Thursday, January 28, 2016

Oshkosh Beer Show #33 - Bare Bones Brewery

At last! I’ve been looking forward to this episode ever since Adam and I began the Oshkosh Beer Show last June. We’ve finally managed to get everyone together.

Bare Bones Brewery is the first new brewery to open in Oshkosh in 20 years. In this episode, we interview the brewery’s founders, Dan and Patti Dringoli, and meet Bare Bones brewmaster Lyle Hari. Here’s the inside story of Bare Bones Brewery.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Bar-top Dry Hopping at Lion’s Tail

Here’s an extremely limited beer from Lion’s Tail Brewing in Neenah that offers something entirely new.

Thursday, January 27, Lion’s Tail will release its Custom Pale Ale. This is no ordinary Pale Ale. Each glass of CPA is dry hopped on the bar top using hops of the customer’s choosing. Talk about hand crafted beer.

The short video below spells everything out. This was a pilot batch, so for now CPA will be available only for a limited time. There may be more coming in the near future. If you want to get an early taste of CPA, join the Lion’s Tail Keg Club. Now onto the beer...

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The SOBs Drink Bad Beer

That’s a fairly inflammatory title for a blog post, but it’s true. I saw it happen last Wednesday.

The Society of Oshkosh Brewers, better known as the SOBs, ganged up in the friendly confines of O’Marro’s Public House to sample beers spiked with off-flavor compounds. What’s the point of doing that? To become better homebrewers.

If you can identify specific off-flavors in beer, it becomes much easier to figure out their source and where you might have gone wrong in the brewing process. Seems odd, but drinking bad beer can be as important as drinking good beer when you’re looking to up your brewing game.

Here’s a one-minute peek at the SOBs’ bad-beer binge...

Monday, January 25, 2016

Mythical Oshkosh - Fun with the Boys

This is a the second in a two-part series of posts concerning myths about Oshkosh spread by American newspapers. You can find the first post here.

More reports on the city that couldn't possibly exist – Oshkosh. Tall-tales continued being spun about Oshkosh throughout the latter half of the 1800s. But not all the stories were myth. As we'll see, Oshkosh's unruly reputation wasn't unwarranted.

The Main Street of Myth, circa 1887. - Photo courtesy of Dan Radig
Let's start with a whopper. In February 1868, the Fond du Lac Commonwealth ran a story titled Fun with the Boys in Oshkosh. The point of the piece was that mayhem and violence were the natural state of affairs here. Papers everywhere picked up the story and ran with it. If there was a single fable that cemented Oshkosh's reputation as a wild town, this was it.

The late Oshkosh historian Jim Metz explains what Fun with the Boys in Oshkosh was all about.

Metz is absolutely right when he says, "Fun with the Boys in Oshkosh became a euphemism for mayhem.” It was repeated constantly. I can't count the number of times I've comes across it in old newspapers.

Almost 50 years after it was introduced, the catchphrase was still in use. In 1910, Wisconsin author Jerome Watrous wrote in the Milwaukee Sentinel, “Having fun with the boys in Oshkosh — There may be back towns in China and a few dark spots in Africa where the inhabitants haven't heard the remark, but I doubt it.”

It became part of the common vernacular. You can see why. Fun with the Boys in Oshkosh. There’s a mad kind of ring to it. It ought to be revived.

Here's another one that made the rounds. It's boosted by a dose of pure bullshit.

– Tallulah, Madison Parish, La., Madison Times, March 27, 1886

Well there is some truth to this one. There really was a man named William Waterman aged 109. But he didn't live in Oshkosh. He lived in Grand Rapids (now known as Wisconsin Rapids). Why move him to Oshkosh then? Because when you're a newspaper editor filling up space, it's sexier to have your boozing ultracentenarian living in sin city. It's not as though, Waterman's life wasn't interesting enough. He was born six months before the signing of the Declaration of Independence and had seen George Washington in the flesh. Better yet, he married for the second time when he was 100 years old. When Waterman died at the age of 113, he was supposedly the oldest person in the United States.

As the 1800s drew to a close, myths about Oshkosh continued to be perpetrated by American newspapers. But a number of them – perhaps recognizing that the joke had gotten out of hand – attempted to put a damper on the Oshkosh phenomenon. Here's the New York Times with a feeble stab at setting the record straight about Sawdust City.

