sampling series by bringing in O’so Brewing from lovely Plover, Wis. The advance ticket price of $15 is unbeatable and will give you the opportunity to dip into some of O’so’s more obscure suds. You’d never know it by what our local retailers stock, but O’so has been turning out scads of adventurous brews lately. Check out this list at RateBeer to see what we’ve been missing. Some of these brews will almost certainly be pouring on Wednesday night. 

In addition to the beer from O’so, there’ll be about 40 other beers to try along with a good sampling of wines and spirits. No funny stuff, here, everything is included with the price of the ticket. The event runs from 7:00-10:00 p.m. and if you can’t get your tickets in advance you can get them at the door for $20. For more info, check out the Barley's Beer Sampling Facebook page HERE.

Friday, November 30, 2012

A Bunch of SOBs Cough Up their Beer Money

Thursday night, the Society of Oshkosh Brewer’s made good on another of their beery promises. The club donated the proceeds from their Casks and Caskets homebrew beer tasting to the Oshkosh Hunger Task Force. To round things up, the SOBs even kicked in a few hundred bucks of their own cash and presented the Hunger Task Force with a check for $4,000. Now if we could only get a homebrew isle at the Oshkosh Area Community Pantry! Anyway, it goes to show that when you get good brewers and good drinkers together, good thing sometimes happen.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Breweries of Oshkosh

Have a beer freak or history buff on your gift list? The Breweries of Oshkosh will hit ‘em where they live. This hardcover, full-color beauty is now available for a mere $39.95 at all the fine establishments listed below. If you’d like a signed copy (at no extra charge & with free delivery in the Oshkosh area), get in touch with me via email at

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Velvet Rooster: Putting the Cock in Cockel-Doodle-Do

With Thanksgiving in sight, our thoughts turn to the comfort of strong beer and the balm so desperately needed after a long day filled with gluttony, professional football and the taunting of blood relatives. Here’s one fer ya... Velvet Rooster, a Belgian Triple produced by Tallgrass Brewing of Manhattan, Kansas, is now available at Festival Foods in Oshkosh. It’s an easy drinking 8.5% beer, with a bit of apricot in the nose, a beautifully creamy mouthfeel and a swirl of fruity esters that finish with a good hit of peppery spice. Definitely worth a try. And it’s fun pouring a Belgian Triple out of a 16oz can. Sorta trashy, yet totally refined.

One other quick tip: if you need something that your less beer-enlightened guests can glom onto during the Thursday feast, but don’t want to resort to Bud/Miller/Coors, pick up a growler of the German Pils now on tap at Fratellos in Oshkosh. It has a terrific, bready malt character with a firm, herbal bitterness on the tail end. It reminds me a lot of some of the pre-Prohibition homebrew lagers I’ve tasted recently. A real beer that anybody ought to be able to enjoy.

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Wrong Side of Jessie Jack Hooper

Jessie Jack Hooper, 1890 
In yesterday’s Northwestern was a short article admiring Jessie Jack Hooper, the Oshkosh suffragette and peace activist who came to prominence in the early 1900s. As outlined in the story, Hooper was a progressive with a keen sense of social equality and justice. On most of the issues she held dear, Hooper landed on the right side of history. But left out of the Northwestern piece was a less savory aspect of Hooper’s activism: she was a Prohibitionist. When it came to the question of booze, Jessie Jack Hooper’s egalitarianism went out the window.

Hooper lived on Algoma Blvd., neighbor to the Paines and Sawyers, and was part of the affluent, old guard in Oshkosh. Her sworn enemies were the German-American brewers and as a nativist, she seemed to have few qualms about restricting the rights of ethnic, working-class populations. In 1922, three years into Prohibition, Hooper neatly summed up her stiff-necked views concerning Prohibition’s infringement upon individual rights saying, "People are talking about personal liberty. We know that that is a joke. There is not a person in the world who has personal liberty.” Odd words coming from the mouth of a person who had spent the previous decade fighting for a woman’s right to vote.

At first glance, it seems Hooper was absolutely blind to her own hypocrisy concerning Prohibition. In 1917, the Milwaukee Journal reported that Hooper had confronted an unnamed Congressman who opposed both Prohibition and women’s suffrage. Hooper told the Congressman that if he didn’t believe in the prohibition of alcohol, he shouldn’t believe in prohibiting women from voting. Apparently, Hooper thought the same logic didn’t apply to her own set of beliefs.

