Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A Six Pack of Spooky Beer

Remember when Halloween was all about tricks and candy treats? Me neither. Halloween is all about beer. At least that’s how it works in the malfunctioning minds of people like us. It’s another opportunity to gather a friend or two and sink a few. And the beers you’re drinking ought to be in keeping with the spirit of the season; demons, corpses, lycanthropy, the annihilation of the human race... that kind of happy crap. With that in mind, here’s a six-pack of Halloweenish beers that’ll look good in your hand as you stand at the door dropping candy into the sacks of little monsters begging for sugar. You can latch onto all of these right here in Oshkosh (think Festival Foods). Here we go:

Hop Devil Ale by Victory Brewing Company
The label features a hop cone morphed into a devil’s head. How metal is that? And it’s good beer, too! A classic East Coast IPA, this has a solid punch of American hops riding on a fat bed of chewy malt. Before the Californiafication of the IPA, this is what craft IPAs used to taste like. At 6.7% ABV, it’ll be good for inspiring some devilment.

Headless Man Amber Alt by Tyranena Brewing Company
This continent has been producing headless-man myths for as long as people with heads have been stomping around on it. Take part in the creepy myths by guzzling some of this. It’s a fine German-style alt beer with a generous caramel malt flavor accompanied by a gentle noble hop aroma. Easy drinking and smooth with enough substance to keep you interested, this is an excellent beer for fall.

Dead Guy Ale by Rogue Ales
A no brainer. The label features a skeleton sitting on a beer barrel with a mug full of beer in his boney hand. This is supposed to be a Maibock, but they’ve fermented it with an ale yeast, so they’re kind of missing the mark. Still, it’s pretty decent. A malt forward beer with a fair amount of sweetness that’s put in check by a slow building bitterness in the finish. Here’s the scary part: At Festival they sell six-pack of this for $10.99. Yikes!

Newcastle Werewolf by Heineken
Halloween has always been a time for hucksters and gimmickry and this one is right in line with that. More importantly, it has a knuckle-dragging werewolf on the label. For some beers it’s easier to look good than taste good. This is something like an Irish Red Ale, but lacking just about everything that makes that style enjoyable. OK, it may be shit, but it’ll look good in your mitt. Save this for the end of the night when your swilling them right out of the bottle.

Ambergeddon by Ale Asylum
An erie looking label with prominent skull and cross-pistols. Pairs well with death metal blasting from blown speakers. About the beer: an American Red Ale hopped to the gills with new-world hops that crush the palate. Pretty enjoyable, if that’s your bag. Not exactly a subtle beer, but then again Armageddon has never been about finesse. After a few of these, you won’t be either. This one carries a very sneaky 6.8% ABV.

25th Anniversary Imperial Pumpkin Lager by Lakefront Brewery
I guess there has to be a pumpkin beer in here somewhere. Personally, I could do without, but this one is better than most and just fine in limited quantities. It starts with a warm, brandy booziness followed by a hit of toasty malt and a dose of pumpkin pie spicing. A super dry finish, that keeps it from being sickening in the way that only pumpkin beers can be. Who cares? You won’t after a couple of these. At 8% ABV, look upon it as a challenge.

There you have it, six beers to keep you quenched during the season of demons. One last thing, it’s proper Halloween etiquette have your index and little fingers outstretched into the Sign of the Horns as you grasp your beer. You want to do this right, don’t you?

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Casks & Caskets – There’s No Other Beer Fest Like It

We’re just a few days out from our city playing host to the most unique beer sampling in the State of Wisconsin. On Saturday, November 2 the Society of Oshkosh Brewers will present Casks & Caskets, a homebrew event for charity. If you love real beer, this is a tasting you should not miss.

