Thursday, October 29, 2015

Oshkosh Beer Show #21 - The Libertine

This week we get liberated with The Libertine, an Imperial Red Ale brewed by Fulton Beer of Minneapolis. Fulton is new to the Oshkosh market, but this brew has us looking forward to more.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Local Brew News - End of October Edition

Lots to get to. Let's start  off with a beer.

Bobby Jungwirth, Oblio's & Old Tankard Ale
Starting off with a sentimental favorite... You may have seen that Pabst has brought back Old Tankard Ale. It's a beer Pabst first introduced shortly after Prohibition. Old Tankard died its initial death in the 1970s. It was revived briefly in the 1990s before being scrapped once again. When I heard it was coming back again, I was immediately reminded of former Oshkosh mayor Bob Jungwirth.

Not only was Jungwirth our mayor, he worked most of his life driving a beer truck for Lee Beverage of Oshkosh. Back in the day, he was the man who totted Pabst and Old Tankard Ale around Oshkosh. In fact, he was known to many as Bobby Pabst. Here's a shot of Bob Jungwirth circa 1970 with his beer truck. Yes, those are cases of Old Tankard Ale stacked in the background.

The point of all this is that the new Old Tankard Ale is currently on tap at Oblio's as a kind of tribute to Jungwirth, who died in 2012. I never met Jungwirth, but I've heard some great stories about him from Mark Schultz and Todd Cummings of Oblio's. They credit Jungwirth with helping them to figure out how to run a bar.

Last year, Schultz described to me their first interaction Jungwirth: "The first day we met him, he walked behind the bar and said, ‘Sit down, shut the fuck up and I’ll tell you how to make money in this business.’ We learned so much from him. We were young and naive and he was a wealth of information."

If you get a chance, stop in at Oblio's and check it out. Old Tankard is a hearty American-style pale ale. It's being brewed at the Wisconsin Brewing Company in Verona based on a recipe from Pabst’s 1937 brewers' log (though they have changed up the hops). It's a good beer and an nice tribute to a man who was once central to the beer scene here.

O'Marro's Beer and Candy Pairing
Tomorrow night, they'll start gearing up for trick or treat at O'Marro's with a series of beer and candy pairings. It starts Wednesday, October 28 and will continue on through Halloween. Not sure what beers will be paired with which candies, but that's what trick or treat is all about, isn't it? Beer. Candy. O'Marro's. Good enough. Check out the Facebook event page here.

Beer Dinners at TJ's Harbor Restaurant
At TJ's they're really getting into this beer dinner thing. I haven't been able to make it to one of their's yet, but I've heard good things. They have two more coming up.

On November 5, TJ's will host a dinner featuring the beers Sierra Nevada brewing. The full menu, pairing and details are right here.

Then on November 12, TJ's will have a Beer vs. Wine Dinner. The info on that one is here.

O'so Tap Takeover at Dublin's
In celebration of O'so Brewing's 8th Anniversary, Dublin's will feature an O'so tap takeover on Friday, November 13. They'll have 8 O'so beers on tap and a special offer: for $30 you get an O'so snifter and all the O'so beer as you can manage to swallow from 6 pm to closing. Friday the 13th and all you can drink. Good luck!

A Couple More Beers While We're At It
Two more beers around town you might want to seek out.

If session beers are your bag, get over to Fox River Brewing. They have on a terrific English Mild named Quiet Brown now on tap. I'll let FRBC brewmaster Kevin Bowen describe it: "This is the quintessential 'session beer.' Pours a light brown color with a slightly tan colored foam. The aroma has toasted and roasted malt characters with hops taking a back seat and keeping quiet." Nice job, but he neglects to mention that it's delicious. At a mere 3.4% ABV you can drink it all day.

At the other end of the spectrum we have Duet, an American IPA now pouring at Gardina's. This is a big, 7% West Coast IPA from Alpine Beer Company (now part of the Green Flash family) of San Diego. It's a hop hammer featuring loads of simcoe and amarillo hops over a big, chewy bed of malt. This beer just screams San Diego IPA. If you're a hop head, this is an IPA not to be missed.

Local Brewery News
Quick update on how a couple of our planned breweries are faring in their campaigns to launch.

At Fifth Ward Brewing they're still working on the financing side of things. In the meantime, though, their plan of locating the brewery at 611 Oregon St. has been scrubbed. The building has been purchased by another party. Ian Wenger and Zach Clark of Fifth Ward will seek out a new space, once their financing phase is complete.