– New York Times, February 28, 1888

By the 1890s, some of the fictions were giving way to facts juicy enough for print. When Mayor Charles Oellerich launched a campaign to have Oshkosh saloons close on Sundays, the nation's newspapers took notice. Here's a story on the ensuing showdown, This appeared on the front page of the Bismarck, North Dakota Weekly Tribune on March 30, 1894. The story ran verbatim in dozens of American newspapers.

I like that bit about Oshkosh being a wide-open city. In terms of pure vice, this town had few rivals. New York City was one of them. The saloon closing caused the New York Evening World to draw the connection between these two dens of iniquity.

– April 2, 1894

Oshkosh saloonists weren't giving up their hard-won reputation that easily.

– Jamestown, North Dakota, Weekly Alert, April 12, 1894

Can you guess who won the battle? Of course, you can. By the end of the year, Oellerich was out on his ear and the saloons were going full bore all week long.

Here's another ordeal involving Oshkosh saloons that was reported nationwide.

– Rock Island, IL. Argus, December 7, 1898

Not so fast. The tradition of Oshkosh saloons giving away a free lunch to boozers proved more durable than anyone expected. Many of the pre-Prohibition saloons in the city continued offering their patrons free grub at any time of day or night. Here's an example of just that from the 1905 Oshkosh City Directory.

The building that housed Klawun's saloon still stands on the corner at Boyd and Merritt streets. You can still get lunch there, too. You'll have to pay, though. Here's what it looks like today.

Just one more. This article was widely circulated in 1897. It's about more fun with the boys from Oshkosh. Goes to show you can take the boys out of Oshkosh, but you can't take Oshkosh out of the boys...

– Princeton, Minn., Union, July 22, 1897

Friday, January 22, 2016

Wisconsin Brewing Co. Tap Takeover Tonight at Chester V’s

Here’s the menu for the WBC tap takeover starting tonight at 8 p.m. at Chester V’s. Check out those porters... And you can check out the Facebook event page HERE.

Click image to enlarge

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Oshkosh Beer Show #32 - Brutus Strong Ale

This week we’re with Scott Jensen from Dublin’s Irish Pub drinking Milwaukee Brewing Company’s Brutus, a strong ale fit for winter...

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Tonight: Gardina's Beer Bar Series Vol. 25

And in case you've yet to see this, here's the full rundown on the cask, the taps and the beer dinner happening tonight at Gardina's.
Gardina's Beer Bar Series Vol. 25

Fox River Brewing Co.
Oshkosh, WI

Tuesday, November 19th at 6 PM 

Firkin tapping at 6 PM sharp

This months featured cask is Fox River Brewing Co. Abbey Normal (a Belgian-style Dubbel) conditioned on Brandy-soaked Oak chips.

In addition to the cask tapping, we will be featuring three of FRBC's unique beers on tap in a mini tap-takeover!

FRBC Wildflower Wit

FRBC One Size Fits All West Coast-style IPA

FRBC Port Barrel-aged Belgian Quadrupel

We will also be offering 4 oz flights of the FRBC beers!

Please join us Tuesday, January 19th at 6 PM!

Back by popular demand, we will also be offering our four course chef's tasting menu to pair with the four Fox River brews. You can arrive at any time during normal dinner service hours to take part in this fantastic pairing of culinary creations and world class craft beer! 

Chef's Tasting Menu

$32 Per Person, tax and gratuity not included!

Course 1 Wildflower Wit
Paired with a hot Brussels sprout salad with crispy prosciutto, caramelized fennel, crushed hazelnuts and finished with a Wildflower honey vinaigrette 

Course 2 One Size Fits All IPA
Paired with a scallop Ceviche topped with pickled pineapple, served over avocado Carpaccio and finished with Blaum Bros. Hellfyre Vodka foam

Course 3 Abbey Normal Cask w/ Brandied Oak Chips
Paired with a Chateaubriand of pork, prepared Sous Vide with a tuxedo barley risotto and finished with a wild mushroom jus 

Course 4 Port Barrel-aged Belgian Quadrupel
Paired with a smoked walnut and cranberry cake, finished with Creme Anglaise

Presented by Head Chef Dane Campbell

We are accepting reservations for parties of 6 or more, for smaller parties please arrive early as we do expect this event to be very popular!

Monday, January 18, 2016

Mythical Oshkosh - It's All Beer

By the 1870s, Oshkosh's had achieved national renown. It was known as a wild, wide-open, city. The legend was fueled by newspapers from every quarter of the United States. Articles about the strange goings-on in the Sawdust City were standard fodder. All the better, the tales often had little or no basis in reality.

