Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Oshkosh Beer Sampler 030: New Glarus Strawberry Rhubarb Ale

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

What: Strawberry Rhubarb Ale, the latest fruit beer from New Glarus Brewing.

Where: Gardina's Wine Bar & Cafe in the packaged beer department where they’re selling it in 25oz, waxed-dipped, green bottles.

Why: Because even if don’t find most fruit beers especially thrilling, this is one you should a dip into. Here’s what it’s like: you ever had one of those Creme Savers Strawberry & Creme hard candies? We’ll it’s like a liquid version of that with just enough tartness from the rhubarb whistling in at the end to make it quenching and refreshing. It pours out to a murky puree of pink with just enough effervescence popping up from the bottom to make it appear not entirely off-putting. In the glass, this ain’t a pretty beer. The aroma is beautiful, though, with strawberries and creme flowing up in droves. The beer is soft and sweet, but its overt creaminess is kept in check by the tart of the rhubarb. This is an ideal summer dessert beer. The ABV isn’t listed on the bottle, but I’m guessing it falls under 5%.

While you’re there: step up to the bar at Gardina’s and check out the Hottenroth Berliner Weisse from the Bruery. This is a wonderfully drinkable German-style Berliner Weisse that delivers a firm jolt of sourness. The beer hits all the marks style wise; from it tangy lemon nose to is puckering finish. They even get the wee ABV of 3.1% right. They’re serving it on draught at Gardina’s. If you’re into sour, this will please you to no end.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Beer Ads in Oshkosh No. 14: Chief Oshkosh Red Lager, America’s Only All Malt Beer... Packaged In a Can

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Here’s an ad that’s probably getting more attention now than it did when it first appeared in On Premise Magazine in January 1992. This was one of the early ads for Chief Oshkosh Red Lager, which in 1991 became the first American craft beer to be sold in cans. That was no easy sell in those days. At the time, drinkers of microbrew weren’t exactly smitten with the idea of receiving their beloved wrapped in aluminum. Canned beer was considered low-brow; the domain of fizzy macro-swill. That’s changed, of course. Now craft beer in cans is all the rage among the aficionados.

The copy for the ad you see here was penned by Jeff Fulbright, the owner/operator/brewer for Mid-Coast Brewing of Oshkosh. This piece is now getting a fresh look thanks, in part, to Tom Acitelli whose cover story in the current issue of All About Beer Magazine tells the story of American craft beer in cans. Central to that history is Chief Oshkosh Red Lager and this ad. What I’ve always found most interesting about it is how Fulbright’s message from the early 1990s has been adopted – almost verbatim – by today’s canning craft brewers. Fulbright was certainly onto something. Unfortunately, he was too far ahead of his time to profit from it.

Hey, at least some people were into Fulbright’s concept. In 1992, the Beer Can Collectors of America named the Chief Oshkosh Red Lager can their beer can of the year. Check out this swank trophy they awarded him.

If you want the full story on Chief Oshkosh Red Lager, go HERE.

And if you’d like to learn more about the history of America’s craft beer revolution, check out Tom Acitelli’s fantastic new book, The Audacity of Hops.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A Bucket of Beer Links

Time to catch up with some of the recent chatter. Here’s a load of chitchat for the next time you find
yourself standing under a beer light at midnight bantering with the geeks.

Let’s start with some Wisco news. You may have seen that Wisconsin is now the fifth most beer drinkingest state in the U.S., but did you hear that two of the top three rated breweries in the nation are working the soil here? True to form, they’re both primarily lager breweries. About time the lager gets a little love.

Also: Wisconsin ranks 9th in the number of craft breweries in operation. Nationally, there are now 1,559 breweries in the planning stage. But not one of them is slated for Oshkosh. What the hell is with that?

Our good friend Jeff Fulbright, the man who brought you Chief Oshkosh Red Lager, is finally getting some props. He’ll be featured in the cover story of the September issue of All About Beer Magazine (and I think my name is going to pop up in there, too). The new issue should land on the shelves at Paper Tiger in Oshkosh later this week.

Now that homebrewing is legal in all 50 states, maybe it’s time you consider brewing your own. The Society of Oshkosh Brewers always welcomes new members. In fact, they’re having a meeting tonight (Wednesday July 17) you could drop in on.

Speaking of homebrewers, Oshkosh homebrewer Brett Hintz is now brewing beer for the Pigeon River Brewing Co. in Marion, WI. If you get up that way, drop in and check out their brews. I had their Dunkelweizen recently; it was fantastic.

Remember Joe Walts? He used to be the Assistant Brewer at Fox River Brewing here in Oshkosh and also used to write for this blog from time to time. After a stint at Ale Asylum in Madison, Joe is now Brewmaster at Narrows Brewing Company in Tacoma, Washington. The grand opening of the brewery was last Friday. Sounds like Joe’s beer is still kicking ass.