Over at the Highholder Brewing things are moving along as planned. Mike Schlosser and Shawn O'Marro of Highholder have submitted their paper work to the state, now it's time to wait. Once they have their approval, they should be able to begin brewing shortly after.

Meanwhile, there's Lion's Tale Brewing Co. in Neenah. Looks like they'll be up and running next month. When Lion's Tale opens, it'll be the first time Neenah has had a brewery in 100 years. Damn!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Schussler Craps on Corn

Joseph Schussler
Last Monday's post about Oshkosh brewers using corn in their beer deserves a rebuttal. Not everyone was so sanguine about the American brewer's embrace of the adjunct. Those who were around prior to corn becoming a staple ingredient in American beer were often the most critical. Take for example, Joseph Schussler.

When Schussler began brewing in Oshkosh in 1850, he made all-malt. But by the time Schussler ended his brewing career in Fond du Lac in 1892, chances are he was doing like everyone else: brewing an adjunct beer using corn. Whatever the case, Schussler looked down upon the practice.

In 1898, Schussler gave a long, rambling interview to a Milwaukee reporter where he made his feelings clear. Here's what he had to say about how beer had been made before the introduction of corn to American brewing.

Fifty-two years ago beer was made ... in a far different manner than beer is made today. No machinery was used and the output never exceeded forty barrels a week, but the grade was pronounced far superior to any that is now on the market. “It was pure barley and hops and not corn and other adulterations as are used today,” said the old brewery man. (1)

Of course, Schussler was out of the game at this point. He had nothing to loose by bad mouthing adjunct beer. But even brewers still plying the trade, were less than enthusiastic about brewing with corn. Ads from the period rarely mention that corn was part of their recipes. While brewers would go to great lengths to explain how exquisite their malt and expensive the hops they used were, the use of corn was something that remained better left unsaid.

Here's an example of just that. This is an ad for The Rahr Brewing Company that showed up in the Oshkosh Daily Northwestern on July 31, 1913. It's a clumsy thing all the way though. First, they make an unfortunate comparison between making sausage and beer. Then comes this line about ingredients: "... high priced selected barley malt, hops, etc."

You can guess what they mean by "etc." That would be corn. At this point it was a mainstay in the Rahr recipe. But like other brewers, they'd just rather not mention it.

(1) This excerpt is from a Milwaukee newspaper clipping that does not include the masthead or publication date. Other articles in the clipping make it possible to date the piece as being published in either January or February 1898.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Oshkosh Beer Show #20

This week, Adam and I get into a beer that is truly seasonal. We’re drinking Deschutes Hop Trip, a pale ale brewed with fresh hops that go straight from the bines and into the brew kettle.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Weekend Begins Tonight

A couple of prime beer happenings to get you up and over the mid-week hump. And it all begins tonight with...

Gardina's Beer Bar Series Vol. 23
Tuesday, October 20 at 6 p.m., Gardina's will unbung a cask of O'so Black Scotch Ale that's been spiced with brandy soaked oak chips. In addition to the cask, they'll have three other O'so beers on tap as well as an optional dinner pairing menu featuring the four O'so beers. For the beers, the food and the full rundown, take a gander over here.

Then on Wednesday night, we have...

Dublin's Bell's Beer Dinner
Wednesday, October 21 at 6 p.m., Dublin's will host another of its fabulous beer dinners, this time featuring the beers of Michigan's exalted  Bell's Brewery. A seat at the table is just $30 and you can pick them up at the pub. For the full menu and beer pairings, give a click to this here.

Bon appétit!

Monday, October 19, 2015

A History of Brewing with Corn in Oshkosh

When John Glatz came to Oshkosh in 1869 to start a brewery, the last thing on his mind would have been the thought of using corn as an ingredient in the beer he would produce. To a German-born brewer of Glatz’s lineage, the idea would have been anathema. That prejudice, however, was one that Glatz would not have the luxury to sustain.

John Glatz
The first beer to flow from the Glatz brewery was made from just four ingredients: water, malt, hops and yeast. It was lager beer brewed in the German tradition. But as the brewery grew and its market expanded, the beer began to change. By the late 1870s, some of Glatz's beer was making its way into bottles. Its likely that about this same time, corn was making its way into Glatz's beer. And with good reason.