Calling this the most unique beer sampling in the state is no stretch. Each of the beers, wines, meads and ciders at Casks will be one of a kind. Unlike the offerings at other beer festivals, you’ve never had any of these beers before. Everything that will be poured has been hand crafted for this event by local hobbyists who have a passion for creating distinctive brews. And these beer won’t be doled out by the sorts of disinterested folks who usually man the tables at beer fests. The people on the other end of the tap lines at Casks will be the people who made the beer. Whether they’re brewers, vintners or both they take an enormous amount of pride in what they’ve made for this tasting. They’ll be more than happy to tell you what’s in it, why they made it and why they would like you to try it. There’s nothing anonymous about these beers. Each of them comes with a story. I know this because I’ll be one of those pouring their homebrew.

Here’s my story: one of the beer’s I’ll be serving is a Farmhouse Lager I brewed with my nephew, Tyler Demge. We made this beer with wild hops I picked in Allenville in September. If you visit this blog from time to time, you may have seen my post about Silas Allen, a hop farmer who in 1846 settled in what is now Allenville. The hops used in the Farmhouse Lager we brewed for Casks were from plants that grow wild on land that was a part of Silas Allen’s 1850s hop farm. It’s very likely that these hops trace their lineage back to the cultivars that Silas Allen planted there more than 160 years ago. Like I said, you can’t get beers like this anywhere else.

Casks and Caskets will take place at the Oshkosh Convention Center on Saturday, November 2. Tickets for the 7 p.m. general tasting are $30 in advance or $40 at the door. There will also be a VIP dinner and tasting beginning two hours earlier at 5:00 p.m.  Ticket information and other details can be found at the Casks and Caskets website.

And here’s a list of some of the beers that will be pouring at Casks. Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Beer Ads in Oshkosh No. 18: Good Old Wurtzer Beer and Mellow Old Derby Ale

Here’s a sharp looking ad for the beers of Peoples Brewing that appeared in the 1938 book History of Oshkosh. The real name of the Good Old Wurtzer Beer mentioned here was actually Würtzer Brew. It was introduced after Prohibition ended in 1933 and was Peoples’ flagship beer (lots more on Würtzer Brew HERE). But the beer taking center stage in this ad is Old Derby Ale. This is a beer with a good backstory.

Old Derby was a pale ale that made its debut after Prohibition. It was first brewed by the Ripon Brewing Company, which was launched in 1933 upon the grounds of the old Haas Brewing Company. The Old Derby Ale that was brewed in Ripon was a beast. It weighed in at 12% ABV and used to sell for a nickel a mug at the Tip Top Tavern on N. Main St. in Oshkosh. That was an interesting little brewery they had there in Ripon. During this same period, they also produced a porter; quite an unusual style of beer for a Wisconsin brewery in the post-Prohibition era.

Peoples Brewing had a hand in distributing the Ripon beers in Oshkosh and after the Ripon brewery went bankrupt in 1937, Peoples took over the Old Derby label. But the Old Derby brewed in Oshkosh was tame in comparison to the Ripon brew. It would have been around just 5% ABV (for more info on that version of the beer, go HERE). Old Derby Ale survived into the early 1950s when Peoples pulled the plug on it for good. And by that time, the Würtzer name had also been dropped in favor of the more streamlined Peoples Beer.

So why would a full-page beer ad appear in a book about Oshkosh history? Well, I’m guessing the ads were what financed the book. Advertisements for Oshkosh businesses of the era appear throughout History of Oshkosh and some are as interesting as the text of the book itself. The self-published work was the product of the father and daughter team of William and Clara Dawes and was released in the summer of 1938. William Dawes was the sort of amateur historian that Oshkosh seems good for turning out. He was born in Oshkosh in 1878 and spent a good part of his life working as a postal clerk here. His daughter Clara was born in 1906 and, aside from being her father’s secretary, worked as a professional singer. In their spare time, the Daweses turned out a fine volume. It’s full of interesting snippets on Oshkosh history and a good place to start if you’re looking to get some background on this strange place. At 130 pages, it’s a breezy read. There’s usually a copy or two of History of Oshkosh hanging around the Oshkosh Public Library waiting to be checked out. If you go nosing through it, keep an eye open for the other beer ads in the book. One day, I’ll have to slap those up here, too.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

A New Milestone in the History of Brewing in Oshkosh

Richard Cardenas Brewing in the Street
That’s a grandiose title for a blog post as pedestrian as this one is sure to be, but there is a small twist of truth to it. Saturday morning, a couple of SOBs (Society of Oshkosh Brewers) did something with beer that, to the best of my knowledge, has never been done with beer in this city before: they brewed it in the middle of N. Main Street.

