Thursday, February 28, 2013

A Big Beer with Gabe Streich

Here’s one of those pictures (courtesy of our museum; as if you can’t tell) that ought to be hanging in some old Oshkosh bar. We’ll get to that glutton goblet of dark suds in a moment, but first let me introduce the hearty gent making ready to commune with it. This is Gabriel Streich and he’s out for a good time on the river sometime around 1912. Gabe has got everything he needs for a little fun: his beer, his fishing pole and his boat Irma there behind him.

Streich was born in Prussia in 1846 and arrived in Oshkosh when he was about nine-years old. During the period when this shot was taken, he operated a wagon works and blacksmith shop at the southwest corner of 6th and Oregon and among the heavy carts he made were beer wagons for the brewers of Oshkosh. Our man Gabe was a friend of beer.

Now, about that beer. Aside from its heroic proportion and rich hue, what do we know about it? Almost nothing. But if I had to venture a guess, I’d say there’s a good chance it was poured from a keg (probably just out of camera’s range) of the Oshkosh Brewing Company’s Stock Lager. It was a dark, German-style lager packaged in wooden kegs and sold primarily to saloons and to people throwing keg parties. The reason I think he may have been drinking that beer, aside from the size – which indicates a keg pour – and the color, is because Gabe Streich had a long association with the folks behind the Oshkosh Brewing Company. In fact, the Streich family was related to the Horn family through marriage; the Horn’s being one of the founding families of OBC.

Of course, we’ll never really know exactly what’s filling his magnificent schooner, but thinking about it makes me thirst for the sort of brew he’s toasting us with. Capital Dark is easy to get around town and it’s probably not too far off from the beer Gabe was guzzling that day on the deck. Next time you have a Dark, you might want to raise a toast to our old friend Gabe.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A 1956 Tour of the Oshkosh Brewing Company

I've posted this before, but following last night's presentation at the Library, thought there might be a few more people who'd like to see this quick tour of the Oshkosh Brewing Company from 1956. It was a banner year for OBC. In May, the company invited the entire city of Oshkosh to the brewery for a huge party to celebrate their 90th anniversary of brewing beer. They also produced more beer in 1956 than in any year previous. Here's what things were like at OBC as the brewery was nearing its peak:

Monday, February 18, 2013

Free Beer Next Monday at the Library

OK, so that title is an utter lie. There will be no free beer given away at the library next Monday. But there will be a whole lot of free talk going around about beer and the history of brewing in Oshkosh. Monday February 25, at 6:30 p.m. in the lower level meeting rooms A-B of the Oshkosh Public Library, I’ll be giving a sudsy overview of Oshkosh’s incredible history of beer making. I’ll be covering everything from pre-civil war brewing in Oshkosh up through today’s craft and homebrewing scenes in our city. Ron Akin will also be on hand displaying pieces from his unrivaled collection of Oshkosh breweriana. Ron and I will also have copies of our book, The Breweries of Oshkosh, available for sale and signing. The talk is free and open to the public and it’s going to be good time. It’s all about Oshkosh beer, how can it not be!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Oshkosh Beer Sampler 009: Vader’s Imperial Stout

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

What: Vader’s Imperial Stout from Fox River Brewing Company.

Where: Fratellos in Oshkosh on tap, in bottles and for sale in growlers.

Why: Because a good imperial stout is just the thing to make you feel better in the midst of this bleak season. Vader’s has been going on tap at Fratellos each winter for years now and this edition is excellent. It pours pitch black with a frothy brown head. The aroma is close to that of chocolate liqueur. Chocolate also dominates the flavor. I don’t recall the beer being this chocolaty in the past, but the creamy richness of it works beautifully with the underpinning of roasted malt that anchors the beer. It finishes with a surprising amount of bitterness, keeping the beer’s richness in check. Full bodied and warming, Vader’s is a terrific strong ale for February.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Oshkosh Beer Sampler 008: Oude Gueuze Tilquin

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

What: Oude Gueuze Tilquin à L'Ancienne, in caged and corked 12 oz. bottles.

Where: At the new bottle shop within Gardina's Wine Bar and Cafe, 448 N. Main St., Oshkosh.

Why: Because this beer fantastic! And aside from that, this is the first chance any of us have had to buy a bottle of authentic Gueuze from a retail outlet in Oshkosh. We’re witnessing one of those pivotal events in Oshkosh beer history that you’ll one day be croaking about as you bore the unenlightened to death.