The type of barley (6-row) that grew so well in Winnebago County had a downside when it came to producing beer. Its high-protein content tended to result in a beer that was more prone to haze and spoilage over time. That wasn't overly problematic for Glatz when all of his beer was going into kegs that were soon enough drained in local saloons. But now that it was being bottled, brewing a more durable beer became a more pressing concern. It was a problem facing many American brewers of the period. Within easy reach was a ready solution: corn.

An addition of corn to the mash, typically about 20% of the grain bill, corrected the issues caused by protein-rich American barley. It became a staple in the development of American-style lagers and was a practice embraced by brewers in Oshkosh. Glatz, in fact, may have been the first brewer here to introduce corn as an ingredient in his beer.

The widespread use of adjuncts such as corn or rice by American lager breweries began in earnest in the 1870s. The chief proponent of the idea was Anton Schwarz, a Bohemian born brewing scientist who immigrated to America in 1868. After his arrival, articles by Schwarz promoting the use of adjuncts began appearing in The American Brewer, the first trade journal specifically addressing brewers in the United States. Schwarz’s writings were highly influential. Whether or not Glatz was reading them isn’t known, but he was certainly in contact with brewers who were.

Glatz had come to Oshkosh from Milwaukee where he had spent the previous 12 years brewing beer at C.T. Melms South Side Brewery, then among the largest breweries of that city. After moving to Oshkosh, Glatz maintained his connections to brewers in Milwaukee and would have been well aware of the changes occurring there. In the 1870s, corn was gradually becoming accepted by Milwaukee brewers for the host of benefits it conveyed. Not least among them was cost. It’s unlikely this escaped the attention of Glatz.

In Winnebago County, corn was grown in abundance and available at a fraction of the cost of malted barley. For Glatz, it would have presented an irresistible option. Not only did corn make his beer more shelf stable, it made the beer cheaper to produce. But corn also impacted the flavor. It lightened the beer’s body and color.

That may not have been seen as a benefit to an old-school German brewer like Glatz, who was weaned on the all-malt brews of his homeland. His customer’s in Oshkosh, though, loved it. At the close of the 1870s, Glatz’s brewery had grown into the largest here, producing more than 1,600 barrels of beer annually.

By the late 1880s corn was being used extensively by brewers in Oshkosh. Glatz used corn grits – milled corn with the outer shell and oily germ of the kernal removed. At Horn and Schwalm’s Brooklyn Brewery, corn grits were also the standard. The Rahr Brewing Company came to favor flaked corn. And at Lorenz Kuenzl's Gambrinus Brewery, corn meal was used.

Kuenzl's use of adjuncts is instructive. He brewed with both corn meal and rice at the Gambrinus Brewery. These ingredients were far more costly than the malt he used. For example, an 1892 inventory of the Gambrinus Brewery shows the malt on hand valued at 60 cents per pound. Corn meal was $1.00 per pound, while rice was $2.75 per pound. Cleary, the use of such materials wasn't just a matter of price for brewers like Kuenzl. It was a method for achieving specific qualities within the beer. In fact, American beers from this period brewed with corn or rice were regularly sweeping international competitions.

But what began as a boon grew into a bane over time. The American lagers of the late 1800s brewed with corn or rice share only a passing resemblance to the mass market adjunct lagers that are pervasive today. The degeneration of these beers played out over generations and at least one Oshkosh brewer succumbed to the regressive trend.

After David Uihlein purchased the Oshkosh Brewing Company in 1961, the brewery abandoned the corn grits that had been used in OBC's beer since 1894. Replacing it was something called NU-BRU, a corn syrup created with brewers in mind. A full 30% of the fermentable materials used in the Chief Oshkosh Lager of the 1960s came from this gooey concoction. The syrup may have streamlined the brewing process, but it didn't appear to help the beer any. Sales of Chief Oshkosh went into a long and, for the brewery, fatal slide after the introduction of the new ingredient.

Happy Tail Cream Ale
Corn is still used by brewers in Oshkosh today, but to nowhere near the degree that it was in the past. Fox River Brewing has released two traditional lagers that have included corn. 1853 is a dark lager first brewed in 2003 by Fox River in celebration of Oshkosh’s sesquicentennial. It uses corn in much the same way Glatz and others in Oshkosh were using it in the 1880s. Fox River has also used corn in its two releases of The Chief, a beer that pays tribute to the Chief Oshkosh Lager of the 1950s.

