Friday, March 29, 2013

Oshkosh Beer Sampler 014: Lava, the Stöut From Hëll

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

What: Lava by Ölvisholt Brugghús. A 9.5% ABV Russian Imperial Stout.

Where: Gardina's Wine Bar & Cafe (in the packaged beer section / not on tap). $9.99 for a 17oz bottle.

Why: First off, because there’s something intrinsically Mëtal about a Russian Imperial Stout from Iceland named Lava. And just as you’d hope, it’s a straight-up beast of a beer. It’s roasty and smoky and full of unrelenting shards of caramelized malt flavors. Personally, I tend to appreciate subtlety in a beer more than I do bombast, but sometimes you want something that goes at your palate like a buzzsaw and for times such as those a beer such as this is near perfect. This is no mellow Imperial Stout. This is the Berserker take on the style. The roast aspect of it dominates with a good draw of smokiness coming along with it; like a wood fire in a glass. Then it closes with a cleansing and satisfying burn of alcohol. You almost feel like the beer is roughing you up, but in an entirely enjoyable way. You wouldn’t want to live with a beer like this, but it’s definitely a fun place to visit.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Beer Bus to Chilton for the 22nd Annual Wisconsin Micro Brewers Beer Fest

The big 22nd Annual Wisconsin Micro Brewers Beer Fest in Chilton is coming up on May 19 and if
you’re looking for a ride from Oshkosh, here’s what’s sure to be your best option.

Local beer aficionado Steve Wissink is arranging for a bus to haul about 30 folks to Chilton and back for a day full of beer sampling. This is easily one of the best beer fests in Wisconsin and certainly not one you’ll want to drive home from. The bus will probably fill up fast, so you might want to get moving. Here’s how it all works:

Price: $15 per person includes round-trip bus only – DOES NOT INCLUDE Beer Fest ticket. You must pre-purchase your own Beer Fest ticket – no tickets sold at the door.
Ticket info is available HERE.

Date: Sunday, May 19, 2013
Pick-up / Drop Off: The Reptile Palace, 141 High Ave.
Departure Time: 11:30AM (Please be prompt)
The Beer Fest is over at 6:00PM. Bus will depart Chilton at 6:30PM
Contact: Steve Wissink @ 920-589-2602 or

For more information on the Wisconsin Micro Brewers Beer Fest visit their webpage.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Story of Peoples Beer and How to Brew Your Own

A New Beginning
In April 1933, Peoples Brewing Company of Oshkosh celebrated its 20th Anniversary. And they were starting over. National Prohibition, which had kept them from brewing for the previous 14 years, was coming to an end. At Peoples, they decided the time was right to make a break with their more immediate past. The beers they had been producing before Prohibition, Aristo and Asterweiss, were abandoned in favor of a new brew that harkened further back to the German heritage of the brewery’s founders. Those men were now gone, but the brewery’s new flagship beer would have pleased them.

Stier’s Beer
Joseph Stier
The recipe for Peoples Beer was developed by long-time Peoples brewmaster Joseph Stier. Stier was a modern, American brewer with a penchant for making German-style brews. He was born in Chicago in 1880 and educated at the Siebel Institute, the first American facility dedicated to brewing instruction and research. Prior to becoming the brewmaster at Peoples in 1914, Stier cut his teeth in the beer business working at breweries in Chicago and Bakersfield, California. While in Bakersfield, Stier had made Lion Brew, which was advertised as “An old-fashioned German beer... made just like Lowenbrau." His first creation in Oshkosh was Peoples Holiday Brew, a rich lager accentuated with Bohemian Saaz hops. When Prohibition came to an end, Stier again turned to Europe for inspiration. The original name of the beer, Würtzer Brew, was indicative of what Stier was aiming for.

