Thursday, January 31, 2013

Oshkosh Beer Sampler 007: Alaskan Imperial Red Ale

A slanted and endless survey of what’s pouring in Oshkosh... tallied one beer at a time.
What: Alaskan Imperial Red Ale
Where: Festival Foods in Oshkosh where they dole out 22 oz. bottles of it for $7.99.
Why: Because if you love hops, this beer will please you to no end. The beer isn’t exclusively about hops, but what it does with its lupulin is what sets it apart. The aroma leads with hops that come off like a big gust of pineapple. As the beer warms, the malt comes up and it turns to smelling like strawberry shortcake. Mouthwise, it’s a rich, chewy ale with a dense base of malt. You’ll know immediately that it’s a big beer (8.5%), but the alcohol isn’t too overt. It begins smooth and creamy. Then the hops kick in. After that, it’s all juicy fruit and bitterness with gobs of pine, tropical fruit and sharp citrus. Makes me think of summer. A nice reminder in the dead of winter that green things are coming. If hops are your thing, add this beer to your list.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Linking Up The Local Beer Scene

Let’s cut right to it: if you’re an Oshkosher with beer on the brain, here’s a cluster of local links you ought to be aware of.

We’ll start off with tap lists. I wish all of our good-beer joints in town were doing this, but so for only O’Marro’s & Dublin’s go to the trouble of posting their beer lists online. The O’Marro’s list also includes a convenient feature that allows you sort the beers five different ways. The Dublin’s list goes deeper on specifics, giving a brief description and the ABV of what they’re serving. 

Becket’s is doing something along these lines with their Becket’s Beer Blog on Facebook. There, they post pictures of their tap handles as the new beers go on.

Also on Facebook, O'Marro's Public House Page regularly posts a “Beer DeJour” on their page where they feature something special from their list.

Let’s go back to Dublin’s for a moment. On their Youtube Page, they’ve been putting up short, tasting-notes about featured beers. New videos go up about once a week.

Even Festival Foods in Oshkosh has gotten into the act. gives a decent listing of what’s available – craft wise – at the Oshkosh store. It’s limited by the distributor, but it gives you a good idea of what you’ll find on the shelf in their craft-beer section.

If you're shopping for packaged beer, check out Punch in your zip code and how far you’re willing to travel and it’ll spit back a list of beers that are on sale within your area.

If you’re not already sick of reading my shit, the Oshkosh Beer Garden, my monthly column for the Oshkosh SCENE, can be found at the Food & Dining section of their web page.

Then there’s the homebrewers. Here’s the woefully out of date Society of Oshkosh Brewers web page. That’s all right, this thing is being overhauled as I type. Give it another look in a few weeks.

Nutrition Discount Center’s plan to expand their homebrew offerings has yet to pan out. I talked to Jon at NDC yesterday and he says he’s got the stuff, but finding the time to get it inventoried and on the shelf has been a problem. He tells me he has a ton of new hops, yeast and specialty grains that will soon be ready for. In the meantime, NDC has some incredible deals on 50# bags of Briess Malt.  As the new stock becomes available, this next link ought to become increasingly valuable. NDC’s Brew Nation Daily Deal is a printable coupon for homebrewing and wine making supplies. It changes daily and it’s worth a click now and then if you’re looking for a deal on brewing supplies.

One last batch: A number of local homebrewers have started up Facebook pages for their home breweries. These will give you an idea of what some of these folks are up to. Here are a few of them:

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Rusty Red & the Breweries of Oshkosh at O’Marro’s Public House

Our Secret
Our moment is at hand, the most spectacular beer event ever to occur between 7-10 p.m. tomorrow night!!!! How’s that for empty bluster? Anyway, if you have nothing doing on Thursday evening (January 24), drop in at O’Marro’s Public House and have a beer with me. O’so Brewing will be there to tap a fresh keg of their Rusty Red on nitro and I’ll be hanging around hawking books as I soak up beer. If you already have a copy of The Breweries of Oshkosh, bring it in and I’ll gladly lessen it’s value with my signature (I’ve graduated from crayons and can use a real pen now!). Here’s a special offer to anybody who buys a book tomorrow night: after you purchase the book, whisper the secret word to me and I’ll buy you a pint of Rusty Red Nitro or tap beer of your choice. Our secret word is: W├╝rtzer - don’t worry, no funny accents required. Check out the O’so Rusty Red Nitro & Oshkosh Breweries Signing event page on Facebook. See you Thursday.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Mid-Winter Hop Therapy

Here’s a great video that popped up a few days ago about hop growing in Wisconsin and Bavaria. It’s produced by Wisconsin Foodie and was broadcast last week on Wisconsin Public Television. James Altwies of Gorst Valley Hop farms gives a tour of his operation and then they follow Dan Carey of New Glarus to Bavaria to watch him select hops. It’s fascinating stuff and all that lush greenery makes for a welcome break from the frigid world howling outside your window. Hey, the hop season isn’t all that far off. If you’re not already doing it, this just might inspire to start growing your own. Big thanks to Al Jacobson for pointing me towards the video.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Beer Ads in Oshkosh No. 6: Oshkosh Root Beer; Can You Believe This Shit?

