Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Get SOB’d

The Society of Oshkosh Brewers have a couple of club events this week that are open to the public. The first is just hours away.

SOB Beer Dinner at Dublin’s
Tonight (Tuesday, April 28) Dublin’s Irish Pub and the SOBs will host a beer dinner featuring beers brewed by area homebrewers. At this moment there are 8 tickets left. And they’re a steal at just $25. The dinner begins at 6 p.m. To reserve a seat, get in touch with the folks at Dublin’s at (920) 385-0277. The full menu and pairings can be found HERE.

Big Brew Day with the SOBs
Then on Saturday, May 2, the SOBs will take part in the American Homebrewers Association’s Big Brew for National Homebrew Day. The SOBs will gather in the parking lot of O’Marro’s Public House for a group brew that’ll kick off at 9 a.m. and last until early afternoon.

If you’re the least bit curious about homebrewing, this is a great way to get introduced to the homecraft of beer making. The SOBs will have several systems set up making beer and showing the brewing process from beginning to end. There’s no admission and everyone is welcome (and there’s usually a bit of good homebrew being passed around). I’ll be there with my ghetto system brewing up a slop of lagerbier. Stop by and say hello.

Here’s a video shot at Big Brew Day a few years ago by SOB Mike Engel. This will give you an idea of what it’s all about.

Monday, April 27, 2015

The Death Knell for Homebrew in Oshkosh

This is the last in a series of four posts about the spring of 1933 when beer became legal again and the effect that had on Oshkosh. The previous posts in this series can be found here, here, and here.

Not everyone was celebrating when legal beer returned on April 7, 1933. And it wasn’t just Prohibitionists feeling the sting of defeat. The people who supported and supplied homebrewers in Oshkosh were left in the lurch when legal beer made its long awaited comeback.

By 1930, Prohibition had been in effect for more than a decade. During that time, homebrewing in Oshkosh grew into a cottage industry. In response, dozens of retailers in the city began stocking malt extracts, hops and other goods for making beer (more on that next week). Two of these outlets were especially noteworthy.

Rex Malt Products Company
Carlton Windhauser
In 1925, Anna Windhauser opened Rex Malt Products Company, a homebrew supply shop on the west side of Main St. south of Ceape Ave. Windhauser’s shop appears to have been the first store in Oshkosh to sell homebrew supplies as its main trade.

Anna Windhauser had recently separated from her husband in Green Bay when she arrived in Oshkosh with her four children in early 1925. Windhauser moved her young family into rooms behind the store and began stocking everything a small-batch brewer needed to make and package beer. The text of an early ad for Windhauser’s shop tells the story.

     Save on Malts and Hops
     BUY In bulk. Also caps, cappers, syphon
     hose, bottles, fillers, brushes,
     bottle washers. Phone 2624. We deliver.
     Rex Malt Products Co., 17 Main Street
        - Oshkosh Daily Northwestern April 13, 1925

The business thrived and Windhauser expanded the operation. She moved Rex Malt Products south, across the river, to what is now 1013 Oregon St., where the Oregon Club tavern is currently located. Windhauser’s 18-year-old son, Carlton, became manager of the store. Here’s a typical ad for Rex Malt Products from 1928 featuring weekend specials offered to Oshkosh area homebrewers. As always, click any of the images you see here to enlarge them.

All was well until 1933 and the return of legal beer. As the breweries here ramped up, homebrewing died off. In April 1933, the Windhauser’s acquired a liquor license and began selling Blatz beer and glassware from their store. It wasn’t enough to compensate for the flagging sales of homebrew supplies.

In September 1933, six months after beer had become legal, the Windhauser’s sold off their remaining stock and closed their store.

Midwest Sales Company
In 1928, longtime Oshkosh grocer James Skole opened a homebrew shop. He planted his store at what is now 617 Oregon, just up the street from the Windhauser store. The Southside of Oshkosh was a hotbed of homebrewing during the dry years. Skole, who lived and operated a grocery on Otter Ave., seems to have wanted his brew store to be near the center of the action.

Skole’s Midwest Sales carried a complete array of brewing products. Much of the equipment he sold was aimed at brewers looking to create larger batches of beer. He stocked fifteen gallon fermentors and half-barrel oak kegs and offered malt extract by the case. Skole acted as both wholesaler and retailer. It looks as though he was trying to capture the business of bootleg brewers as well as homebrewers.