The traditional beer of the city of Würzburg in the Franconia region of Northern Bavaria was malty, full-bodied and slightly sweet with a subdued hop character. Stier’s Würtzer Brew was an American take on the style; perhaps drier and lighter in body, but still defined by its malt character. Early advertising for the beer played up its connection to the past. “The BEER WITH A RECORD,” one ad barked. “You will find in WURTZER BREW all the zest, sparkle and life of the finest of old time good beer. It’s properly aged and brewed by our master brewer who knows how.”

Joseph Stier died in 1941, but the brewers who followed in his wake at Peoples appear to have held true to the original conception of his beer. The name, though, had to go. Adolph Hitler’s coming to power in Germany coupled with the rise of Americanism in the 1930s rendered associations to the Old World less appealing. At Peoples, the fist tentative steps at altering the name of their brew began in 1935, when the labels were changed to read American Würtzer. Over the coming decade, the prominence of the word Würtzer was diminished until it finally disappeared completely. By 1945, it was known simply as Peoples Beer. And so it would remain until the brewery closed in 1972.

Drinking Peoples Beer
Drawing a bead on the flavor of a beer that’s been out of production for more than 40 years can be difficult. But in the case of Peoples Beer, enough information has survived to give us a trustworthy profile of its appearance and flavor. A typical Peoples Beer would have poured with a thick creamy head over a golden body of sparkling and very clear beer. The color was a shade darker than most of the premium lagers that are available today. The aroma would have been dominated by grainy malt backed with a light scent of sweet corn and minimal hop aroma. The flavor was mild, yet satiating with the predominate flavors supplied by six-row malt and corn. Hops were primarily used to balance the sweetness and not as a prominent flavor component. It was a highly carbonated beer that – coupled with the light sulfur notes form its yeast – would have given the beer an appreciable finishing bite. Overall, the beer received consistently high ratings from those who analyzed it. A 1971 report by
J.E. Siebel Sons’, a Chicago-based brewing research group, concisely summed up the beer in its final years noting, “The sample makes an exceedingly good impression in almost every respect.”

Brewing Peoples Beer
This is a clone recipe for Peoples Beer. Although I’ve been able to locate a brewery inventory, chemical analysis and tasting notes, I’ve yet to be able to find a recipe for the beer that was actually used in the brewhouse. That said, enough information has been found that I feel confident that this recipe can produce a beer that corresponds closely to Peoples Beer. The recipe is based upon percentages and targets, so that it can be tailored to your specific brewing system.

Brewing Targets
  • Original Gravity: 1.046
  • Final Gravity: 1.010
  • ABV - 4.7%
  • IBUs - 18
  • SRM - 3.4
Malt Bill
  • American Six-row: 72%
  • Flaked Corn: 24%
  • Munich Malt: 4% (15-20 Lovibond, lesser kilned Munich malts will result in a lighter shade of beer. If the darker Munich malts are unavailable, consider either adding a pinch of Dehusked Carafa II or else eliminating the Munich, increasing the percentage of six-row and adding CaraMunich to reach the target SRM).
  • Cluster. Use only a bittering addition and keep the IBUs in the 17-18 range. 
  • Wyeast 2035, American Lager (supposedly sourced from August Schell Brewery of New Ulm, Minnesota).
  • A simple infusion mash at 152ºf will suffice. At Peoples they were almost certainly doing a multi-step mash with protein and scarification rests. Personally, I’ve performed multi-step mashing with these malts and found very little, if any, benefit by doing so. Still, it’s fun to do, if you want to get a feel for how they traditionally would have done things at the brewery.
Extract Brewers
  • You’ll need to do a mini mash using six-row and corn. Then build up the remainder of your wort with Briess Golden Light Liquid Malt Extract.

And If You’re Not a Homebrewer?
You’re not entirely out of luck. There’s a good chance that a Peoples Beer clone will be served by one of the members of the Society of Oshkosh Brewers at this year's Brews n' Blues. And it’s likely that a clone of Chief Oshkosh will also be served. It may be the first time in 40 years that people here have had the opportunity to taste two of Oshkosh’s favorite beers side-by-side.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Oshkosh Needs More Breweries... and More Bock Beer!