Seeing as yesterday was the anniversary of the 18th Amendment going into effect, I thought I ought to observe that sour date in some ugly way. So, here’s a seemingly pleasant little ad from July 1920 that ought to sicken any self-respecting Oshkosh beer lover. And here’s why: when the 18th Amendment debuted on January 16, 1920, The epic mistake of Prohibition became part of the U.S. Constitution. Think about that. This garbage was actually written into our Constitution. The result was a mosaic of large-scale problems and an endless stream on minor insults such as the one below. Here we have the Oshkosh Brewing Company resorting to root beer. The text of this ad delusional. The first paragraph is so poorly written and nonsensical you can tell that the poor guy forced to type it up hated every last key stroke (click the image, if you dare to read it). And I don’t want to know what the laughing fat man with his dainty glass is so happy about. He’s a pervert of some kind, I’m sure of it. In a better world the banner at the top of the ad would have read OSHKOSH ROOT BEER, CAN YOU BELIEVE THIS SHIT?

From the Oshkosh Daily Northwestern July 1, 1920

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Oshkosh Beer Sampler 006: Oshkosh Homebrewer Jody Cleveland Takes on Samuel Smith’s Organic Chocolate Stout

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

Our guest blogger today is Oshkosher Jody Cleveland, one of the best homebrewers I know. Jody’s the guy who turned me onto this fantastic beer, so he’s going to take the reins and tell us what it’s all about. Take it away, Jody!

What: Samuel Smith’s Organic Chocolate Stout

Where: Festival Foods in Oshkosh. $10.49 for a 4-pack

Why: Chocolate. You notice it the instant the cap is off. This beer smells like a candy bar, and you know you’re in for something special. Poured into the glass, it’s nice and dark, with a creamy head that dissipates quickly. I served this beer from the refrigerator. Initially, I tasted chocolate, but the beer itself seemed a bit thin. This is a beer that is definitely better served at warmer temperatures (I have since moved the bottles I have from the fridge to the cellar). At about 55 degrees, the beer just shines. Minus a few exceptions, I’m not a huge fan of stouts. Most I’ve tried are extremely roasty, and have strong notes of coffee. Not for me. The beauty of what Samuel Smith’s has done here is take an excellent stout, and marry it with some chocolate, to the point that everything just blends together. And, that’s the greatest thing about it. Everything is balanced perfectly. I’ve never bought the argument, “I don’t like dark beers” (dark is a color, not a flavor). But for people who don’t tend to like darker beers, this may well win them over. If you’re in the mood for a refreshing beer after a long day, this may not be the best choice. But if you are looking for dessert in a glass, look no further than Samuel Smith’s Organic Chocolate Stout.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Oshkosh Beer Sampler 005: Central Waters Bourbon Barrel Stout

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

What: Central Waters Brewers Reserve Bourbon Barrel Stout. An Imperial Stout aged in bourbon barrels.

Where: Festival Foods in Oshkosh; 4-packs are $12.99

Why: Because this is a great beer. Simple as that. And this year’s brew is a notch above previous vintages (shit, I’m going to get all winey over this). What jumped out at me was how fully integrated the bourbon character is with the rich malt flavors; quite a bit more so than in the past. No doubt, this is still a boozy beer, but the bourbon doesn’t over-impose. Instead it mingles among all the lush, deep malt tones. Vanilla, coconut, chocolate, caramel... almost like drinking chocolate bourbon balls. Take it out of the refrigerator a good 15 minutes before you uncap it, then give it a rough pour into a snifter. You’ll be good to go for about a half hour. This is a sipper that'll pay back every ounce of attention you give it. As always with this beer, supplies are limited, so you’ll want to get a jump on this one.