Now it is possible that Leonard Schiffmann may have been brewing beer in his saloon on Main St. back in the 1870s, but what took place on Saturday was different. These beers were brewed in the actual street. I mean in the road itself. And I admit that I’m one of the two who committed beer out there on the pavement. Here’s what happened: The SOBs had a stand at the Saturday Farmer’s Market promoting, the club and their upcoming event Casks & Caskets. While that was going on, Richard Cardenas and I set up our brewing equipment in the street and proceeded to make beer. Richard brewed an Irish Red Ale and I made a German Dark Lager. We hadn’t planned it this way, but those were fitting beers to break in Main Street  as a brewery when you take Oshkosh’s ethnic background into consideration. And while the beer was being made in the street, another SOB, Jody Cleveland, was giving away free sample of his homebrew in Oblio’s.

So is this stuff of any consequence? Of course, not. But I still like the idea of it. And I think it’s kind of indicative of what’s happening beerwise in Oshkosh as of late. This is a beer-centric community of more than 60,000 people with just one brewery. Historically, this has been a place that’s supported multiple breweries even during times when the population was a fraction of what it is now. That leaves us with a void that’s being filled by homebrewers. It’s not all that different from what occurred during Prohibition. When commercial beer became illegal, homebrewing in Oshkosh exploded. Over the past couple of years, there's been a similar growth in homebrewing here. Currently, the SOBs have more than 70 members, but that number, by no means, represents the total number of homebrewers in this area. At this point, there are probably hundreds of people making beer in this city. And that’s really how it should be. As it always has, Oshkosh brews.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Red & Revived: Get a Taste of Chief Oshkosh Red Lager.

Homebrew Left / Original Right
I like this one a lot. This Saturday, October 19, Oshkosh homebrewer Jody Cleveland will be giving away free samples of his homebrewed version of Chief Oshkosh Red Lager. He’ll tap the keg at Oblio’s Lounge at around 10 a.m. and will keep pouring until 12:30 (or until the beer is gone, whichever comes first). To get your free taste, stop by the Society of Oshkosh Brewers stand (corners of Main and Merritt) during the Farmer’s Market and tell them you want free beer. They’ll hand you a ticket that you can take over to Oblio’s to claim your sample. Free and easy.

And it’s a damned good beer. Last night I met up with Jody and we drank from a couple different batches of Chief Oshkosh Red Lager that he’s brewed. Also in attendance was a full can of 20-year-old Chief Oshkosh Red Lager. Of course, we got into that, too. After all those years in the can, the original Chief Oshkosh Red Lager still tasted pretty good. And though the 20-year-old beer had aged some, the similarities between Jody’s beer and the original remained readily apparent. I guess that’s not too that surprising. The recipe Jody is working from is the same as that used by Jeff Fulbright when he was brewing Chief Oshkosh Red Lager back in the first-half of the 1990s (check out the recipe HERE).

Now if you can’t make in on Saturday, you can still get a taste of the good Chief. Jody will also be serving this beer at Casks & Caskets on Saturday, November 2. Go HERE to get all the news on that.

And to get the full story on Chief Oshkosh Red Lager go HERE.

But most importantly, try to make it to the Farmer’s Market on Saturday and enjoy a rare taste of a remarkable beer.

Monday, October 14, 2013

OctoBEER in Oshkosh

The last half of October in Oshkosh will bring a trio of beery bashes that just might be to your liking. Here’s what’s coming up:

Tuesday, October 15: Gardina’s Beer Bar Series No. 3.
This time they’ll be pouring from a barrel (not a firkin) of Destihl Brew Works Sour Hawaii Five-Ale. It’s Belgian-Style ale aged in oak-barrels and naturally soured through a spontaneous secondary fermentation by wild yeast lingering in the wood. Don’t get too hung up on the “sour” thing, though. This beer leans towards the candied pineapple and citrus side of things with little of the wince factor that puts some people off sours. It’s a barrel only beer and this is the only barrel of it coming to Oshkosh, so get it while you can. The pouring start at 6 p.m.