Monday, the Brewer’s Association released their beer data for 2012. If you like good beer, the digits are full of nothing but good news. The number of breweries is up, production is up, craft-beer consumption is up and it’s looking more and more like we’ve finally turned the corner on pale-lager’s absolute dominance of our collective palate.

What grabbed my attention, though, was the increase in the number of active breweries. In the past year, the American brewery count has jumped from 2,033 to 2,403. You have to go back to the years clustered around 1880 to find a time when there were so many American breweries. I think that’s good news for us here in Oshkosh.

In 1880 there were six active breweries in Oshkosh (see map below). And in 1880, those six Oshkosh breweries were serving a population of less than 16,000 people. Now we have more than 66,000 people living in Oshkosh. What does all this mean? Well, if you take into account our consumption patterns, the beer-drinking tradition, the vibrant homebrew scene and the overall trend; I think it’s almost inevitable that Oshkosh will add another brewery/brewpub in the not-too-distant future. I hear chatter about it all the time. Someone is going to break through. We’re ripe for it.

OK, so long as I’m spewing, there’s this: Where are all the Bock beers? It’s March, we ought to have Bock beer running out our ears. Instead, the only decent Traditional Bock you can pick up in six packs is New Glarus Cabin Fever. And don’t tell me that faux Bock from Shiner or that box of Bock-ish stuff from Huber count. They don’t. This is Wisconsin, dammit. It’s March, we require Bock Beer!

Click the blue balloons on the the interactive map below for names, locations and dates of operation of the Oshkosh breweries active in 1880.

View 1880 Oshkosh Breweries in a larger map

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Oshkosh Beer Sampler 013: Slam Dunkel

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

What: Slam Dunkel, a German-style, dark lager.

Where & When: Slam Dunkel goes on tap tomorrow night (Thursday, March 21) at Fratellos in Oshkosh. To kick the kegs off, Fratellos will offer guests a free mug of the beer from 5-7pm.

Why: Because there’s a lot to like about this beer. Personally, Dunkel is one of my favorite styles of lager. And Kevin Bowen, Brewmaster at Fox River Brewing Company/Fratellos makes one of the better American versions I’ve had. Dark brown with a thick, off-white head, the beer is creamy and easy drinking with a light caramel and chocolate malt sweetness. It’s refreshing enough to be sessionable and at 5.6% ABV, you can drink a few without being run to ground.

Aside from it being a fine beer, this sort of brew is part of our heritage. In the latter half of the 1800s, Oshkosh was riddled with breweries and this is precisely the sort of lager they were making and drinking. Back then, a frothing mug of brewery-fresh dark lager was the tipple of choice for Oshkoshers haunting the city’s tap rooms. Here’s a chance to get a good taste of what used to be.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Oshkosh's Most Valuable Cans

The Rare White Chief
The Silver Chief

In February, the New York Times ran a feature asking what New York City beer can would be considered the most valuable. The highest priced can cited was a 1950, flat-top can for Pilser's Bock Beer, listed at $12,000.  If you’re not a collector of breweriana, that amount may stun you. Hold on, it gets better.

After seeing the Times article I started wondering what Oshkosh beer can would be considered the most valuable. Turns out New York City has nothing on us when it comes to pricey metal. The most valuable Oshkosh can is a white crowntainer from 1949 for Chief Oshkosh Beer. The highest documented selling price for this can is $27,500. It’s purported that there are only three of these cans in existence. These were prototype cans. In 1949, the company had decided to begin canning its beer. The white crowntainer was one of its options, but the can was never used in production.
The 1950s Chief

The can they did use, a silver crowntainer, fetches a pretty hefty price, too. The website puts the value of this one at $2,800. In 1951, the Oshkosh Brewing Company ditched its crowntainers and began using cone tops. These cans were used until 1958. One of these, in nice condition, will typically sell for about $700. At the moment, there’s a beat up can of this breed being offered on Ebay for $275. Still too rich for me. This is all nice looking stuff, but I think I’m going to stick with what’s inside the cans.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Oshkosh Beer Sampler 012: Krombacher Dark

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

What: Krombacher Dark Lager, a Schwarzbier brewed by the Krombacher Brauerei in Germany.