Here’s an ad from August 1928 showing some of the wares Skole was offering shortly after the store opened.

In addition to his homebrew supplies, Skole began selling grocery and other items in his shop. He was thinking ahead. By the close of the 1920s, it was apparent that Prohibition was bound for the dust bin. It was just a matter of when. Skole got out early. In April 1932, he began selling off the stock of Midwest Sales and shortly after closed the store.

Homebrewing in Oshkosh never returned to the peak levels that were seen in the 1920s. Windhauser’s Rex Malt Products was, in all likelihood, the first homebrew shop to open in Oshkosh. It was also the last. We haven’t had a store of this type since.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Oshkosh Brew News

The new Oshkosh Beer Beat column is up at the Oshkosh Independent. Check it out HERE.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Black Marlin Porter

Here in Oshkosh, we began receiving beer from San Diego’s Ballast Point Brewing this past January. The brewery is best known for its IPAs. That’s mostly what we’ve been seeing from BP around here. But this unassuming Porter is something special.

Black Marlin Porter is a deep, brown ale with a sticky beige head that laces the glass as you drink it down. The aroma made me think of chocolate milk backed by a light and lingering note of coffee. This is an almost-full bodied beer with a lower than average carbonation that lends it a creamy texture. Flavors of caramel malt and chocolate lead with a mild vanilla accent at mid-palate. I love the hopping of this beer. There’s a driving, earthy hop flavor that accompanies those sweeter malt notes wonderfully. The staunch bitterness those hops leave makes for a finish that’s cleaner than you’d expect from a beer so flavorful. This is an exceptional Porter.

Black Marlin Porter is 6% ABV and measures in with 42 IBUs. I picked up mine last Saturday at the retail side of Gardina’s where it’s being sold in 22 oz. bombers for $4.99. What’s not to like about that?

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

A First Look at Fifth Ward Brewing Company

Ian Wenger and Zach Clark have some busy months ahead of them. The two are currently in the thick of preparing a brewery and taproom they hope to open later this year at 611 Oregon St. in Oshkosh.

Clark and Wenger would like to have their Fifth Ward Brewing Company operational by December. “That’s giving us some time to get everything done,”  Clark says. “We should be able to get it turned around. The biggest thing will be finding our investors.”

They’re off to a good start. Clark and Wenger have now raised approximately half the funding they’re seeking. Last week, their bid on the Oregon St. property was accepted. Already resolved is the vision of the brewery they want to establish there.

The brewery’s taproom would be open Wednesday through Saturday. They’d like to start with 10 tap lines, at least eight of them pouring Fifth Ward beer. Clark and Wenger describe the beer they intend to brew as “culinary inspired.” Not surprising considering that both have worked as chefs in the kitchen at Dublin’s Irish Pub for several years.

“That's going to be the focus of a lot of our recipes,” says Wenger. “We’ll lean towards using some unusual and interesting ingredients.” The duo will act as co-brewmasters. Variety will be emphasized.

“A third of our beers will be one offs and specialties,” says Clark. “Every month we'll be coming out with a new beer. We're also looking at doing a continual sour line.”

The brewhouse producing that beer will be located near the rear of the Oregon St. building. Clark and Wenger intend to install a 10-barrel brewing system that will feed four 20-barrel fermenters.

Clark (left), and Wenger
Not all of Fifth Ward’s beer would be sold out of its taproom. “We’ll distribute kegged and bottled beer in the Oshkosh area ourselves,” Wenger says. “We've been going around town talking to people about our beer and asking what they would like to see from us. Right now we have about eight letters of intent to purchase.” They anticipate selling about 360 barrels of beer within the brewery’s first year of operation.

Clark, 24, and Wenger, 23, have been researching their startup for more than three years. “We’ve been doing our homework figuring out costs and poking into every little corner of what we need to do to get this up and running,” says Wenger. “We have a very clear idea of what we want this to be, our brand, and the types of beer we’ll sell.”

They’ve received guidance from other Wisconsin craft brewers including Russ Klisch, president of Milwaukee’s Lakefront Brewery. “Russ is going to be our mentor through an accelerator program,” says Clark. “He'll be coming here Wednesday to check this place out and meet with us. We're definitely excited about that.”