Hooper’s skewed reasoning makes slightly more sense when she explained the rationale for supporting Prohibition. “Prohibition was not passed as a moral issue, but as a straight economic issue,” Hooper said in 1922. “The men of the United States found it was too expensive to have liquor.” To her credit, Hooper was bold about exposing the hypocrisy of her fellow elites who, themselves, never intended to forgo alcohol. She ridiculed them for their flouting of a law that was intended to benefit them financially without impeding upon their own fondness for drink.

As for Hooper, she swore that she never imbibed. “I am bone dry,” Hooper said. “I am dry and will be until the end of time.” More’s the pity. Hooper, who had a habit of working herself sick may have benefited from the pleasure of a hearty beer at day’s end. For all her good works, she deserved at least that.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Beer Ads in Oshkosh No. 1

Click to Enlarge

Drink a Gallon of Beer Every Day!

Today’s ad for beer in Oshkosh comes from the November 25, 1912 edition of the Oshkosh Daily Northwestern. It was placed by the Oshkosh Brewing Company (OBC) who, at the time, was making all sorts of laughable claims for the healthful effects of their beer. Their aim was to undercut the equally ridiculous fictions of Prohibitionists who insisted that beer drinking was decadent, depraved and ought to be banned. Assholes. As brewers across the nation would soon learn, confronting a zealot with rhetoric never works. By decade’s end, the villains had won the day and beer was made illegal. But in the lead up to that tragedy there was fun stuff like this:
People who drink plenty of beer are always strong and healthy.
Prof. Dr. P. Bauer, Berlin, Germany, to demonstrate the effect of beer on health, says: "Of the 75 employees of Haase's Brewery, each of whom drinks over a gallon of beer daily, 56 have stood the rigid physical examination for enrollment in army; of the remaining 19, eight are minors, three were found too small in stature and four were rejected for defects suffered by accident."
Pure, well aged beer, like
OSHKOSH BEER is a tonic, an appetizer, and a food that is nourishing and strengthening.
Here’s to your health... Let’s celebrate the good guys: get out there and drink a gallon of beer tonight!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

It Used to be Worse

Click to Enlarge
Oshkosh Daily Northwestern
March 1956

After grousing yesterday about the sad state of our retail beer selection in Oshkosh, I started thinking about what the good beer depots here used to sell 50 years ago. In some ways, it wasn’t a pretty picture. Basically, you were offered a bumper crop of pale lager for about eight months out of the year. In spring, the Bock beers would be rolled out for a couple months and in late fall you’d get a “high-test” Holiday Beer. The upside of that limited selection was that most of the offerings were made by regional brewers who had yet to completely abandon the idea that beer ought to actually taste like something. Still, the idea of drinking pale lager 70% of the time, doesn’t hold much appeal for those of us caught up in the craft-beer swirl. 

Which nicely illustrates what freaks you and I have become. From the beginning of beer, most beer drinkers happily chugged a single, regional style of brew that they were intimately familiar with. In many, perhaps most, places it remains that way. Not here. We want variety and we’re always looking to try something we haven’t experienced before; hence the dissatisfaction with our Pick ‘n Saves and Festival Foods. Yet, there’s no denying that these places offer more than Bob Thiessen ever dreamed of stocking in 1956 over at the corner of Bowen and Waugoo. Look at his ad, 25 brands of beer and – with the exception of a couple light ales – each of them are pale American lagers. I wouldn’t mind going back in time and checking his stuff out, but I don’t think I’d want to hang around for long. I’m thankful to have more options than they did in 1956. That doesn’t keep me from thinking, though, that things in Oshkosh could be a hell of a lot better.

Monday, November 12, 2012

A Better Place to Buy Packaged Beer

Festival Foods Neenah
If you regularly travel north out of Oshkosh on Highway 41, you’ve probably already noticed the new Festival Foods being built in Neenah. It’s just off the highway at 647 S. Green Bay Road. The store opened on Friday and it’s now the best spot for buying packaged beer within 20 minutes of Oshkosh. They have a nice selection of craft and imported beer and they treat all of it well. It’s not as if this place could compete with Discount Liquors in Milwaukee, but it’s certainly on par with Woodman’s or Flanagan's in Appleton. And if your in Oshkosh, it’s just close enough and the selection is just good enough to make it worth the trip. You’ll find plenty at the Neenah store that can’t get your hands on in Oshkosh. I’ve been buying most of my packaged beer at the Festival here in Oshkosh, but that’s going to change. 