Where: On Draught at Oblio’s, Oshkosh.

Why: Because sometimes you just want to enjoy a good beer without having to analyze the living shit out of it. And this is the right beer for that time. The flavor is mild and malty with nods towards chocolate and caramel. The finish is dry and clean with a wee poke of hop bitterness. It’s a companion beer; the kind you drink for the simple pleasure of enjoying a well-made beer that has no desire to overwhelm you. It’s the sort of beer that reminds you why started liking beer in the first place.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Oshkosh Beer Sampler 011: Ned Flanders (Oud Bruin)

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

What: Titletown Brewing’s Ned Flanders an East Flanders style Brown Ale/Oud Bruin.

Where: On Draught at Dublin’s Irish Pub, Oshkosh.

Why: Because if you haven’t yet dipped into the sour end of the beer pool, this is a terrific beer for getting a little pucker going. It’s odd how the thought of sour beer immediately turns so many people off. Suggest a whiskey sour or a raspberry tart and nobody flinches. But for some reason, the thought of sour beer sends them running. The implication is, I suppose, that sour in beer somehow equates with rancidity. That’s not the case. At least, not in this case. Titletown’s Ned Flanders is a Belgian-style Brown Ale that gets its mild and appetizing sourness from a dose of Lactobacillus. It lends the beer a wonderfully complex and tart edge that plays nicely with the sweet, nutty character of the base beer. Almost like a berry cobbler in a glass. The overall tone is sweet/sour and results in an incredibly drinkable beer that encourages you to have another. I don’t know the ABV, but I’m guessing it’s in the 5-6% range, so multiples are definitely in order.

Jon Cameron At Dublin’s did a quick video about this one... check that out HERE.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Beer Ads in Oshkosh No. 8: The Brewer’s Code

Click to Enlarge

Here’s a rare example of Oshkosh’s brewers working together to clean up their image and promote their beer. This full-page ad appeared 75 years ago in the Oshkosh Daily Northwestern on March 12, 1938. It was placed by the three Oshkosh breweries that survived Prohibition – Oshkosh Brewing, Peoples Brewing and Rahr Brewing. The point of the piece was to give each of the companies a chance to publicly endorse the Brewers Code of Practice, a “we promise to be good” oath that was being sworn by brewers across the nation.

The code was instigated in 1937 – almost five years after Prohibition had ended – by the United Brewers Industrial Foundation. At the time, brewers were still shuddering from the royal beating they had taken from the dry crowd. Their dread was not without merit. Though the prohibitionists had been trounced in the 1932 election, they had rebounded and the breweries were once again in their sites. Brewers responded by adopting a submissive, squeaky-clean image.

The bawdy days when beer makers owned whorehouses and courted bedlam were over. Now, they promised to promote “practical moderation and sobriety” and to “conduct our business in conformity with established laws in cooperation with the authorities.” It’s a pledge to keep their tails between their legs. Quite modern, very antiseptic and hardly any fun at all. But it worked. The prohibitionists continued to agitate, but by the end of the 1940s had made themselves inconsequential. The dries were finally being recognized for what they truly were: prudes and relics of the past.

If you’d like to see a full-sized, readable version of the ad, go HERE and use either the "Download" tab or the magnifying glass icon above the image to explore it in detail.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Saturday Night's All Right

Don't want to pay $75 for three hours of beer drinking Saturday night? Well, then, your not going to be showing up at Hops & Props (unless you nabbed one of those free tickets that seem to be falling from the sky). But just because you're skipping the EAA's bash doesn't mean you won't have access to a flood of righteous beer come date night in Oshkosh. Both Dublin's and O'Marro's are hosting alternatives to Hops and Props that'll keep you well oiled.