If their plan comes to fruition, Clark and Wenger will be adding to a legacy that precedes them by more than 150 years. The name they’ve chosen for their brewery is a reference to both Oshkosh brewing history and their own introduction to beer making.

Oshkosh’s first Fifth Ward Brewery was launched in 1857 on land that is now part of the University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh campus. When Clark and Wenger began brewing three years ago, they lived just a block from the site of the old brewery.

“It’s where we learned how to brew,” Clark says. “The name is an ode to that.”

“It's also a nod to the history of brewing in Oshkosh,” adds Wenger. “We really want to incorporate that into what we're trying to do. We want to keep that history alive.”

“We're really trying to make it happen,” Clark chimes in. “We have some work to do, but we’ll get there.”

Monday, April 20, 2015

An Old Friend Comes Back

One more look back to the Spring of 1933 when folks around here were getting their first taste of legally brewed Oshkosh beer in 14 years.

Last week, I posted an ad from Rahr Brewing of Oshkosh that ran on March 22, 1933. That was the day President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Beer and Wine Revenue Act. The new law made it legal to produce and sell beer that was less than 3.2% alcohol by weight beginning April 7, 1933.

Roosevelt signed the bill at 1 p.m. At 1:03 p.m. the Oshkosh Daily Northwestern received a wire telling of the good news. Word spread quickly. Oshkosh breweries and factories began sounding their whistles in celebration. Mayor Taylor Brown declared that April 7 would be a half-holiday in Oshkosh beginning at noon, freeing people to get out and drink beer.

Rahr wasn’t the only brewery in town that rushed giddy ads into the evening paper on March 22. Peoples Brewing and the Oshkosh Brewing Company also had their say. Here’s the Peoples ad. As always, if you click the images, they’ll expand in size.

And here’s the ad from the Oshkosh Brewing Company.

“Our hand has never lost its skill, we are masters in the brewing art.” I really like that!

Each of these were large, 3/4 page ads that dominated the page. The Rahr ad ran on page 7, Peoples on page 9, and OBC’s on page 11. Interspersed were stories telling of how many people the breweries would hire, the tax revenue that would be generated, and how fine it would be to have legal beer again.

This played out while Oshkosh was being pummeled by the Great Depression. With unemployment here estimated to be over 30%, the city was in dire straits. Things had degenerated to the point that city workers maintained 20 fishing nets in Lake Winnebago. They were raised twice weekly with the catch being distributed among the needy. Amidst the despair, the return of legal beer was something to be happy for.

The response in Oshkosh nearly overwhelmed the local breweries. Orders for beer immediately poured in. On April 6, the Daily Northwestern reported that, “there has been such a heavy demand that it is doubtful whether it will be possible to make all the deliveries the first day that have been promised.”

Not to worry, they all received their beer. The “old friend” had come back to stay.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Tuesday Night at Gardina's Beer Bar

Tuesday night, Gardina’s will host the 18th edition of its Beer Bar series. They’re going all out for this one. Here’s the full rundown.

Kirby Nelson
At 6 p.m, they’ll tap a firkin of Blister In the Sun from Wisconsin Brewing Company. This is an India White Lager dry hopped with Amarillo and Nelson Sauvin hops and spiced with orange peel and coriander.

 WBC brewmaster Kirby Nelson will be on hand to introduce the beer and meet with all you fine Oshkosh folk. Kirby is a very approachable sort who loves to talk beer. Don’t hesitate to step up and say hello to him.

 Gardina’s will have a mini tap takeover featuring beers from WBC. On draft will be Yankee Buzzard IPA, Betray Ale (the brewery describes it as an India Pale Bock Ale), and Chocolate Lab Brown Porter.

 An optional four-course beer dinner will be offered, pairing dishes with the four WBC beers pouring that night. The dinner option is $30. Here’s the menu:

Course 1
Asian Spring Roll with Ahi Tuna and citrus Ponzu.
Paired with Blister in the Sun.

Course 2
Scallop-Crab Cake Napoleon with a Mango-Brown Butter Vinaigrette. Paired with Betray Ale.

Course 3
Seared Pork Tenderloin with Citrus Mashed Sweet Potatoes, Sauteed Kale and Pan Jus Lie.
Paired with Yankee Buzzard IPA.