Saturday, October 26: Shiner Beer Tent at O’Marro’s
Here’s the kind of beer party that Shawn at O’Marro’s does better than anyone else in town. They’ll have a heated tent in the parking lot of O’Marro’s where they’ll be pouring the beers of the Spoetzl Brewery of Shiner, Texas (including that damned Bock that made them so famous). All pints of the Shiner brews will be just $2.50. And at 8 p.m., The Mighty Short Bus will start rocking the tent. There’s no charge to get in and the party should go well into the night. There's a Facebook page for the event HERE.

Tuesday, October 29: Oktoberfest Beer/Wine Dinner at Fratellos.
German Beer, German Wine, German Food; can’t go wrong with that. This is a dinner pairing German style wines and beers with a five-course meal consisting of German cuisine. They’re putting a lot on the plate for this one, so to view the full menu including the accompanying beers and wines go HERE. The $35 ticket includes everything, but you’ll need to reserve your spot in advance. Do that by either stopping in at Fratellos or by calling them at 920.232.2337. Prost!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Oshkosh Beer Sampler 035: Piwo Grodziskie, a/k/a Grätzer Ale

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

What: Piwo Grodziskie, also known as Grätzer Ale. Brewed at Schlossbrauerei Au, Bavaria.

Where: On the retail beer shelf at Gardina’s where a half-liter bottle is going for $6.99

Why: Well, if your geek is rare styles of beer that originated in the Middle Ages, this is a no brainer. Let’s start with some background: A classic Grodziskie beer is a pale, fairly-hoppy, low-alcohol ale made using oak-smoked wheat malt. It’s a style that originated in the 1400s in the town of Grodzisk Wielkopolski in western Poland. By the 1800s, Polish Grodziskie was being exported to Germany where it was adopted by German brewers and renamed Grätzer. Grodziskie remained extant, if not exceptionally popular, throughout much of the 20th century. The last Polish brewery making Grodziskie closed in 1993.

So how does this one measure up to all of that? Overall, I’d say fairly well. The aroma is fruity and lightly smokey; almost like an apple or pear pie with a little burn on the crust. The smoked character of the wheat malt leads the flavor, but on balance it’s fairly restrained. The beer is very light (4% ABV) and easy drinking. It finishes with a slight, acidic tang that made me want to immediately guzzle more. The only thing lacking is the bitterness. This a style of beer that was known to be fairly bitter and that’s missing here. On the whole, though, it’s an interesting beer and one well worth trying; especially if you’re into lost styles of European ale.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Brew Sessions and Homebrew Supplies at O’Marro’s

Here’s good news for Oshkosh area homebrewers and those who would like to take a dip into the hobby. O’marro’s Public House in Oshkosh is branching out into the brewing realm. The south-side pub is now a connection for homebrew supplies and will soon begin a brew-on-premise program where would-be brewers can come in and produce a batch of their own beer.

There’s a lot going on here; let’s start with the beer making. It’s pretty straight forward: if you’d like to try your hand at brewing your own, simply contact the pub and schedule a time for you (and your friends) to do it. O’Marro’s will have everything you’ll need from equipment to the ingredients and technical know how required to go from grain to glass. They’ll formulate the recipe for you and even suggest a style of beer, if you can’t decide what you’d like to brew. They’re setting this up so that anyone can brew beer. “This will be  full-service,” says Shawn O’Marro, owner of the pub. “If someone comes in and says they want a beer that tastes like Spotted Cow or a heavy porter, we’ll get them there.” Brew sessions will be led by Kyle Cooper, an experienced homebrewer who has taken course work for brewing at the Siebel Institute of Technology. The brewing will take place on a three-tier, More Beer system capable of turning out 7 gallons at a time. It’s a good offering for prospective homebrewers or for those who just want to make a batch of beer for a special occasion. It will also be an opportunity for extract brewers to get a feel for what all-grain brewing is like before making an investment in additional equipment. For more information, call or stop by O’Marro’s Public House and ask for either Shawn or Kyle; there’s a good chance you’ll find one of them in.