More recently, Bare Bones Brewery has used corn in its Happy Tail Cream Ale. "I only use a small amount for sweetness that only corn can give," says Bare Bones brewmaster Lyle Hari. "Not for a filler but to keep the beer in style and add that corn like sweetness it should have."

Hari's approach is typical of craft brewers today who most often reserve their use of corn for brewing classic styles that require it. For American style dark lagers, pilseners and cream ales it's an essential element.

In Oshkosh, we've been brewing with corn for close to 140 years. It's an ingredient every bit as traditional as malt, hops and yeast.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Oshkosh Beer Show #19 – The Big O... and a Little Schlitz

This week we’re all over the place with our guest Kyle Nichol, sous chef at Gardina’s in Oshkosh. We start of with a little Schlitz (you’ll see why), then move onto a Big O from O’so Brewing of Plover, Wis. Kyle sets us up with a few food pairings that add an entirely new dimension to the beer in our glasses.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Chester V's Bringing Dozens of Draft Lines and Something New to Oshkosh

The beer scene here is about to get another considerable boost. When Chester V's opens at 2505 Oregon St. in early November, the gastropub will feature 40 draft lines. Their current plan is to dedicate all those lines to craft beer. And the configuration of those taps will be something entirely new to the Fox Valley.

While 24 of the taps will be located behind the bar, the remaining 16 handles are on table tenders that allow patrons to pour their own beer. The table tenders are positioned near the main bar on four separate tables, each equipped with a draft tower. Each tower has four tap handles and can dispense four different beers.

Customers will access the beer by first checking in with a server who sets the amount of beer that can be poured. Because the taps are metered by the ounce, patrons can dispense beer in measures of their own choosing. Each of these tables will have a dedicated iPad displaying how much beer has been dispensed.

Though the initial beer list hasn't been finalized, it's beginning to take shape. Lyn Schuh is part of the team helping to launch Chester V's. "We'll probably have a couple of nationally distributed brands, but mostly it's going to be Wisconsin beers," Schuh says. "We'll want to stick with as many local things as we possibly can." Schuh has been inviting people to share their beer suggestions on Chester V's Facebook page.

Not that it's all beer. There will be a full bar, with a range of wines and spirits. And the gastro piece of the pub will be equally significant. Pub fair will be available from 11 am to 4 pm daily, while the evening menu will emphasize steaks and chops.

I was at Chester V's last week and was given a walkthrough. If I had been led in blindfolded, I wouldn't have guessed that this place was formerly Hermana’s Café and Mario’s before that. The old interior has been gutted. In it's place is a modern, industrial design composed of wood, metals and exposed brick.

Chester V's is owned by Dirk Binnema and Dave Vienola, Binnema formerly operated Dirk's Diner at the Planeview Travel Plaza in Oshkosh. Vienola is co-owner of Vienola Bros Construction and was part owner of the Bison & Elk, Co. bar when it was open on Oregon St.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Rahr’s 1953 All-Malt Beer

By the close of 1952 the Rahrs had to suspect that the end was drawing near. Their brewery's south-side competition – Peoples Brewing and the Oshkosh Brewing Company – were making beer in record quantities. OBC was now producing more than 50,000 barrels of beer annually. Peoples had passed the 30,000 barrel mark. At the same time, output at Rahr Brewing was shrinking with annual production falling to fewer than 8,000 barrels.

Then came 1953. On May 14, workers went on strike at Milwaukee's big-six breweries (Blatz, Gettelman, Independent Milwaukee, Miller, Pabst, and Schlitz). Small breweries across the state seized the opportunity. In Oshkosh, the effect was dramatic. At OBC, production spiked by 40%. Peoples output grew by 15%. But at Rahr the impact was truly phenomenal. Production increased by 100%. The last family owned brewery in Oshkosh was showing new signs of life.

The Oshkosh Centennial Parade, June 27, 1953.
The float for Repps bar was loaded down with a beer kegs and cases of Rahr’s Pale Beer.

1953 was an important year for Oshkosh. The city celebrated its Centennial with a series of special events and observances. The Rahrs, perhaps feeling the flush of their recent success, joined the celebration. The brewery produced a special beer to commemorate the Oshkosh Centennial. It was a beer that recalled the earliest days of the brewery.