Course 4
House Made Vanilla Bean Ice Cream with a Chocolate-Framboise Glaze.
Paired with Chocolate Lab Brown Porter

It should be a great night at Gardina’s.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Oshkosh Brew News

My new Oshkosh Beer Beat column is up at the Oshkosh Independent.  This times it’s a grab bag of Oshkosh beer news. Check it out here.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

So It Gose

If you would have told me five years ago that you could take your pick among Gose-style beers in Oshkosh I wouldn’t have believed you. Until very recently Gose (pronounced Go-zuh) was a style of beer virtually impossible to get your hands on around here unless you brewed it yourself. How that has changed. Today, there’s Gose popping up all over town.

Gose is a German style of wheat ale that dates back to at least the early 1700s. Pale and tart and sometimes outright sour, a Gose is usually spiced with coriander and salt. It’s typically low in alcohol and exceedingly refreshing.

The style was popular in Germany into the early 1900s, but by the late 1960s, Gose had all but vanished. The beer’s slow return began in the mid-1980s in Berlin, but it wasn’t until American craft brewers latched onto Gose in recent years that the style was truly revived.

Here’s a great example of an American craft brewers idiosyncratic take on an idiosyncratic beer.

When The Light Gose Out
This Gose is a collaboration brew dreamed up by England’s Siren Brewery and Stillwater Artisanal Brewing of Baltimore. They’ve played roughly with the basic Gose framework for this beer. Instead of it being straw colored, it’s black. And I mean pitch black with a lively brown foam that would look more appropriate on a Stout. And instead of coriander, they went with hibiscus flowers and then used volcanic black salt for the brine. The tart fruit and toasted malt scents that come up in the aroma reminded me strongly of some Flanders Red Ales I’ve tried. The flavor is bright and tart with sour cherries and green apples coming to mind. There’s a decent amount of toasted malt flavor here, as well, lending the beer a pie-like aspect as the malt notes blend with those tart fruit flavors. It’s a light-bodied, effervescent beer that slides down effortlessly. A slight twang of salt in the finish makes it wonderfully quenching. At just 4.3% ABV you could drink this stuff all day. The only place around town where I’ve seen When The Light Gose Out is at Gardina’s where I picked up a 17-ounce bottle for $10.00.

More Gose
Here are a few other Gose beers recently spotted around Oshkosh that are worth tucking into.

California’s Anderson Valley Brewing has put out a series of Gose’s recently that have found their way to Oshkosh. Their Blood Orange Gose and The Kimmie, The Yink, & The Holy Gose hue closer to the style than the Stillwater beer and are worth seeking out.  Both these beers are 4.2% ABV. I’ve seen Anderson Valley brewed Gose at Ski’s where they sell them in six packs of cans. Dublin’s currently has The Kimmie, The Yink, & The Holy Gose on draft. I had one yesterday. It was fantastic!

Schell's Goosetown Gose is another excellent example of Gose. This one leans a bit heavier on the salt and features a zesty lemon flavor that makes it ridiculously drinkable. Beats the hell out of a Shandy. This is often available at Festival in Oshkosh. At 5.2% ABV, it carries a bit more heft than the average Gose.

If you’ve yet to try a Gose, this would be a good weekend to indulge. It’s the sort of beer that goes just right with spring yard work. Prost!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

An Early Look at Bare Bones Brewery

This summer Bare Bones Brewery will open just north of Oshkosh at the intersection of County Roads S and Y. If Dan Dringoli had his way, beer would already be pouring from the taps at the brewery he’s been working to launch for well over a year.

“The reason we're so behind has to do with zoning,” Dringoli said. “That put us behind the 8-ball. We wanted to be open by April at the latest. I expected to be in here by January 1 and that we'd be making beer right now.”

The change in zoning required approval from both the City of Oshkosh and the Town of Oshkosh. The process proved to be more involved than anticipated. While the municipalities sorted through legalities, Dringoli researched and waited. “We couldn't get anything going until the zoning changed,” he said. “I couldn’t start building. I couldn’t order equipment. We were at a standstill.”

Last October, the issue was finally resolved. Dringoli got busy. A 9,000 square foot building now stands on the 2.9 acre parcel of land just off of Highway 45. And he expects to take delivery of his 15-barrel brew system in May. After months of waiting, things are quickly coming together.