The other half of the story is going to be welcome news for experienced homebrewers. Getting a full-range of homebrew supplies in Oshkosh is going to become a lot easier. O’Marro’s Public House and The Cellar homebrew supply store in Fond du Lac have teamed up to offer free delivery of homebrew supplies to O’Marro’s in Oshkosh. Call your order in at The Cellar (920-517-1601) and tell them what you need. They’ll give you a delivery time and cost over the phone. And by January, they’ll have a new website allowing you to place orders online. The Cellar is one of the best local homebrew supply shops in the state with everything you need for brewing and winemaking including kits, grain, liquid yeast and dispensing equipment. Check out the “Store” section of The Cellar website to see what they have on hand. And if you don’t see what you’re looking for call, because Dave’s either probably got it in stock or can get it in a blink. Until we finally get a full-blown homebrew supply shop in Oshkosh, this ought to work pretty well for keeping the brewers fermenting.

Monday, October 7, 2013

The Road to the Second Annual Casks & Caskets

The October edition of the Oshkosh SCENE is now out and available all over town. Inside you’ll find my article about Casks and Caskets, The Society of Oshkosh Brewers homebrew festival taking place Saturday, November 2 at the Oshkosh Convention Center (more info on all of that HERE).

Last year’s Casks and Caskets was the first full-scale tasting in Wisconsin where all of the beers, wines, ciders and meads were made by local homebrewers. Now in its second year, the festival looks to grow even larger. But the SOBs have had to overcome significant hurdles to get to this point including a tangle with state regulators that eventually ended with a change to Wisconsin law.

In early June 2009, the SOBs were ramping up for what they were billing as a Homebrew Event for Charity. The groundwork had been laid. The event would take place on the Saturday afternoon of June 27th under a 80-foot-long tent in the parking lot of O'Marro's Public House. Tickets were being sold, posters had gone up and word was going out through local media that this was going to be an entirely different sort of beer tasting. It would be comprised of nothing but homebrew. And all of it had already been brewed. Then the hammer fell.

Just two weeks before the festival was to take place, an official from the Department of Wisconsin Alcohol & Tobacco Enforcement spotted a poster for the event taped to the door of an Appleton paint store. He had some news for the SOBs: he said, what they were planning to do was illegal. “That didn’t even come to mind,” says Randy Bauer who was then on the SOB Board of Directors. “We’d been serving our beer for years at local festivals and had never had a problem.” Now they did.

Mike Engel, then president of the SOBs, was informed that if the event took place as planned, local police would have the authority to confiscate all the beer and dispensing equipment on site at the time of the tasting. The festival appeared doomed. But after the panic died down, the SOBs hatched an alternate plan. Engel began contacting Wisconsin breweries telling them what had happened. “I told them we were under the gun” he said. “We weren’t about to just give up. We needed beer.” In the end, the SOBs were able to commandeer enough commercial brew to replace the homebrew they had planned on serving and the event went ahead as scheduled. It wasn’t quite what any of them had hoped for, but the attendees seemed to enjoy it and the club still managed to raise $2,000 for charity.

But that didn’t end the fight. Other brewing clubs in Wisconsin soon found themselves in a similar bind. State officials began cracking down on the dissemination of homebrew, which they now asserted could not be dispensed outside of the brewer’s home. Homebrew clubs in Racine, Madison, Milwaukee and North Central Wisconsin Came under scrutiny for proposing to pour their beer at events in their areas.