Update: Festy in Oshkosh is running low... They took the beer off the shelf and are keeping it in back. If you want a 4-pack, you have to ask for it at the liquor department checkout.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Festival Foods in Oshkosh Gets its Beer On

Here’s a welcome surprise: yesterday morning I walked into the liquor bin at Festival Foods in Oshkosh to find them tearing the beer department apart. Three guys were going through the “specialty” beer aisle and pulling out the stock in preparation for a new beer mix. Things were in disarray when I was there, but I was able to sift through the stacks waiting to be shelved and found a lot there that hasn’t previously been sold in Oshkosh on the retail side. Among the new arrivals are Weyerbacher’s Quad, Clown Shoes’ Tramp Stamp, North Coast’s Brother Thelonious, Samuel Smith's brand-spanking-new Organic Chocolate Stout, and the black king of the new recruits – Central Waters’ Brewer's Reserve Bourbon Barrel Stout. I’m getting half loaded just typing those names. And that’s just the start. What it boils down to is lotsa new beer with an emphasis on Belgian(Esque) brews, boozy bombers and premium four-packery. Sounds like fun to me. Plenty of us have been squawking about the lowly state of the retail beer trade here in Oshkosh. Looks like some of that bitching may have paid off.

Addendum: I went back to Festival today (Friday, January 10, 2013) and was disappointed by the final results. Most of the new beer they’ve introduced is sitting in the warming area of their “Specialty Beer” ghetto. Meanwhile, a few feet away sit boxes of Corona chilling in the cooler. I suppose they’re serving their core audience.... and that ain’t us.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Winter Beer Calendar

Take a look at the sidebar to your lower left and you’ll see that our winter beer calendar is filling in nicely. We have three good mini-fests and two full-on beer festivals that will take us up to spring. Get your calendar ready, here’s a quick rundown of what’s in store.

• The first of the winter bunch arrives this Friday, January 11, at Dublin’s Irish Pub where New Glarus Brewing will stage a tap takeover from 6-8 p.m. This one is easy. Show up and drink a slew of brews that make the rest of the nation envious.

• O’so Brewing will hold forth on Thursday, January 24 at O’Marro’s Public House from 7-10 p.m. O’so maven Mike Champion will be on hand doling out all kinds of O’so suds. There’s even going to be some strange guy there wearing a Chief Oshkosh shirt selling and signing copies of a book he recently co-authored. The less said about him, the better.

• Saturday, February 2, from 5-9 p.m. is the Fourth Annual Fond du Lac BrewFest at the Fond du Lac Fair Grounds. I’ve always liked this festival. They tend to get quite a few brewpubs pouring, meaning you tend to get quite a few brews you haven’t had the opportunity to sample before. Better yet, this year the Fondy homebrew club, The Central Wisconsin Vintners & Brewers, will be on hand pouring an enormous selection of homebrew and wine. In years past, the organizers have run a bus down to Fondy from Oshkosh, but as of yet, there’s nothing lined up. If that changes, I’ll update it here. In Oshkosh, you can get tix for the fest ($30 in advance) at O’Marro’s Public House. Here’s a LINK with all the info.

• Barley & Hops is where you’ll want to be on Wednesday, February 6. Nate at Barley’s will open the next chapter in his Wisconsin Beer Sampling Series; this time the feature brewery is Central Waters. I’ve said it before, but this remains the single best beer deal in town. In addition to all the Central Waters beer there’s always a bunch of other unique brews, wines and booze to sample. Whether you pay $15 in advance or $20 at the door, you can’t lose. The tasting runs from 7-10 p.m.

• And finally, the big one, the 14th annual Hops & Props Beer and Food Tasting will take place on Saturday, March 9 from 7-10 p.m. at the AirVenture Museum. This year things are a bit bigger cost-wise as well, with tickets jumping up to $75 ($65 if you’re an EAA members). Ouch! Get more info HERE.

Not bad for winter in Wisconsin. Prost!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Oshkosh Beer Sampler 004: Point Special Lager

What: Point Special Lager

Where: Everywhere

Why: Because here we sit, spit out the ass end of the holiday season in need of a beer that’ll go easy on our overworked wallets and overwrought palates. And besides, this is a pretty good beer. In fact, this was the winner of a blind tasting we held for the January Oshkosh Beer Garden. We brought together seven retro beers that originated in Wisconsin and Point Special took the prize. None of the others were even close. It was a rout. What makes Point so Special? It’s taken me a few beers to figure it out, but I think I’ve got it: it’s the yeast. There’s dash of lager-yeast sulfur character that comes up in the aroma and flavor giving it just enough bite to keep things interesting. It’s light bodied, of course, with a mild sweetness that gets wiped away by a slight tang of bitterness in the finish. What the hell’s going on here? My craft beer brethren preach to me how beers such as this have no character. I call Bullshit on that. Point Special Lager certainly isn’t on par with something like Bells Hopslam, it’s not even the same kind of animal, but taken for what it is, this is a good beer. If you can throw away your preconceived notions and really taste it, you might be surprised what you find inside that inauspicious can. And if you’re not in the mood for all that fuss, then slam it. It’ll drink just fine that way, too. You can’t say that for Hopslam.