Bare Bones Brewery
Dringoli would like to begin brewing by late May and hopes to have his tap room open by Memorial Day weekend. He’ll start with 12 guest beers and gradually work in his own beers as they become ready.

“I'll probably start with three of our beers and then move on from there,” he said. “Eventually I'd like to have six of the taps dedicated to our beers and the other six filled with guest beers. That would be the ideal thing.”

If all comes together as planned, Dringoli can expect a busy summer. The brewery is easily visible from Highway 45 with the tap room looking out onto the Wiouwash State Trail. “I love this location,” Dringoli said. “I really wanted this lot because the trail is right there. There’s that connection between pedal biking and breweries. We’re going to be part of that.”

Dan & Patti Dringoli
The brewhouse will be located behind the tap room. A draft system within the brewhouse will feed into the tap room opposite the wall separating the two spaces. The remaining portion of the building will be occupied by PuroClean Disaster Recovery, a company also operated by Dringoli.

In addition to beer, Bare Bones will also have a liquor license and offer cocktails and wine. The focus, though, will be on the beer Dringoli will brew.

Though he hasn’t brewed professionally before, Dringoli has a homebrewing background and knows the process well enough to realize where his blind spots are. He’s enlisted the help of two experienced brewmasters to fill in those gaps. Dringoli seems to be adamant about quality. "What I won't do is put out shitty beer,” he said.

Initially, the beer will only be sold from the Bare Bones tap room. In addition to pints over the bar, Bare Bones will offer 64-ounce growler and 32-ounce howler fills for take out. Dringoli would eventually like to sell kegged beer to area taverns and restaurants.

“With our system, we should be able to distribute pretty darn well,” he says. “But are we going to do it ourselves or are we going to put it through a distributor? Right now I think I'd rather self-distribute.”

At the moment, Dringoli is narrowing down his choices for the beers he’ll lead off with. His personal preferences may be an indication of where he’s headed. “I really like porters and stouts and IPAs,” he says. He’ll wait, though, until the brewery is in place before committing to an opening line-up. A couple months from now, we’ll get to see what Dringoli has come up with.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Ah! My Favorite Beer

Click to enlarge
Last Monday’s post about the return of legal beer on April 7, 1933 got me thinking... Imagine the sense of relief beer drinkers here must have experienced when beer was no longer contraband.

It wasn’t as though Oshkoshers had gone without beer during Prohibition. There’s plenty of evidence that the city was awash in bootleg beer all through the dry years. But the burden of illegality changed both the beer itself and the way people related to it.

When legal beer began its comeback in 1933, the sense of anticipation ran high in Oshkosh. It was noticeable weeks prior to the law being changed. In the run-up to April 7, the Daily Northwestern ran one story after another whetting the appetites of Oshkosh beer drinkers.

Three weeks before legal beer began flowing again, a representative of Rahr Brewing told the Daily Northwestern about the store of beer the brewery had stockpiled and ready to go. “We’re not saying how much we've got, but we've got all we can legally have stored, under our near-beer permit."

At this point, it was still illegal to produce beer. Brewers here skirted the law by stockpiling beer that was purportedly brewed for the purpose of converting it to near-beer later. Of course, they had no such intention of denaturing it. Meaning, that when the law did change, there would be several thousand barrels of properly aged beer ready to hit the market. The Oshkosh Brewing company alone had over 3,000 barrels of real beer in its lagering tanks. The Daily Northwestern assured Oshkoshers that when, “The sale of the foamy, amber fluid is made legal, everybody will be able to buy all they want, from a steinful to a barrelful or more.”

On March 22, 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Beer and Wine Revenue Act. This would legalize beer of less than 3.2% alcohol by weight on April 7, 1933. Immediately after the bill was signed, both Rahr Brewing and the Oshkosh Brewing Company blew their plant whistles alerting Oshkosh that legal beer was on its way. Peoples would have probably done the same, if they’d had a whistle.

I’ve gotten carried away here. I only meant to show you the ad, that’s up there near the top of the post. This one captures the goofy sort of glee that people here must have been experiencing. Look at the expression on the guy’s face in the drawing. He's made to appear half mad with happiness.

