Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Happy Holidays!

Taking a short break for the Holidays... see you all 2014!

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Oshkosh Flip

As we all know, the holiday season is a decidedly mixed bag. It can be fun, disgusting, heart warming and stomach turning – sometimes all at the same time. Just like the Oshkosh Flip.

A Flip is a beer cocktail that’s been around since at least the late 1600s and probably much earlier. It was popular in colonial-era America, but the ale-based Flip began to fade in the mid-1800s as the country’s tastes shifted in favor of lager beer. With the American craft beer movement predicated upon ale, perhaps it’s time we revive the Flip.

A basic Flip entails the heating of a dark ale that’s been given a dose of sugar and a dash of nutmeg or ginger. The warmed ale blend is then spiked with a mixture of egg yolk and rum that’s been beaten to a froth. Since we’re doing an Oshkosh Flip, I thought we ought to make the cocktail more in line with our native tastes. Rum? To hell with that. We’re from Wisconsin, we drink brandy!

Here’s what you'll need and how to make it:

  • 8 oz. of dark ale – go with a porter or stout. I wanted to make mine a true Oshkosh Flip, so I used the Breakfast Stout from Fox River Brewing Company. I liked the roasted coffee notes this beer added. You can find Breakfast Stout in the cooler at Fratellos. But if you can’t get that, just about any stout or porter should work. 
  • 1 tablespoon of brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon of ground ginger
  • Stir it all together in a pan and heat it gently.
  • While your sweetened ale warms, pour 1 ounce of brandy over a 1 egg yolk in a separate bowl and whip it to a froth.
  • When the ale mixture has reached the temperature of blood, add the egg yolk/brandy and stir together.
  • Pour slowly into a goblet and enjoy.

I was surprised by how much I liked this. Warm beer and raw egg may sound like a nasty combination, but the drink was tasty and oddly fortifying. Maybe it was the warmed alcohol going to my head, but on a cold winter night, this is just about right.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

A Gift of Beer

We’re getting down to the wire, folks. If you’re still searching for a gift for that beer lover in your life, let me help you (while I help myself).

The Breweries of Oshkosh might be just what you’re looking for. It’s all about our town’s incredible history of beer and brewing. It begins in 1849 and takes us up to the revived beer scene of Oshkosh today. This 160-page, hard-cover book includes more than 300 images, many of them in full color. It was published in September 2012 and there are just about 100 copies left. Beer Cans & Brewery Collectibles Magazine says, “Readers will have no problem sticking around to the end of this entertaining book... highly recommended, and not just for Cheeseheads.”

In Oshkosh, it’s available for $39.95 at Apple Blossom Books, Camera Casino, Paper Tiger Book Store and Originals Mall of Antiques. You can also purchase it online and receive free shipping. Or you can contact me at OshkoshBeer@gmail.com and I’ll make sure you get it before Christmas. It’s all about beer and Oshkosh. It’s gotta be good.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Beer Brewing Rahrs of Wisconsin

Rahr Beer in Manitowoc
The name Rahr was once synonymous with beer in Northeast Wisconsin. And the story of the Rahr family is central to the history of brewing in this part of the state. That story begins in 1847 when a 35-year-old brewer named Wilhelm Peter Mathias Rahr left his native city of Wesel, Germany to come to America. Rahr went to Manitowoc where he immediately took up where he had left off by establishing Manitowoc’s Eagle Brewery, one of the first lager breweries in Northeast Wisconsin.

Rahr’s exploits in the new world caught the attention of three adventurous family members still in Germany. In 1853, Wilhelm’s nephew Henry Rahr made the transatlantic crossing then made his way to his uncle’s brewery. Henry was soon followed by his brothers Charles and August. The Manitowoc brewery would be the training ground for the Rahr family of brewers prior to their setting out on their own.

Rahr Beer in Green Bay
Henry was the first of the brothers to stake his own brewing claim. In 1858, Henry Rahr and August Hochgreve established the Shantytown Brewery in what is now the Village of Bellevue; just southeast of Green Bay. His brothers August and Charles would follow Henry to Bellevue, but it wasn’t long before Henry would set out again. In 1865, Henry split with Hochgreve and launched what came to be known as the Rahr Green Bay Brewing Company on the East River. It was the first brewery within the City of Green Bay. That same year, August and Charles Rahr went to Oshkosh.