When Charles Rahr launched his City Brewery in 1865, his initial brews were dark, all-malt lagers. There was no chance the Rahr's were going to resurrect the "dark" part of their forefather's original recipe. In 1953 that would have been commercial suicide. But the all-malt piece was certainly doable.

In June 1953, the Rahrs announced the release of the first all-malt beer produced commercially in Oshkosh since the turn of the century. It was named Rahr's Oshkosh Centennial Brew. The brewery described it as an "All Malt Pilsner Beer." Pale in color, but no corn.

Neck label from a 1953 bottle of Rahr's beer.

It was a bold move for a small brewery where every penny mattered. The Rahrs were raising production costs by dropping the corn that had been a staple in their beer since the late 1800s. For a brief time, Rahr's Pale Beer became one of the few all-malt beers produced in America.

It couldn't last, of course. A few weeks later on July 28, 1953, the Milwaukee brewery worker's strike ended. And the abnormally warm summer, which had also helped to increase beer consumption in Oshkosh, gradually cooled.

As fall settled in, the nagging sense of decline that had been present at the close of 1952 resurfaced. Despite the burst of promise that came with spring, the Rahr's final numbers for the year were down again. Production fell from 7,657 barrels in 1952 to 7,100 barrels in 1953. Things would only grow worse.

In 1954 sales of Rahr's beer plummeted to 5,563 barrels. In 1955 they tumbled further to just 3,660 barrels. It was over. On June 7, 1956, the Rahr's announced that their brewery would close. The family issued a statement saying they were unable to, "compete with larger breweries with bigger budgets for advertising and promotion." For the first time in 91 years, there would no longer be an active brewery at the end of Rahr Ave. in Oshkosh.

From the Oshkosh Daily Northwestern, July 3, 1956.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Oshkosh Beer Show #18 – A Dark Lager Taste Test

This week we visit lager’s dark side with beer judge in training Richard Cardenas. We have a blind tasting of three Munich-style dunkel beers brewed in Wisconsin. And the winner is...

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Barley's Wednesday Night Beer Sampling

A quick shout about the beer sampling happening at Barley & Hops tomorrow night, Wednesday October 7.

At 7 p.m. Barley's will launch into the fourth year of its Beer Sampling Series. Wisconsin Brewing Company will be the featured brewery. And Nate from Barley's tells me that WBC brewmaster Kirby Nelson will be on hand with a few special beers to dive into in addition to the brewery's regular line-up.

Also offered will be a host of beers from Dogfish Head Brewery as well another 60 or so other brews, spirits and wines to sample. There's even going to be some homebrew pouring.

Tickets are just $20 at the pub if you pick them up before the fest. Otherwise, they're $25 at the door. Either way, it's a steal. Check it out, it's a great way to ease yourself over that mid-week hump.

Monday, October 5, 2015

The Story of Rahr's Elk's Head Beer and How to Brew Your Own

Elk's Head Beer was considered by many in Oshkosh the finest beer made in the city. Some of that fondness may have been born of nostalgia. In 1956, The Rahr Brewing Company became the first of the Oshkosh breweries to close after Prohibition. People here mourned the loss of Oshkosh's last family owned brewery. When it was gone, Elk's Head beer was missed.

But the reputation of Elk's Head didn't hang on nostalgia alone. This beer was different from others brewed here. When Prohibition ended in 1933, the beers of both the Oshkosh Brewing Company and Peoples Brewing Company, became lighter in body and color as the years wore on. The Rahr's resisted that change by brewing the same beer after Prohibition as they had before it. Elk's Head was the old timers favorite.

The Birth of Elk's Head Beer
The Rahr's began releasing their beer under the Elk's Head label in the summer of 1916. Previously, the beer had been known as Rahr's Special Brew. The change followed a tumultuous period for the brewery. In 1914, the Rahr's had begun construction of a new bottling plant on the brewery's grounds. At the time, Rahr beer was being bottled at a facility owned and operated by brothers Fred and Ludwig Neumueller across the street from the brewery. But brewery owner Charlie Rahr had grown dissatisfied with the arrangement and the packaged beer coming out of the Neumueller's plant.

By 1915, the Rahr's had taken their bottling in house. The following year they renamed their beer Elk's Head. It doesn't appear that the beer itself had actually changed. Advertising from the period doesn't indicate that the recipe was reformulated or that brewing methods had been altered to produce a new type of beer. Instead, it seems that the new name was used to further distinguish the beer now bottled on premise from that bottled by the  Neumueller's.