This ad was published on the same day Roosevelt signed the Beer and Wine Revenue Act. After the signing, someone at Rahr must have immediately phoned the Daily Northwestern and told them to run it in the evening paper. That night, the Rahr's began taking orders for their beer. At 12:00 a.m. on April 7, the brewery whistles blew again as the beer began going out the door.

One more thing I want to point out. The text of this ad has an interesting tidbit near the end. It reads, “Rahr’s will make 1933’s Elk's Head Beer as enjoyable and as refreshing as it was back in 1918 and the years before that.”

Why did they mention 1918 when the first phase of beer being outlawed didn't occur until 1919? I doubt it was a mistake. In 1919, grain rationing induced by America’s entrance into World War I meant that the recipe for Rahr’s beer had to be changed. The Rahr’s took their beer seriously. And they respected their customers enough to reference the year when their beer had last been at its best. I like that.

Imagine cracking open that first bottle of Rahr’s Elk’s Head beer in 1933. I would have probably looked as maniacally happy as the guy in the drawing. I’ll bet a beer never tasted so good.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Devil Beer and Other Notes

A few notes to pass along, but before we get into that, let’s have a beer.

Ale Asylum Diablo Belga
A deep brown beer with pretty, red highlights. It starts with a pleasant aroma of dark fruit and chocolate. A rich malt flavor follows with broad notes of chocolate, caramel and candied fruit. There’s a spiciness from the yeast that combines with the slight heat of alcohol to produce an effect that’s like a mildly hot pepper. Medium bodied in the classic, Belgian strong-beer sort of way. It’s almost too easy to drink. It’s 9.2% ABV and has a devil on the label. I guess that’s a warning. An excellent beer. They’re selling it at Ski’s in Oshkosh in 6-packs for $12.99.

Good Taste
My new Oshkosh Beer Beat column just went up at the Oshkosh Independent. This time, I outline a basic approach to beer tasting. Get the most out of your beer, by checking that out.

We Got Events!
And lot’s of ‘em. I’ve been slacking on keeping the calendar up to date. That’s fixed. Look over to the left under the bus. There’s a pack of dates and words there telling of beer happenings slated for Oshkosh that are on the near horizon. If you’re on a phone, switch over to web view to see what’s up.

About Those Breweries...
I’ve been getting a ton of feedback the last couple of weeks about the slew of new breweries being planned for Oshkosh (if you missed it, look HERE and HERE). People are excited about this stuff. That’s good to see. Obviously, there’s a lot of pent-up demand around here. This week, I’ve been talking with Dan Dringoli, who’s launching a brewery just over the Oshkosh City line in the Town of Oshkosh. I’ll have more here on his project next week.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

More Breweries Being Planned for Oshkosh

Last week’s news of a brewery in works for the Town of Oshkosh may have been a sign of things to come. At the moment, there are at least four breweries being planned that would be located within the City of Oshkosh.

In deference to the people behind these ventures, I’m going to be short on details about their projects. Each group has told me they’d rather not have too much specific information released at this time. That’s understandable.

Launching a brewery is a daunting task. At this point, the people involved would rather focus on moving their projects forward than field questions they’re unable to confidently answer.

OK, let’s take a look at what’s bubbling up around here.

A Nano Brewery
There’s a nano brewing in the late stages of planning. This is likely to be the first of this group to actually produce and sell beer in Oshkosh. The proposed location is on the south side with its beer to be sold in an Oshkosh tavern. A nano brewery is typically a brewery that produces beer in batch sizes of three barrels or less. Here’s more on the nano brewery concept.

A Small Brewery
A small brewery with a tap room is being planned for a site near Oregon and the River. This project is fairly well on in the planning process with permits having been applied for. There’s a decent chance this brewery could open late this year or early next.

A Contract Brewery
A contract brewery is one that uses the facilities of an existing brewery to produce its beer. It’s an old concept that’s gaining increased acceptance in the craft-beer world. The contract brewery being planned for Oshkosh hopes to use the facilities of a brewery located in the Fox Valley. This brewery is in the recipe development phase, with some of the initial paperwork having been undertaken.

A Production Brewery
This is the most ambitious project of the bunch. As such, it would likely be the last of this bunch to begin producing beer. This would be a full-on production brewery producing several thousand barrels of beer annually. The facility would also have a tap room and beer garden adjoining it. This project is in the early stages of planning. That said, it’s being initiated by an individual with a deep well of experience in the brewing industry. The venture hinges on whether or not capital can be raised for it.

