Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Fox River Brewing Launches Bago Brew Collection

Last week Fox River Brewing Co. in Oshkosh sent out an email blast announcing a new series of beers named the Bago Brew Collection that will be released over the course of this summer. The first in the series is a beer named 2 Dams Blonde Ale, which is now on tap at Fratellos. It’s a good beer, but more of a cream ale than a blonde. I may be splitting hairs, but to me it has the tangible sweetness and negligible hop character that distinguishes a cream ale from a blonde ale. Thankfully, 2 Dams is unfiltered, so despite it being fairly crisp the beer retains a soft mouthfeel that makes it a bit more interesting than a standard cream ale.

The other piece of the Bago Brew Collection is that Fox River will, once again, be distributing their beers to area taverns. There was a time, especially in the late 1990s, when you used to see Fox River beers on tap at bars across the Fox River Valley. That presence gradually dwindled to nothing. The last time I saw a Fox River beer in an Oshkosh tavern was at Barley & Hops a couple of years ago. It’ll be good to see a handle from the local brewery showing up beside those of other craft brewers again.

But here’s the rub: why would you kick this all off with a blonde ale? I don’t assume to know Fox River’s customer base better than they do, but I do know a good number of their customers and I know that this isn’t the sort of beer that’s going to grab their attention. In the current craft-beer environment you just don’t see people gravitating towards blonde ales. Sure, a beer like Spotted Cow sells like mad, but that beer was first released in 1997 at a time when “micro brew” was looked upon as something of a novelty. Those days are gone. What makes the Cow such a powerhouse these days is its omnipresence coupled with the familiarity people have with the beer. I think it would be safe to say that if Spotted Cow were released today, it would stand little chance of reaching the level of popularity it now holds.

Perhaps I’m just being crotchety. The beer 2 Dams is replacing is Fox Light, a beer with an unfortunate name, but a beer that I always enjoyed. Fox Light was not a “Lite” beer, it was a German-style kolsch and a damned good one. Good enough, in fact to win a World Beer Cup award in 2010. 2 Dams is a suitable replacement, but that’s all it is. It’s not a step up. It’s a middle-of-the-road beer. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s time for them to stop playing it so safe. This is a brewery capable of producing a wide-range of complex, interesting beers. I’d like to see them market that for a change.


  1. Personally, I find the Fox River beer very bland as a whole. They all seem to have this sanitizing aftertaste, like they didnt clean out the vats of all the cleaning chemicals. I just recently had two business visitors in from Washington. They just happened to find the Fox River Brewery in Appleton at the mall. After testing several flavors, they opted for Coors Light. These guys are seasoned beer drinkers and couldnt stomach anything on the menu. This place is very overrated!

    1. Can’t say I agree with you, Anonymous. To each their own, but your blanket condemnation doesn’t match my experience there. And Coors light? Those "seasoned" beer drinkers from Washington could use more seasoning.