On July 10, 1865, August and Charles Rahr purchased five acres of land on the shore of Lake Winnebago in Oshkosh and began setting up their brewery. It would first be known as the City Brewery and later as the Rahr Brewing Company. There were now three Rahr family breweries in Northeast Wisconsin: Wilhelm Rahr’s Eagle Brewery in Manitowoc; Henry Rahr’s East Side Brewery in Green Bay; and Charles & August Rahr’s City Brewery in Oshkosh. On their respective home turfs, all three were better known as the “Rahr Brewery.” That wasn’t a problem in the early years when the local brews remained local, but later the shared name would lead to confusion as Rahr beers began traveling beyond their cities of origin.

Rahr Beer in Oshkosh
The Manitowoc Rahrs were the first to begin brewing, but were also the first to stop making beer. The Manitowoc brewery, then known as The William Rahr Sons' Company, ceased brewing with the onset of Prohibition in 1919. But the lucrative malting business they operated in tandem with the brewery continued to thrive. By the early 1890s, the Manitowoc Rahrs were selling malt to Anheuser-Busch Brewing. The association would help ensure the success of Rahr Malting, which grew into one of the largest maltsters in the nation. Anheuser-Busch purchased the Manitowoc Malting Plant in 1962, but the Rahr family remains in the malting and brewing supply business and now has a global customer base.

The Rahr Brewing Company of Oshkosh discontinued brewing in 1956 after 91 years in operation as a family-owned business. And a decade later, the 100-year-old Rahr Brewing Company of Green Bay closed. The rights to its labels were purchased by the Oshkosh Brewing Company, which began producing the Green Bay Rahr brands in Oshkosh. Even people in Oshkosh were puzzled by this new Rahr beer being brewed here. David Gehrke remembers seeing the Rahr trucks come to town. “It was pretty confusing to me,” Gehrke says. “I always thought Rahr's was an old brand from Oshkosh, and all of the trucks across from OBC (Oshkosh Brewing Company) had "Rahr Green Bay Brewing Company" painted on the doors. Little did I know that the Rahr acquisition might have been some sort of last gasp for OBC.” Last gasp is right. In 1971, the Oshkosh Brewing Company went out of business and with that Rahr beer in Northeast Wisconsin became a thing of the past.

Rahr Beer in Texas
But it wasn’t the end of Rahr beer. In 2004, Frederick William Rahr, Jr – the great-great-grandson of Manitowoc’s Wilhelm Rahr – established Rahr & Sons Brewing in Fort Worth, Texas. The Texas Rahr is well aware of his lineage and has pledged to “follow in the traditions of my family and brew majestic lagers and rich ales using age-old recipes in the styles of the Rahr brew masters of the past.” The brewery has won numerous awards including several for traditional lagers of the sort that the Rahrs of Wisconsin were well known for. Now if we could only get some of that Rahr beer up here in Wisconsin.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Bourbon County Brand Coffee Stout Tapping at Gardina's

Hard to believe that we’ve already arrived at chapter five of "Gardina's Beer Bar" series, but there you have it. The fifth installment of the monthly special at Gardina’s gets under way tomorrow evening (Tuesday, December 17) with the keg being tapped at 6 p.m.

The beer poised to pour this time is a colossus: Goose Island’s Bourbon County Brand Coffee Stout. This is a limited edition Imperial Stout that’s aged in bourbon barrels and then blended with cold-brewed coffee. It’s 14.3% ABV and gets a 100 rating on both RateBeer and Beer Advocate, where it currently sits at #4 on their Top 250 Beers list. This is a rare one, for sure. Go to it, Geeks!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Oshkosh Beer Sampler: Brandy Barrel XV

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

What: Brandy Barrel XV, an aged Barleywine sold in 22oz, waxed bottles.

Where: Fratellos Fox River Brewing Company in Oshkosh

Why: Because we all need a challenge every now and then and this beer is definitely that. But in the best possible way. It began life as a plus-size Barleywine at 9.7% ABV. After primary fermentation, it was transferred into a Korbel Brandy barrel for an extended period of aging and where it travelled north of 10% ABV. From there it was split into 400 bombers that have been hand-dipped in wax. What now pours from those bottles is a massively complex ale that’s a nice buffer against these bone-chilling nights. The beer flows dark and thick with the ripe scent of stone fruit. Layer after layer of aroma and flavor come up as the beer settles and warms in the glass. Brandied fruits, fig cookies, vanilla, oak, molasses... all of it underpinned with a warming boziness. Split this with a good friend and take a good long time to enjoy all the flavors that keep peeling up.