While all this simmers along, there’s the growth of the Fox River Brewing Company. The success of Fox River’s distribution undertaking has the brewery looking to increase output and go back to its roots as a beer producer. It’ll be interesting to see where that leads, as well.

It’s been 20 years since the last brewery was launched in Oshkosh. The drought appears to be nearing its end. Will it be followed by a deluge? Time will tell.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Oshkosh Welcomes Back Beer

On the evening of April 6, 1933, Oshkosh beer lovers were in a state of high anticipation. The return of legal beer was just hours away. The Daily Northwestern reported on what occurred when midnight arrived.

Ad from April 11, 1933
Although Whistles Scream and German Band Plays, Celebration is Marked By No Disorder
The welcome accorded legal beer after its absence of more than 13 years, was a calm and collected one in Oshkosh.

Citizens may have decided to await the date set for the formal celebration, which is to be the day following Easter, because of a desire not to interrupt the observance of the Lenten season.

Whatever the cause, most of them were in their regular places at home at midnight last night, when the act of congress legalizing the manufacture of 3.2 per cent beer officially went into force.

German Band Plays
At the three Oshkosh breweries there were impromptu celebrations of crowds and in on place a German band. The remainder of the city was kept awake at 12 o’clock by the sounding of whistles. One whistle blew for five minutes.

There were no disorders of any kind reported by police, and business today followed its regular routine.

There was, however, the hum of activity of the brewing industry, as breweries attempted to fill hundreds of orders, not only from taverns, hotels, and restaurants, but for private homes. Beer was being served in the dining rooms of hotels, as well as over the bar.

Further observance of the return of beer is scheduled for tonight, but it is expected to be a quiet one.
  –Daily Northwestern, April 7, 1933

Seems almost anticlimactic. I’ll bet the celebration would have been more robust if they’d had something more invigorating than “3.2 per cent” beer. By the way, that’s 3.2% by weight, which equates to just a hair over 4% ABV. Mild stuff, for sure.

The reason for the weak beer was that the 18th Amendment, which brought us Prohibition, had yet to be repealed. But under the The Beer Revenue Act, beer with an alcohol content of up to 3.2% by weight was deemed non-intoxicating and therefore became legal. On December 5, 1933, the 18th Amendment was repealed and the 3.2% limit was lifted.

If you’re awake tonight when the clock strikes 12, hoist yourself  a glass of good beer. Toast our forebears who had a basic human right stolen from them by zealots. If they could see us now!

Friday, April 3, 2015

BLÜ Yonder

This article also appears at the Oshkosh Independent.

Saturday night found me standing around in Green Lake with a bad taste in my mouth. I was at a beer festival. I had been going from table to table for the past hour searching for beers I hadn’t tried before.

I’d just finished a beer from a popular Wisconsin brewery. They claimed the beer was “totally original.” It was the kind of thing beer geeks like me are supposed to like. It was a strong, Belgian-style ale that had been hopped like an American IPA then aged on oak. The taste was even more off-putting than that combination of flavors would suggest.

What do you drink after something like that?

Then a woman came hustling by in pursuit of her friend who was standing near me. She took her friend by the wrist. “You have to try this!” she told her. I watched as the woman steered her friend over to the Fox River Brewing Company table. They were each poured a glass of BLÜ Bobber. They drank and when they were done their enthusiasm was loud. And fairly contagious.

I went over and asked for a sample. I hadn’t drank this beer in years. It’s not the sort of thing a beer geek drinks. But it turned out to be exactly what I needed. It tasted fresh and clean and just tart and dry enough to wash the ruin of that “totally original” beer from my mouth.

As the festival wound down, they began the presentation for the best beers of the evening. I wasn’t too surprised when BLÜ Bobber took first place. It beat out more than 100 other beers that were poured that night. I was glad to see it win.

BLÜ Bobber is thought of as a “gateway beer” by the crowd I tend to be a part of. That’s beer-geek speak whereby a beer gets carelessly dismissed for its perceived lack of complexity. Often it’s used as a snide kind of shorthand for beers that haven’t been Imperialized, Bourbon-Barrel Aged, or tortured into some peculiar derivation of an IPA.