It kind of pains me to say that. You’d think our locals would have gotten wise by now to what’s going on in the world of beer. They haven’t. Our retail selection in Oshkosh remains mediocre at best. In fact, I’d say it’s even a bit worse than it was two years ago. The Pick n’ Save stores are a joke and Festival in Oshkosh has drifted back to giving a good portion of their craft section over to packs of Corona Light and beers of that ilk. Meanwhile, they continue to place their higher-end beers in their specialty-beer ghetto where it sits warm, slowly baking under fluorescent lights and rapidly degenerating. Sorry, but if you’re willing to treat unpasteurized, bottle-conditioned beer that way, you either don’t care or you don’t know what you’re doing. 

It’s odd that things haven’t picked up here on the retail side. If you look at the explosion of craft-beer taps that have come to Oshkosh within the past year (and there’s more on the way), it’s obvious that this city would support a better selection if it were offered. Until that happens, I’ll load-up in Neenah.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Oshkosh Beer Garden - The Bars of Robert Brand & Son

The new Oshkosh SCENE has hit the streets and in it you’ll find my Oshkosh Beer Garden article about the bars of Robert Brand And Son. You can also read it on the web HERE. Space being limited, I wasn’t able to include pictures of the old Brand bars, so I thought I’d post a few of them here. These were taken from a catalog the company published around 1910. The first image shows a drawing of the Brand and Son Factory at the southwest corner of Ceape and Court. It had previously been home to the Oshkosh Furniture Company, but after Brand’s factory across the street on Ceape burned down in 1908, they moved into the buildings shown here. Following that are a few of Brand and Son’s striking bars. Notice that first one, The Grant. If you’d like to see what it looks like in person, head over to Bob’s Trails End. The Grant at Bob’s still looks terrific. As always, click on any of the images below to get a better look.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Serendipity NOW!

Here’s a beer that’s been making a lot of noise and it’s finally arrived in Oshkosh. New Glarus’ Serendipity is a sour ale brewed with apples, cranberries and cherries; fermented with wild yeast and aged in oak. The brewery calls it a happy accident that resulted from this year’s failed cherry crop. Speaking of accidents, the geeks at RateBeer have been soiling themselves over Serendipity for weeks now (See that HERE). Now it’s your chance to get all damp with appreciation. Festival Foods in Oshkosh started out the day with just 20 bombers of the stuff. They lost the first one to me. If you don’t see it sitting on the shelf, let them know you want it and they’ll set you up. Pucker up, Oshkosh!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The SOBs Incredible Festival

Saturday night, Oshkosh had the best beer tasting I’ve been to in a long time. The Society of Oshkosh Brewer’s Cask & Caskets festival in the Atrium at Becket’s featured more than 70 beers, wines, meads and ciders; all of it made by area homebrewers. It was also a historic event. This was the first beer festival in Wisconsin to feature nothing but home-made libations. That’s what made this so different. Most beer fests are little more than schwills where people get bombed on the same brews available to them at their beer depot every day of the week. Most take little away from the night, but a hangover. Nothing wrong with that, I guess, but it gets tedious after you’ve stumbled through a few of them.

Casks and Caskets was nothing like that. Each beer served was something the drinkers had never tasted before. It was a unique opportunity to try things that are truly different. A woman I talked to after the event told me it was the first beer fest she’d attended where every beer she sampled tasted good. That’s the thing about homebrewed beer. When it’s done really well, there’s nothing like the fresh, hand-crafted quality of homemade beer. And the response to those beers on Saturday night was phenomenal. I’ve never been to a sampling where I’ve seen so many people take such an active interest in what they were drinking. Because the people who made the beer were there pouring it, the give and take between the brewers and drinkers was ceaseless. It was an amazing thing to see. It was what a beer festival ought to be.

The proceeds from Casks and Caskets will go to Oshkosh food pantries. The SOBs deserve recognition for the enormous amount of time, not to mention beer, they donated to make all of this happen. Let’s hope it’s just the first of many such beer tastings here. Saturday night was a great night to be a beer drinker in Oshkosh.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A Few Good Reasons Why Beer Lovers Should Attend Casks & Caskets

OK, so you’re into the beer thing and you’ve belched your way through more tastings than you care to remember. Time to perk up. You’ve never been to a beer event like this one. On Saturday, November 3, the Society Of Oshkosh Brewers (SOBs) will be hosting a beer tasting that’ll be like nothing Oshkosh, or for that matter Wisconsin, has seen before. Casks & Caskets will be the first tasting in the state composed entirely of homemade beer, wine, cider and mead.