Really, though, if you love good beer this is great to see. Adam Carlson has been steadily ramping up the beer side of things at Gardina’s and he’s just added a shelf of craft and premium import beer to the store that occupies the back half of the building. At this point the selection is modest, but what is there is composed almost entirely of brews we haven’t been able to purchase in Oshkosh. Currently in stock are beers from Nøgne ø, Mikkeller, Hoppin’ Frog and The Bruery among others. Everything there is intense. Especially this one.

If you’re not familiar with the style, Gueuze is a Belgian style of beer made from the blending of one, two and three year-old Lambics (ales fermented with wild yeast that lend the beer a distinctly sour, acetic flavor). They’re difficult to find and Tilquin’s is among the best. In the glass, it’s hazy and dark gold with a musty, earthy aroma somewhat like apple cider vinegar. The flavor is sharply sour, in a puckering apple and pear sort of way, with a lingering tang that approximates bitterness. It’s not for everybody, but if your palate veers towards the sour side, you might love it.

Gardina’s is selling bottles of Tilquin for $9.99; not cheap, but a couple bucks less than I’ve seen them in Milwaukee and definitely worth it when your in the mood for something extraordinarily different.

Monday, February 4, 2013

See You Wednesday Night at Barley & Hops

The Barley & Hops Beer Sampling Series rolls on Wednesday night (Feb. 6) with the pride of Amherst, Central Waters Brewing, taking center stage. In addition to the Central Waters arsenal, the beers of New Orleans’ Abita Brewing will be featured (Mardis Gras is almost here), along with a healthy compliment of other craft brews, wines and boozes. And as if that weren’t enough, there’ll be a couple of homebrews available; beers so secret I’m not allowed to mention their names here (but I’ll give you a big hint: both of them have a long history of being brewed and served in Oshkosh). As Barley’s owner Nat Stiefvater says, “I don’t care how big of a beer geek you are, there’s always going to be something here that you haven’t tried before.” Damn right there will be!

The sampling runs from 7-10 p.m. Tickets are $15, if you pick them up at Barley’s before the event or $20 at the door. You’ll find me there wearing a Chief Oshkosh shirt (another homebrew hint), so stop by and say hello. If you need more info, check out the Facebook page. Also, check out the February edition of the Oshkosh SCENE for the full story of Barley & Hops and the man behind the bar.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Beer Ads in Oshkosh No. 7: Cheer Up!

Here's a happy little article. It’s an ad for the Oshkosh Brewing Company that appeared in the Oshkosh Daily Northwestern 100 years ago on February 3, 1913. Beer ads then, just as they are now, were often rife with bullshit. The bullshit of 1913 may have been more artfully worded than most of the grunting junk we get these days, but it was bullshit all the same. And though this one isn’t entirely devoid of dung, it leads with a kernel of essential truth that sets it apart from the standard tripe. Here we see a beatdown sap being consoled by a comrade in white who burps up a piece of beery good sense.
    Aren't most of those troubles
that weigh upon your mind
imaginary ones? Even though
they be real, time will oblit-
erate them.
    The American people, over-
worked and high-strung, are
given to worrying over lIttle
things. Cheer up. Banish care.
Drink Oshkosh Beer
Yes, indeed, “Banish care” with a few deep snorts of Oshkosh Beer. How’s that for a smart retort to the malaise of modern living? Sounds as a good as any advice I’ve been offered lately. They should have ended it there and threw in a mug of beer or something to fill up the space. Instead, they cut loose with a few laughable whoppers.
      It tones up and invigorates
and helps one to look upon the
bright side of life. It brings
health, and health is the foun-
dation of cheerfulness. No jol-
lier people in the world than
those who use a moderate
amount of beer.
     Drink Oshkosh Beer, because
it is guaranteed pure and wholesome.
Nothing new there. In 1913, it was common for brewers to go about hyping their product as if it were a tonic for the frail instead of an enjoyable repast that made the moment shine a little brighter. It was a trick they’d picked up from the producers of patent medicines. In America, those hucksters had been selling alcohol under the guise of curing everything from impotence to venereal disease since the early 1800s. By the time the brewers in Oshkosh adopted the tactic, a clampdown on patent medicines was underway that would eventually lead to their being abolished. Making preposterous health claims worked no better for the brewers. Within six years of this 1913 ad, the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution was ratified resulting in a ban on the manufacture and sale of beer. Of course, beer would one day return and patent medicines didn’t entirely go away either. They just changed their stripes and morphed into things like Coke and Pepsi.