At Dublin's they're changing out their tap list for the evening and putting in a line-up geared for connoisseurs. The list is a stunner and you can check out the whole thing HERE.

The O'Marro's gig is along the same lines with a Craft-tap takeover that'll bring in more choice beer than you'll probably be able to take in. Check out the Facebook page for the event HERE.

It's gonna be a good night for great beer in Oshkosh.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Oshkosh Beer Sampler 010: Rebel Kent The First Amber Ale

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

What: Rebel Kent The First Amber Ale; 3 Sheeps Brewing Company, Sheboygan, WI; 5.00% ABV 13 IBUs

Where: Festival Foods; $8.49 for a sixer

Why: Because it’s good for you to drink beer from Sheboygan. Really, it is. And besides, this is good beer. Ales from 3 Sheeps Brewing of Sheboygan have been popping up on tap in Oshkosh for a couple months now. Last week Monday, Festival put four of their beers on the shelf: a Dark Wheat Ale; a Witbier; an IPA; and this, Rebel Kent The First, which their calling an Amber Ale. In this case, it’s a meaningless designation. More accurately, Rebel Kent is a larger version (5.00% ABV) of a Belgian Abbey Single dosed with rye malt. What sets it apart, though, is the yeast. They’re using a well-attenuating Belgian strain that makes for a dry, quenching beer. The result is an easy drinking, malt-forward brew that tastes something like Fat Tire without the cloying sweetness. And to my palate, that makes Rebel Kent a significantly better beer than Fat Tire. If easy going, yet interesting beer is your bag, this is one you’ll want to check into. Hey, we haven’t had beer this good from Sheboygan since Kingsbury went tits up.

Monday, March 4, 2013

What They'll be Pouring at Hops & Props

It’s that time, again. Hops and Props 2013 arrives this Saturday, March 9, at the EAA AirVenture Museum here in Oshkosh.  The VIP “Dining Experience” is sold out, but there’s still tickets left for the general tasting ($75). You can get those HERE.

If your going, you may want to map your tasting strategy beforehand. There’ll be a lot of brewers there and the last thing you’ll want is to begin the night stumbling from booth to booth in a state of open-mouthed bewilderment. Leave that for the last hour or so.

HERE is the list of brewers pouring and HERE is a PDF download of the beers they’ll be serving.
Me, I’m going for this 6-pack early on:
  • Monkey King Saison @ the New Holland Brewing table
  • Ovila Abbey Quad @ the Sierra Nevada
  • Skull Splitter @ the St. Killians table
  • Ned Flanders (Flanders-style brown ale) @ the Titletown Brewing table
  • Lambrucha @ the Vanberg & DeWulf table
  • Olvisholt Lava @ the Vanberg & DeWulf table
And after that... will it matter?

Friday, March 1, 2013

The Taps Are Back!

When this low-flying beer blog launched at the start of 2010, the whole point was to have a place where anybody could see the tap lists of places where good beer was pouring in Oshkosh. After more than a year of that, my liver turned to pudding from all the time I spent going from bar to bar trying to keep things updated. I found I just couldn’t take note of the taps without having a few beers while I gathered the info. Can you blame me? Anyway, in the interest of my own wobbly sobriety, I quit all that… until now. The taps are back!

If you look over to your left (sorry phone gawkers, you get no left on your dinky screen), you’ll notice that the tap lists have returned. We now have lists for Becket’s, Dublin's, Gardina’s and O’Marro’s; and I’m hoping to have a few more before long. Those links will take you to websites maintained by the people pouring the beer, which means I can maintain my regularly scheduled beer habit without becoming more of a tavern troll than I already am.

If you're a tavern owner/operator who’d like to have your taps listed here, get in touch via the email address at the upper left. There’s no charge, we just need a way to keep things up to date and there are simple solutions for doing that.

Click those links, friends, you’re bound to find a few things that trip your thirst trigger.
The weekend is here, so to hell with winter. Get out of your hovel and go have a beer!