And finally, Dogfish Head will be returning to the beer isles of Wisconsin later this year. To be honest, I don’t really care. But this video they released about their return is sort of cute.

Enough. Prost!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Oshkosh Hops and the Jacob Ruppert Brewery

Last week I stumbled across something odd in the Oshkosh Daily Northwestern of July 22, 1927:
To old residents of the city, the mention of Col. Jacob Ruppert of New York City, owner of the Yankees and the Yankee stadium, where the Dempsey-Sharkey fight was held Thursday evening, has brought reminiscences of an uncle of that New York sports, magnate who visited this city frequently fifty years ago as a buyer of hops; Colonel Ruppert, then a brewer, realized the excellent quality of hops raised on the south side of the river and sent his uncle here to buy the best.
When I first read the article, I didn’t quite believe it. The “fifty years ago” mentioned in the blurb would take us to 1877. At that time, the Jacob Ruppert Brewery of New York City was the eighth largest brewery in the nation producing a whopping 84,432 barrels of beer (the largest American brewery at the time was that of George Ehret, also of New York City, with a production of 138,449 barrels). The notion of a brewery this size sourcing the hops of a small county 950 miles to its west seems far-fetched. Especially when you consider that New York State was then the largest producer of hops in the country. Why would Ruppert bother with Oshkosh? But after a little digging, it appears that the “old residents” weren’t just bullshitting us.

They were a bit off on the date and they were a little confused about who was running the Ruppert Brewery then, but it does indeed appear that Ruppert was buying hops in Oshkosh. The uncle referred to in the article is almost certainly Francis Ruppert. He was the brother of Jacob Ruppert Sr. who launched the Ruppert Brewery in 1867. In the late 1860s and early 1870s, Francis Ruppert kept a room in Oshkosh at the Tremont House at the northwest corner of State & Waugoo. He gave his occupation as a Hop Dealer in both the 1869-70 Oshkosh city directory and the 1870 Census. At the time, hops were a hot commodity in Winnebago County. Ruppert appears to have liked the stock here well enough to settle in to take his pick. It’s a telling piece on the quality of the hops grown here.

Too bad it didn’t last. In the 1870s, the hop market in Winnebago County began to collapse due to pricing pressures. Francis Ruppert returned to New York City. Brother Jacob Ruppert Sr. died in 1915 and his son Col. Jacob Ruppert Jr. took over the brewery. That same year, Ruppert Jr. bought the New York Yankees and with the help of Ruth and Gehrig made them into the most dominant team in baseball. So, how do you feel about that? Oshkosh hops played a minor role in establishing the Yankees dynasty. It’s a curious world, friends.

Here’s a whole lot more on the history of hops in Oshkosh.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Oshkosh Beer Sampler 029: A Couple of Unique Beers at Fratellos

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

What: Two ales from Fox River Brewing Company. A strong Belgian-Style Golden Ale named Triple-Double and 2010 English Mild, a traditional English Dark Mild.

Where: On tap at Fratellos Waterfront Restaurant & Brewery, 1501 Arboretum Dr. Oshkosh. 2010 English Mild is being poured only in the Fieldhouse at Fratellos.

Why: Because here are a couple of utterly unique beers that might change the way you look at our local brewpub. We’ll start with the big one.

Triple-Double is something of a hybrid beer melding together aspects of a Belgian Tripel and a Blonde Doppelbock. It starts with an intense malty/sweet aroma that’s complex but also exceptionally clean, with little of the phenolic esters you’d associate with a Belgian beer. The palate is dominated by sweet malts and candied sugars that obscure the significant bitterness hiding in the finish. It’s a full bodied beer to be sure, but considering its heft – just a whisper under 10% ABV – it’s an easy drinker. Take your time with this one, it’s a hell of a beer.

2010 English Mild is at the other end of the spectrum. This is a spot-on English Dark Mild Ale.  Traditionally this is a low-alcohol style brewed to be drank in volume. No problem there, this beer comes in at just 3.6% ABV. It pours out to dark ruby with a grainy, toasted malt aroma. It's light-bodied, but flavorful with threads of caramel, chocolate and a wee draft of tobacco. The beer finishes with an easy dryness that invites quaffing. Here’s the kicker: this beer has been aged for three years. I remember enjoying multiple pints from this same batch back in April of 2010. If anything, the flavors have improved (grown more integrated?), which is somewhat surprising for a beer so low in alcohol. Then again, the English were aging low alcohol beers two centuries ago with good results, so why should we be surprised? Raise a pint to the death of another Craft Beer myth.

One Last Thing: Next time you’re at Fratellos, check out the barrel aging program they have going. Brewmaster Kevin Bowen has two beers aging in zinfandel wine barrels positioned just outside the brewhouse. I’m sure there’ll be more on that here once they start pouring.