In early 2011, the push back began in earnest. Wisconsin homebrewers began banding together in an effort to get the law changed. In April 2012, they succeeded. Senate Bill 395/Assembly Bill 521 was passed freeing homebrewers to serve their beer outside their homes. Though certain restrictions remained, the new law freed the SOBS to stage another festival. And in November 2012, the club finally broke through with the event they’d been hoping for back in 2009.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Fourth Annual Oshkosh Oktoberfest at Dockside Tavern This Weekend

Let’s you and I talk about German beer. Better yet, let’s get together and drink some real German beer on Saturday, October 5 at Oktoberfest in Oshkosh. Here’s the deal: I’ll be at the beer sampling booth again at this year’s Oshkosh Oktoberfest where we’ll be pouring, sampling and talking about the flavors of authentic German beer and the history of German brewing. We’ll have at least six different brews to sample from Paulaner, Hacker-Pschorr and Hofbräuhaus that will lead us through a tasting tour of Bavarian beer culture. You can try them all or just chosen few, but I suspect that after a couple hits the Gemütlichkeit will inspire a full flight. The tastings will run continuously throughout the afternoon and if you find a beer among the bunch that you especially love, they’ll be serving full-sized portions of all them in the heated beer-garden tent. And if you really feel you need an excuse to drink some beer, there’s the fact that Oshkosh Oktoberfest is a fundraising event benefitting Cerebral Palsy of Mideast Wisconsin.

All right, that’s enough for me but there’s plenty of other good stuff happening at our Oktoberfest. The big change for this year is that the event will take place at Dockside Tavern (6th & Oregon) and admission will be free. There’ll be authentic German food provided by The Roxy and music from Blaskapelle Milwaukee, the Tuba Dan Band, Copper Box, Hard Drive, and Greg Waters & the Broad Street Boogie.

For a full a rundown of the day’s events click that image on the right or check out the Oshkosh Oktoberfest website or the Oshkosh Oktoberfest Facebook page. If you come, stop by and say hello. Prost!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Lineage of Oshkosh's Barley & Hops

The Cornerstone at
663 N. Main
If you find yourself at the beer sampling at Barley & Hops tomorrow night (October 2), take a moment to drink in your surroundings. Nate Stiefvater’s place at 663 N. Main is more than a century old and has a history that’s worth knowing something about. Let’s have a look.

The building that is now home to Barley & Hops was built in the summer of 1900 under the direction of Carl Schneider, an Oshkosh architect and mason who had been trained in his native Prussia. Schneider made the most of the $6,000 allotted for the building’s creation. He cast the imposing face of the structure in pressed brick that framed two dormers (which have since been removed), with opposing columns placed just below the roof line.  The two-story, 80-foot long building cut an impressive figure along upper Main. That’s probably just how its owner wanted it. The new saloon of William Kienast was going to stand out from the others.

William Gustave Kienast was born in Prussia on April 6, 1846 and came to America with his family at
the age of four. He was raised in the Town of Vinland and spent the early part of his life as a farmer. But as he grew older his interests strayed from the farm fields. He kept racehorses that he ran locally and at the ripe age of 54 decided to dive deeper into the sporting life by becoming a saloon man. Kienast wasn’t blind to what he was getting into. His twin brother, Gustave William Kienast, had previously operated a somewhat notorious saloon and boarding house on Main St. in Oshkosh during the 1880s and early 1890s. And William Kienast wasn’t going it alone. His family lived with him above the saloon and his 28-year-old son Charles was going to act as proprietor. The establishment came to be known as the Turf Exchange. An advertisement from April 1904 gives a sense of what the place might have been like.
Circa, 1916

WANTED—500 Men at the Turf Exchange
Saturday Night May 14th to Help Eat 150 Pounds of Fine Roast and Fried Fish.
All Come and Have a Good Time.
C.W. Kienast, Prop.

But the good times were short lived. In the summer of 1904, William Kienast decided he’d had enough of the saloon trade. In July, he placed an ad in the Oshkosh Daily Northwestern stating, “I Want to Go Out Business on Account of My Health Not Being Good. Will Sell Cheap if Taken Soon.” Within a year the place was closed. Kienast unloaded the furniture and fittings of his barroom, (including five card-playing tables, a pool table, 18 cuspidors and a full set of saloon fixtures) and in 1906 sold the building. He moved to South Dakota, returned to farming and eventually stumbled upon a fortune. In 1920, Kienast discovered a large vein of anthracite coal on his farm while drilling a well. The 74-year-old Prussian had struck it rich.