At Fratellos their selling this from the beer cooler for $15 a bottle (but make sure you let it get warm; their cooler temps are frigid). I liked the first bottle so much I bought a second that I’m going to cellar for as much time as I can stand to. We’ll see how long I can hold out.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A Firkin For Friday at O’Marro’s Public House

This cask-conditioned ale thing is started to gain some ground in Oshkosh. It’s about time. Another barrel comes rolling in to Oshkosh this Friday (Dec 13) at O’Marro’s Public House where Shawn is going to drive the spile into a cask of Abita Oak-Aged Pecan Harvest Ale (5.2% ABV). This beer starts as a classic, English Brown Ale that gets a brewhouse addition of toasted Louisiana pecans followed by a period of aging in oak barrels. The cask gets tapped at 6 p.m. You might want to get there on time because it’s a fun thing to witness. Here’s more about Abita’s Firkin program and here’s the Facebook page for the event.

On another O’Marro’s note; this past Sunday (Dec. 8) the first Brew Session at O’Marro’s took place. The session sold out with the crew brewing a Pilsner. The next Brew Session will be an IPA taking place Sunday, December 15. Last I heard there were two spots still open. If you want in, call call Shawn or Kyle at 410-7735. And here’s the Facebook event page for that one.

Monday, December 9, 2013

There’s An SOB at Pigeon River

Brett Hintz Brewing at Pigeon River
The December edition of the Oshkosh SCENE is out and available all over town. In this month’s Oshkosh Beer Garden column, I write about the explosive growth in brewery numbers and feature a couple of small, rural breweries that have recently popped up in Northeast Wisconsin. One of those breweries, Pigeon River Brewing of Marion, has a strong Oshkosh connection. Its head brewer is Brett “Bub” Hintz, a resident of Oshkosh and a member of the Society of Oshkosh Brewers.

Hintz started out brewing in Marion while he was still in high school. One day in band class fellow tuba player Nate Knaack suggested that they try making beer. Hintz was up for it. Their brewing adventure had begun. A decade later, Knaack is the owner of Pigeon River Brewing and Hintz is the man behind the brewery’s beer. “It’s come full circle,” Hintz says. “We started brewing and that was it. It’s like our course in life was set at that point.”

In addition to brewing at Pigeon River, Hintz holds down a full-time job in Oshkosh and still manages to find time to homebrew. Over the past few years, I’ve had a slew of his homebrew. One of my favorites is his Dunkelweizen, an ale that’s also in regular rotation at Pigeon River. But going from homebrewer to pro-brewer took some doing. “It was a learning curve for all of us,” Hintz says. “The process is the same, it’s just learning how to deal with the material in such large quantities.”

But that homebrew spirit remains intact. This is still small-batch beer that he’s brewing at Pigeon River – six barrels at a time – and it’s all done by hand. Even the equipment Hintz is brewing on at Pigeon River is home made. Much of it was built by Keith Gillaume in the late 1990s from spare parts and repurposed dairy equipment. Gillaume was a homebrewer who launched Denmark Brewing in Denmark, Wisconsin in 1999. When the Denmark brewery closed in 2008, Gillaume’s system went to O’so Brewing in Plover. When O’so expanded two years ago, the equipment made its way to Pigeon River. It’s been around, but it’s still making good beer. And Hintz is having a good time with it. “It’s been a lot of fun,’ He says. “We’ve done it for a year now, so everything isn’t so brand new anymore. I’m just really excited.”

For more on Pigeon River Brewing, check out their website.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Dogfish Head Tasting at Oblio’s

In 2011, Dogfish Head handed Wisconsin a Dear John letter saying the brewery just couldn’t keep up with demand. And that was the end of Dogfish Head being distributed in Wisconsin for the next couple years. In the meantime, the Delaware brewery launched a massive expansion that will eventually enable it to produce close to a half million barrels annually. And now they’re back.

On Tuesday, trucks full of DFH beer left Delaware bound for Wisconsin. Next week some of that stash will be doled out at events in De Pere, La Crosse, Madison and...... Oshkosh. Yes, Oshkosh. Good to see they had the good sense to get us in on the first few swigs.