Now, if that’s enough to pique your interest, go HERE for all the details about times, tickets and such. If you still need convincing, here are a few reasons why you should hit this one.

It’s a chance to try something really new.
Let’s face it, at most tastings what you tend to get is a glut of beer you’re already thoroughly familiar with. That won’t happen at Casks & Caskets. Every beer you’re poured will be a beer you have never tasted before. Same goes for all the wine, mead and cider on the docket. And you won’t be served by clueless attendants sloshing out tasters of whatever suds they’re told to. These beers will be poured by the Oshkosh area brewers who made them; a bunch of genial geeks who would love nothing more than to tell you every last thing about what’s in your cup.

It’s the first beer event of its kind.
Four months ago this kind of thing would have been strictly illegal. But when the revised homebrew law went into effect this past July, it opened the doors to homebrewers toting their potables out of their cellars and into the streets. Casks & Caskets will be the first such tasting under the new law. In the annals of Wisconsin beer, this is going to be an historic event. You’ll be able to say you were there.

It’ll be a good time for a good cause.
Unlike most charity tastings, the folks making the beer and wine are donating every last drop of it. That means ALL of the proceeds will go directly to charity, which in this case will be the Oshkosh Food Pantries. The next morning when you wake up feeling lousy, you can comfort yourself with the reminder that you’ve done a good thing.

Still not interested? How about this: If you’ve never tasted well-made homebrew before, you’re in for a surprise. This isn’t like the stuff your crazy uncle used to make in the basement. These brews are being made by experienced, Oshkosh-area brewers who spend an unhealthy amount of time fixating on the quality and flavor of their product. Aside from being the freshest beer you’re ever likely to taste, it will also be some of the most unique. These folks don’t worry about producing a product the masses can immediately grasp. They’re into creating one-of-a-kind beers, meads, wines and ciders that emphasize flavor and originality. Believe me, you’ve never tasted anything like what’ll be pouring at Casks & Caskets. And if you miss it, you may never get the chance to try anything like them again.

Check out the Facebook page HERE.
Info concerning times, tickets and everything else is HERE.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Ale Asylum Lands in Oshkosh

If punchy, hop-forward American Craft Beer is your cup of meat, then Thursday night (as in October 18, 2012) ought to find your bulk planted at Oblio’s, where Ale Asylum will be pouring for all it’s worth. Based out of Madison, Ale Asylum is the sixth largest (and fastest growing) craft brewery in the state. They’ve just moved into a new 45,000 bbl capacity brewery and expanded their distribution beyond the Milwaukee/Madison area, which has been soaking up most of their efforts for the past six years.

The Oshkosh tasting will run at Oblio’s from 9-11 pm. It’s free and I’m sure if you ask nicely they’ll oblige you with all sorts of gratis samples. What have you got to lose... other than your sobriety?

For more info on the Ale Asylum plan for world domination, go HERE.
Go HERE, if you want to get your drool on for some of what they'll be dousing the crowd with at Oblio's.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Beers, Barley's & Oktoberfest

Once again, we have another tasty week of beer drinking ahead of us in Oshkosh. The weekend starts at 7 p.m. Wednesday, October 3 at Barley & Hops, where a new season of Barley’s Beer Sampling Series will kick off. This time, Milwaukee’s Lakefront Brewery will be in the spotlight. They’ll be pouring the full Lakefront line-up; including a slew of Lakefront beers that we’re deprived of in Oshkosh thanks to the caprices of our local retailers and distributors. Seriously, our beer selection on the retail side of things is becoming more dismal by the day. I’ll save that rant for another day... The Barley’s sampling will also feature Lienenkugel’s Big Eddie series, which has turned out to be surprisingly good. There’ll also be a host of other beers, spirits and wines to taste to your heart’s content. For $15 in advance ($20 at the door), this is a fine way to try out a swatch of new brews you’ll have a hard time sourcing locally. For more info, check out the event's Facebook page.