After the departure of the Kienast family, things grew somewhat less exciting at the big building on North Main Street. It housed a dress shop in 1906 and the Nichol’s Bakery in 1909. Each of the businesses floundered. Then in 1915, the building became home to the enterprise that would hold it longer than any occupant to date. That fall, the Butternut Baking Company refurbished the former saloon and moved in.  An early promotion for the Butternut describes what had become of the place: “The walls and ceilings are white enamel and everything is up-to-the-minute to the smallest detail. The state inspector informed us that our bakery is one of the best equipped and arranged plants in the state.”
Outside the Butternut Baking Co.; Circa 1916

But the orderly atmosphere held its own kind of danger. On a Friday afternoon in May 1916, the building and a life within were nearly lost. The Oshkosh Daily Northwestern reported on the near disaster:

BURNED BY HOT LARD - Employee at Local Bakery Falls with Kettle and is Severely Injured – Julius Kinner, a colored man employed at the Butternut Baking company’s new plant on upper Main street sustained severe and serious burns yesterday in a fire which for a time threatened the existence of the plant. A kettle of lard in which doughnuts were frying took fire. Kinner attempted to carry the burning lard out of doors and fell, the hot grease splashing upon his face, neck and arms. He was taken to St. Mary’s hospital and today his condition is said to be favorable. The damage to the bakery was comparatively small.
– Oshkosh Daily Northwestern, May 20, 1916

Time would prove Kinner’s misfortune to be an exception. For the next 50 years, the Butternut held steady at 663 N. Main with little turbulence along the way. The company was led by Charles J. Koehn, a sober, community-minded businessman with a deep interest in Oshkosh history. He was a collector of American Indian artifacts and a strong proponent of the Oshkosh Public Museum, where he acted as an honorary curator and served on the Museum’s Board of Directors. After Koehn’s retirement in 1945, the Butternut was sold to a Stevens Point bakery and operated by Leo Cholewinski a Polish-born baker. Cholewinski headed the company until it closed permanently in 1965.

After the bakery’s demise, the guts of the building were transformed again. In 1967, it was converted into Vern’s Cycle Shop. It would remain a bicycle shop for the next dozen years before becoming a spectacularly poor fit for the New Faith Fellowship Church in 1981. But this is a building that seems to want to be a tavern. In 1983, it was returned to its original intent with the launch of the Patti K. Lounge. That didn’t last, either.

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s the taverns housed within this building would change names almost yearly. In 1984, it was Pappa Bear’s Public Pizzeria Tavern; In 1985, it was re-christened Ted E. Bear’s Pub & Pizzeria; and in 1986 it became Shoe’s Pub. Shoe’s would hold forth until 1990 when the flux began anew. It was called Ted’s Place in 1991 and the Tijuana Country Club from 1992 through 1994. In 1995 it became Godfather’s and so it would stay until 2001. The constant turnover is telling. For the most part, these were run-of-the-mill Oshkosh watering holes serving up a nondescript cocktail of rail booze and pale beer. They blended into the Oshkosh tavern scene of the period, which was bland, big and lacking in variety. That began to change for the better with the arrival of the 2000s.

Barley & Hops; 2013
In 2001, the impending demolition of the the old college strip on the east side of Wisconsin St. sent Nate Stiefvater looking for a new place to set up shop. He had run Nad’s (formerly The Bubbler and the Lost Dutchman) on the strip since his arrival in Oshkosh from Stevens Point in 1997. In December 2001, he took over Godfather’s and renamed it Barley & Hops. He’s been there ever since. Nate now owns the property and holds the second longest tenure in the 113-year-old building. Much has changed since he’s taken over. With 14 beers on tap and a large selection of craft beer in bottles, Barley’s has grown into one of the more reliable spots in Oshkosh for good beer. And there are more changes on the way. Next spring, Nate hopes to break new turf at the former Turf Exchange with the construction of a beer garden that will skirt the southern exterior of the building. Obviously, there’s still plenty of life left in Kienast’s old haunt. As Nate says, “This place was built to last.”