The Oshkosh tasting will take place at Oblio’s Lounge this coming Monday, December 9 beginning at 7:30 p.m. No word yet on what exactly they'll be pouring, but the event is free and they should have a decent selection of DFH product on hand. Shit, they even posted the Oshkosh event on the DFH website.

Lee Beverage has the distribution rights for DFH in our area, so it shouldn’t be too long before we start seeing the stuff show up on tap and in stores around here. But if your a lover of the DFH flagship beer, 60 Minute IPA, you’re still out of luck. That’s not among the beers Wisconsin will receive. Here’s what will be coming our way: 90 Minute IPA, Indian Brown Ale, Midas Touch, Palo Santo Marron, Burton Baton, Tweason’ale, 75 Minute IPA, Namaste, Hellhound On My Ale, Sah’Tea, Theobroma and Kvasir. Now if I could only pronounce half that stuff.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Appleton Beer Factory Now Pouring

We have new brewpub within easy reach. After three years of preparation and a name change, Appleton Beer Factory began pouring beer last Tuesday (Nov 26) at 603 W. College Ave. The brewery - first called Das Brewery - was announced in the fall of 2010 by Jeff Fogle, its founder and president. It took $900,000 to get the place up and brewing and they wound up with a good looking, well-appointed space. There’s a handsome bar and dining area in front with a view onto College Ave. Off to the side is a second dining/party room and in back is the large brewery. Judging by the size of that brewery, it would seem they have ambitions beyond simply supplying beer for their own bar. In addition to serving their house beers, they also plan on having other Wisconsin craft brews on tap, but when I was there Saturday that wasn’t the case.

So what about their beer? This weekend they were serving four brews; a Blonde Ale, an American Pale Ale, a Hefeweizen, and an Oatmeal Stout. They were all solid, well-made beers; certainly a good sign for a new brewery. But the beers are so conservative in both style choice and design that it’s hard to get excited about any of them. It would have been nice to see them throw in at least one beer that isn’t from the brewpub playbook of 1995. If you take a look at their Beer List it appears they intend to continue playing it close to the vest; at least in the near term. But it’s early, let’s give them a chance. Appleton Beer Factory is certainly worth checking out and keeping an eye on.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Pieces of Peoples

On June 18, 1974 the equipment and fixtures of the Peoples Brewing Company were put on the auction block. The brewery had been closed for almost two years and the Small Business Administration was now seeking to recoup some of its losses after Peoples had defaulted on the $390,000 loan the SBA had guaranteed. Buyers representing Pabst, Leinenkugel’s and other brewing concerns were on hand looking to scoop up brewery supplies on the cheap. But the best deal may have been made by an Oshkosh kid named Dave Gehrke. “I decided to walk over and check things out,” Gehrke says. “I was hoping to come away with a free souvenir, so I found the auctioneer and asked him. He wanted to get rid of a pesky 14 year old (me), so he told me I could rummage through the file cabinets in the business office.”

The pictures below show what he came away with. These are printer’s art-boards from the mid-1950s containing designs for the Peoples logo and, what were then, their new tap handles. They’re one-of-kind pieces; the sort of stuff collectors of breweriana go wild for. Nice to know that while the big guys were licking their chops over the bones of the brewery, an Oshkosh kid was preserving a few small piece of our brewing history.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Barley’s Beer Sampling is Wednesday Night: Ale Asylum, Peoples Beer and a Whole Lot More

Chapter two of the 2013 Barley & Hops Beer Sampling series launches this Wednesday (Dec 4) at 7 pm. By now, I’m guessing you know what this is all about. Nate at Barley’s brings in a load of craft brews to sample with an emphasis on the beers of a featured brewery. This time the brewery in the spotlight is Ale Asylum of Madison. They’ll be pouring their regular line-up along with a spate of special brews, including three beers that will be debuting at Barley’s. In addition to the Ale Asylum beers, there will about 50 other beers along with a host of wines and liquors to sample.

And then there’s this: The Society of Oshkosh Brewers will be on hand pouring their homebrew including a couple clones of historic Oshkosh beers. SOB Jody Cleveland will have his clone of Peoples Beer and I’ll be pouring my version of Peoples Holiday Beer. It’s a strong lager that was once a holiday staple here, but hasn’t been served in Oshkosh in more than 40 years. At 7.75% ABV it’s bound to make a few spirits bright.

Barley’s Beer Sampling begins at 7pm. Advance tickets are available at Barley & Hops for $20. Tickets at the door are $25. Check out the events Facebook page HERE. See you there.