After you’ve recovered from Barley’s, you can dive back into the suds at the Third Annual Oshkosh Oktoberfest, on Saturday, October 6 at the Leach Amphitheater. This year, the event is free. Of course, there’ll be all manner of excellent Oktoberfestbier flowing in addition to a 2K Bier Run, a barrel rolling contests, a fraulein carrying contests, lots of music, excellent German food and a bucket of other Okto-Fest amusements. And I’ll be there with German Bier tastings throughout the day where I’ll be pouring and talking about German beer styles. I’m looking forward to that in a big way. The day’s full rundown can be seen HERE. And don’t forget, it’s free! Prost!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Farmer’s Market & Farmhouse Beer

I’ll get to that pretty thing there on the left in a moment, but before I do... If the Downtown Oshkosh Farmer’s Market is going to be part of your Saturday, stop by and say hello. Ron Akin and I will have a table where we’ll be hawking our book, The Breweries of Oshkosh,  and talking to anyone willing to listen to us babble about beer, brewing and their history in our fine city.

Speaking of the weekend, you may want to include THIS in your plans. There's three of them at Festival.

Now about that beer. It’s New Holland’s Farmhouse Hatter, a Belgian IPA and it’s on tap right now at Dublin’s. I had one yesterday and loved it. And, as a rule, I find Belgian IPAs disgusting. This one isn’t. It’s beautifully integrated with plenty of everything and not too much of anything. It brings a wealth of flavor, for such a mild beer (5% ABV). HERE’s what the geeks at Rate Beer are saying. Disregard the haters; they’re wrong.

One last thing: Over on the lower left, you’ll see the What's Brewing header. I’ll try to keep this updated on a timely basis. If you have anything you’d like to share or have added, drop it in the comments section of this post or send an email. This fall’s drinking is looking good!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

It's Beer vs. Wine Tonight at Fratellos in Oshkosh

Tonight, Tuesday, September 25th at 6:30 pm, Fratellos in Oshkosh is hosting a battle between the grape the hop. They’re having a four-course meal where guests will be asked to judge whether a selected beer or wine pairs best with what’s on their plate. Here’s the fight card:

Round 1
Quartz White Blend vs The Chief Beer
Panzanella Salad 

Round 2
Votre Santé Pinot Noir vs Fox for the Hounds Pale Ale
Salmon Rillettes 

Round 3
Chateau St. Jean Red Blend vs Caber Tossing Scottish Ale
Seared tenderloin with Chèvre gnocchi

Round 4
Coppola Pink Moscato vs Trolleycar Stout
Espresso Crème Brûlée 

Check out Round 1, there, with “The Chief” standing proud! I think you know which one I’m pulling for.The whole deal is just $25 per person.  For reservations call 920.232.2337. 

Monday, September 24, 2012

Still Going Strong

In 1956, the Oshkosh Brewing Company threw a big party at the brewery to celebrate its 90th anniversary. On Saturday – 56 years later – we in Oshkosh had another big party that was all about Oshkosh beer. This time, the party was at Fratellos where we gathered to celebrate our city’s beer brewing heritage. And we were drinking the same brew that was served at the OBC party back in 1956. It was an incredible day and I’d like to thank everybody who came out to make it such a complete success.

One last thing about the 1956 party: The Monday following the party, OBC placed an ad in the Northwestern thanking all of their visitors and well-wishers. The message was simple and heartfelt and captures the close relationship that existed between this brewery and the people of Oshkosh. It shows the open doors of the garage where the party was held with the caption, "through these doors have passed the nicest people in the world." I know just how they felt.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

An Event More Than 160 Years In The Making!

Well, here we go... The Breweries of Oshkosh lands on Saturday, September 22 at 1 p.m. at Fratellos, here in Oshkosh. And thanks to the fine folks at Fratellos and Fox River Brewing, we’re going to have the perfect beer and book pairing. Here’s a rare opportunity to get a taste of a classic Oshkosh beer. Hope to see you then!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Coming Soon: The Breweries of Oshkosh

So, what have I been up to while the blog lay fallow? A book. The Breweries of Oshkosh; Their Rise and Fall by Ron Akin & Lee Reiherzer is 160 pages of beer-soaked Oshkosh history. It tells the complete story of beer and brewing in Oshkosh from 1849 to the present and includes more than 400 illustrations. It’s hard covered and full color and it’ll be available in mid-September. 

I’ll soon be posting all the details concerning how and where to pick up a copy. Stay tuned, there’ll be more Oshkosh Beer blogging to come!