Monday, December 8, 2014

Chief Oshkosh Red Lager and the Question of Heritage

By 1993, Chief Oshkosh Red Lager was being challenged on all fronts. Leinenkugel's had recently introduced a beer that co-opted the “Red Lager” brand and was using the muscle of its parent company, Miller Brewing, to squeeze the Oshkosh beer off store shelves.

Then came the flap over the name Chief Oshkosh. A Minnesota group had taken offense to the use of Native American names in association with alcohol products. In November 1993, the Milwaukee television station WITI/TV-6 aired a segment on its evening newscast profiling the dispute. In this video we’ll see Jeff Fulbright, president Mid-Coast Brewing, tell his side of the story.

This wasn’t the first time that Fulbright had heard objections about the name of his beer. This time, though, the opposition was more formidable. They were fighting to have the Chief Oshkosh brand invalidated in Minnesota, one of ten states where the beer was distributed. The effort was part of a larger push that centered around Crazy Horse Malt Liquor, made by Hornell Brewing. Those who opposed brewers using American Indian names got their way. In 1994, the Minnesota legislature enacted a statute banning the “misleading” use of such names in connection with alcohol.

The regulation was immediately challenged. In April 1995, Twin Cities Public Television’s NewsNight Minnesota aired a feature on the court case. This segment from the program shows Jeff Fulbright being interviewed at the Pioneer Inn. The video also shows the emblem of the Oshkosh Brewing Company when it was still affixed to an outer wall at the Convention Center.

The Minnesota statute would eventually be overturned, but by then the Chief Oshkosh name was no longer an issue. The last batch of  Chief Oshkosh Red Lager had been brewed in December 1994. Sales of the beer continued through the first half of 1995, but by year’s end Chief Oshkosh Red Lager gone.

For more on Mid-Coast Brewing and Chief Oshkosh Red Lager, visit this earlier post.

No comments:

Post a Comment