After Prohibition began in 1920, the Rahr's continued to use the Elk's Head brand. But now it was being applied to the various sodas the brewery produced during the dry years. That ended with Prohibition's end in 1933. Rahr's beer was once again packaged under the Elk's Head label.

Though the Rahr brewery closed in 1956, the Elk's Head brand perished earlier. By 1952, the Elk's Head label was being phased out in favor of new branding. It was now being labeled as Rahr's Pale Beer, an attempt to update the perception of the beer. Again, it appears the beer inside the bottle went unchanged. Charles Rahr III, the last brewmaster at Rahr Brewing told me that Rahr beer continued to be brewed using the same recipe that had been used prior to Prohibition.

The Rahr Recipe
This recipe for Elk's Head Beer was given to me by a collector of Oshkosh memorabilia who would prefer not to be named. In 2011, I met with Charles Rahr III and showed him the recipe. He confirmed that this was the one used at the brewery to make Elk's Head Beer. Though detailed in many respects, there are still a couple of missing pieces here. I'll get to those, but first here's what is contained in the recipe. The percentages are my own.

Grain Bill
Malt (6-row): 3850 Lbs. (76.47 %)
Flakes (Corn): 1040 Lbs. (20.65 %)
Caramel Malt: 10  Lbs. (0.0019 %)
Black Malt: 9  Lbs. (0.0017 %)
Maltodextrin: 125 Lbs. (0.024 %)
Total: 5034 Lbs.

53 Lbs.

Other Materials
NaCl (Sodium chloride) 10 Lbs.
Irish Moss 4 Lbs.

During much of the time that this beer was being produced, Rahr Brewing used a 135 barrel mash tun with a copper boil kettle corresponding in size.

The recipe shows a two-hour mash schedule with four rests. The temperatures are written in degrees Réaumur, a scale often favored by German brewers. I've converted the temperatures to fahrenheit.

1) 108.5 °F for 60 minutes
followed by a ten minute ramp to
2) 149 °F for 10 minutes
followed by a five minute ramp to
3) 158 °F for 25 minutes
followed by a five minute ramp to
4) 169.25 °F for 15 minutes
Recirculate and run into kettle.

The boil lasted an incredible 4 hours. It began while the wort was being collected. Runoff was completed 2.5 hours into the boil. The full-kettle boil lasted 1.5 hours.
The maltodexrin was added to the kettle as the wort was being collected, at a point when the kettle was nearly full.
The first hops were added 55 minutes before the end of the boil.
Ten minutes before the end of the boil, a second addition of hops were added along with the NaCl and Irish Moss.

What's missing here are the type of hops used and the basic brewing parameters, including wort gravities, final gravity and alcohol percentage. The The International Bittering Units scale had yet to be developed when the Rahr's were brewing this beer, so that of course is not available. None of these missing pieces though are insurmountable. There's enough information concerning the brewery and its practices to fill in these blanks with a reasonable degree of surety.

Hops: I have not seen a single instance where the Rahr's mention the use of a specific type of hop in their advertising. That's telling. The Rahr's advertised their beer fairly heavily. Their use of traditional methods and ingredients were often featured in these ads. Most breweries using European hops – including Peoples Brewing and the Oshkosh Brewing Company – made a point of advertising their use of the more expensive ingredient. The fact that the Rahrs didn't make such claims leads me to believe the brewery used American grown hops exclusively. And that effectively narrows the choice to cluster, the hop ubiquitous in American lagers when Elk's Head Beer was being produced.

As for IBUs, most pre-Prohibition lagers are estimated to have been in the 25-40 IBU range. The Rahr's use of approximately 1/2 pound of hops per barrel of beer puts them within the lower end of that spectrum. That makes sense. The use of salt to promote malt flavor along with the addition of maltodextrin indicates that Elk's Head was intended to be a malt-forward beer. That aspect of the beer is supported in much of the brewery's advertising for Elk's Head.

The typical batch size at Rahr Brewing was just over 100 bbls. If you plug the numbers listed above into a brewing calculator using that batch size, you arrive at gravities, attenuation and alcohol levels that are commensurate with other lagers of this type made prior to Prohibition. With that in mind, here are estimates of the missing brewing parameters.