BLÜ Bobber is a 5% ABV golden ale. It has a subtle, cracker-like malt flavor and a bright note of blueberry that provides the beer’s signature flavor and aroma. The beer is well-balanced, crisp and exceptionally refreshing. It’s a flavorful beer, but not one that screams for your attention. It’s a beer that invites you to have another.

Kevin Bowen
Kevin Bowen is the brewmaster at Fox River Brewing. He brews everything from barrel-aged beers, to imperial IPAs, to German-style lagers. He’s won World Beer Cup Awards for his barrel-aged Belgian-style dubbel and for his Kölsch-style beer. Awards, though, don’t pay the bills. BLÜ Bobber does.

BLÜ Bobber is Fox River’s best selling beer. Bowen appears to be just fine with that. It’s a beer that came into the brewery’s line-up about the same time that he began working in the Fox River brewhouse.

“The original concept of the beer came from my mentor Brian Allen in about 2003 as a summer specialty,” says Bowen. “The recipe has not changed all that much over the years other than some slight tweaks.  In 2009, we made it nearly a full time beer. In 2011, we officially made this a year round offering. For the last two years, BLÜ has been our best seller, year round.”

The beer has struck a chord outside of the Fratellos/Fox River orbit as well. Last fall, after Fox River relaunched its distribution efforts, I noticed BLÜ Bobber popping up on tap with increased frequency at taverns in Oshkosh and beyond. Each time I’ve seen it on, I’ve asked the bartender how it was selling. The answer has been the same every time: very well.

No doubt, that popularity has played into Fox River’s recent decision to install a new bottling line. It’s a system geared for the brewery’s future. It can package a case of beer a minute. They’ll need that capacity. The distribution of BLÜ Bobber and the other beers in the brewery’s Bago Brew series has expanded rapidly over the past four months.

Much of that growth has taken place in markets north and east of the Fox Valley. The distribution pattern closely resembles that of Chief Oshkosh Beer in the 1950s and 1960s. More than 40 years after that iconic brand faded away there’s again a beer with Oshkosh on the label that’s finding favor in Wisconsin. It’s about time.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

An Oshkosh Bus to the Wisconsin Micro-Brewers Beer Fest in Chilton

The Society of Oshkosh Brewers is sponsoring a bus to the Wisconsin Micro-Brewers Beer Fest in Chilton on May 17, 2015. You don’t need to be an SOB to get on board, but tickets are going fast, so you may want to act quickly. The bus is already half filled.

Here’s the full rundown...

The Price
For $55 you’ll get a ride to and from Chilton and a ticket into the fest (tickets for this year’s fest are $40). The price also includes a sub sandwich and water for the ride home.

The bus will leave Dublin’s Irish Pub at 11:30 a.m. (Dublin’s will open at 10 a.m.)
The bus back to Oshkosh will leave Chilton at 6:30 p.m.
Beer is allowed on the bus.

Wisconsin Micro-Brewers Beer Fest
The fest goes from 1 p.m. – 6 p.m.
Here's a LINK to a flyer for the fest.

Sign up now!
Tickets and seats on the bus are limited to the first 40 people paid. If interested, contact Steve Wissink @ 920-589-2602 or wiss@centurytel.net

This is easily one of the best beer fests in Wisconsin. Don't miss it!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

New Brewery to Be Launched in Town of Oshkosh

Location of Brewery in Red
Here’s the nuts and bolts of the situation…

Last summer word began to spread that a new brewery was in the planning stages just over the Oshkosh city line in the Town of Oshkosh. It looks now as though this brewery will become a reality by summer.

The brewery is being built at the southeast corner of the intersection of County Roads S and Y. In the rezoning application for the parcel, which was approved in October, the proposed use for the property is listed as a “Microbrewery and tap house.”

The facility will be housed in a 9,000 square foot building. The brewery will occupy 1,250 square feet of the space. The tap room will cover an additional 1,250 square feet.

It’s a good location. The site just off the Wiouwash Recreational Trail where it crosses County Rd S. Getting there would be an easy bike trip from Oshkosh.

I’ve been in contact with Dan Dringoli, the man behind this venture. We’ll be talking more next week. Dringoli says the brewhouse will be installed in May. He hopes to begin producing beer by June.

There’ll be much more to come on this in the near future...