Original Gravity: 1.051
Final Gravity: 1.014
ABV: 4.82%

The Rahr Brewery

Brewing Your Own Elk's Head Beer
Of course, I wanted to brew this beer myself, so I scaled the recipe to match my home brewery. Here's what a homebrewed batch of this beer looks like. I'll list the ingredients using percentages to make it easier to tailor the recipe to individual brewing systems.

Homebrewed Elk''s Head
Original Gravity: 1.052
Final Gravity: 1.014
ABV: 4.82%
SRM: 5

Grain Bill
American - Pale 6-Row: 74.8%
Flaked Corn: 20.2%
American - Caramel / Crystal 20L:  0.2%
American - Black Malt: 0.2%
Melanoidan Malt: 2.3%
Maltodextrin: 2.3%

The tweak I've made to the malt bill (adding melanoidan malt) was done to approximate the effect of that long boil. There's just no way I'm doing a four-hour boil. I'm also not going to do a two-hour step mash. I've brewed this beer once using a more standard step mashing regimen and three times using a simple infusion mash (at 154ºF for 1 hour) followed by a batch sparge. The step mash made little, if any, impact.

Cluster Hops 6.5% AA: 55 minutes before the end of boil for 24.54 IBUs.
Cluster Hops 6.5% AA: 10 minutes before the end of boil for 9.10 IBUs.
Total IBUs: 33.64, which is maybe just a tad high, but that's how I like it! A more appropriate target would be closer to 25 IBUs.

Brewing Salts
1/2 teaspoon NaCl (per 5-gallon batch) added to wort 10 minutes before the end of boil.

Wyeast 2035 | American Lager
This yeast supposedly originates from August Schell Brewing of New Ulm, Minnesota. It's fairly complex for a lager yeast. I like the way it works with this recipe.
At Rahr, they often used yeast sourced from the A. Gettelman Brewing Co. in Milwaukee.
I'm assuming the two yeasts would have been at least somewhat similar.

I use a very basic protocol when fermenting lagers. I crash to just below fermentation temperature and then pitch the yeast. Primary fermentation at 50ºf lasts approximately two weeks followed by a two day diacetyl rest at around 65ºf. This is followed by a three to four week lagering phase at 50ºf.

I've brewed this beer four times now. I love it. It's a medium-bodied, balanced beer that's full of flavor. To me it tastes "bigger" than it is. It's one of those beers that keeps me coming back to the glass.

If anybody else out there decides to give this beer a brew, I'd love to hear about it. Happy brewing!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Free Beer at the Library this Saturday, October 10

This Saturday under the dome at the Oshkosh Public Library you can checkout some beer. Seriously. Beginning at 3 pm, Oshkosh homebrewer Jody Cleveland and I will present Oshkosh Brews! A Homebrewed Taste of our Enduring Beer Culture. We'll go through the process of making beer at home with some side trips along the way into the history of brewing in Oshkosh.

In addition to Jody and I, Greg Putzer and Steve Schrage will be on hand with their collections of Oshkosh brewing memorabilia. They'll have some incredible pieces on display.

And then there's the beer. Jody and I have made three beers that everyone will have a chance to sample during the event. Here's the rundown of the beer we'll be pouring.

Elk's Head Beer
The Rahr Brewing Company produced beer in Oshkosh at its family-owned brewery from 1865 until 1956. For much of that time, the Rahr's flagship beer was a rich, golden lager named Elk's Head. This homebrewed interpretation of Elk's Head is brewed from the Rahr's original recipe.

Oshkosh Wildcat
When Prohibition began, Oshkosh didn't go dry. Homebrewers and wildcat breweries kept the city awash in beer. Oshkosh Wildcat is brewed from a recipe commonly used during that time. An amber beer, it has the "high kick" that was common among the illegal brews that flourished in Oshkosh during the "dry" years of 1920-1933.

Otter St. Oktoberfest
Oktoberfest-style beer has become the traditional fall beer of Oshkosh. The homebrewed Oktoberfest we'll be tasting was made in Oshkosh and comes with a deep, amber color, a medium body, and a malty flavor featuring notes of caramel. The clean, dry finish of this lager is in keeping with its German roots.

The event will last just over an hour and the price is right: free! Hope to see you there.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Oshkosh Beer Show #17 – Vintage Oshkosh Beers

We’re going way back this week with a trio of vintage Oshkosh beers. In this episode, we drink Chief Oshkosh, Peoples, and Rahr’s Beer, each of them brewed in Oshkosh more than 40 years ago.