Saloons and beer were common threads uniting many of the odd tales. If you lived in Missouri and only knew of Oshkosh from stories printed in your local paper, the place must have seemed beyond belief. If Oshkoshers weren't boozing it up, they were burning it down.

Smoking cops, dark beer and high times – the Oshkosh of yore.

The New York Times chimed in on the phenomenon in an article titled Mythical Towns. Citing fables inspired by Oshkosh, the Times was only half-joking when it suggested that no such city could possibly exist.
The unthinking majority of the public, of course, believe that Oshkosh has an actual existence, and bona fide inhabitants. There are those, however, who not only look upon Oshkosh as intrinsically improbable, but who insist that altogether too many things happen in that alleged town… Wisconsin people, when asked questions concerning Oshkosh, always turn the conversation into other channels, and persist in declining to discuss that hypothetical and suspicious town… The very fact that a vast quantity of extraordinary things are constantly said by unscrupulous newspapers to have happened in Oshkosh is extremely suspicious. Why should that unseen Wisconsin town have almost a monopoly of remarkable events?
     - New York Times, July 10, 1877
While researching other things, I regularly come across these "unscrupulous newspapers" and their "extraordinary" reports on Oshkosh. It always brightens my day. Over the next couple weeks, I want to share some of these stories. Here's a taste of the sort of things they used to say about our "mythical" Oshkosh.

Let's start with a couple of early one-liners. These began popping up in numerous papers in the summer of 1870. Like many such stories about Oshkosh, these were used by newspapers to pad content and fill in blank spaces.

This first one is pretty mild, but sets the tone of incredulity for the stories to come. The Franco-Prussian War had just started. Newspapers were tying Prussia to everything. They looked for an Oshkosh link to spice things up. This one ran in dozens of papers. I've yet to figure out who exactly this Prussian nobleman is.

From the Evening Argus, Rock Island, Ill., August 25, 1870
Not long after, American newspapers were blurbing about Oshkosh's whiskey drinking dog. Here we find our city mentioned in a southern newspaper.

From the Weekly Sumter Republican, Americus, Georgia, September 9, 1870
In the wake of the disastrous downtown fire of 1874, Oshkosh began rebuilding. Newspaper editors were quick to notice that reports of the reconstruction included numerous mentions of beer halls. A Pennsylvania editor, borrowed  pieces from an Oshkosh Daily Northwestern article to paint the downtown as one, big beer hall.
An Oshkosh, Wisconsin, newspaper prints a list of new building started upon a burnt district as follows: “Beer hall, store, saloon, beer hall, grocery and saloon, beer hall, store, beer hall, saloon, grocery, beer hall, store, saloon, beer hall, grocery, beer hall, saloon, beer hall.” Oshkosh would seem to be “hall beer,” as a cockney would say.
     - The Carbon Advocate, Lehighton, Pa., September 26, 1874.
Hall Beer. Get it? Drop the "H" when you're doing the cockney accent. Now you do!

Here's one from South Dakota that is total bullshit. The Calkins in question didn't exist. Neither did the smashed saloon.

From the Daily Press and Dakotaian, Yankton, Dakota Territory (now South Dakota), March 03, 1876
The biggest whopper in that pack of lies is the assertion that Temperance was once all the rage here. That was never the case. I'm insulted!

Let's jump ahead a few years to 1891. I especially like this one. By this time, our reputation had been thoroughly sullied. All you need do to smear someone was to say they sold booze in Oshkosh. The Uncle Jerry mentioned here is one Jeremiah M. Rusk, former Congressman and Governor of Wisconsin. At this time he was the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture. Rusk was loved by many, but still had his enemies.
"The meanness of his satanic majesty was never more offensively manifested when he put it into the mind of a man to circulate the story that Uncle Jerry Rusk once kept a tavern in Oshkosh. The charge that Jerry kept a tavern is monstrous enough without the addition of the scandalous assertion that he kept the tavern at Oshkosh. Tradition has it that in the region of Oshkosh the worst fire water on earth has been marketed."
     - The Anaconda Standard, Anaconda, Mont., December 21, 1891
That story was widely reported. But here's the good part: Rusk had almost nothing to do with Oshkosh. He certainly never operated a saloon here. He did run a tavern in Viroqua, though, for a short time. What does that have to do with us? Nothing. Dragging Oshkosh into the picture was just a way to make the matter seem more salacious. Kind of makes me feel proud to live here.

More from Montana. A real gut buster.

From the Daily Missoulian, Missoula, Mont., December 12, 1912
Funny, right? Well... Here's the not funny part: the story is true. Albert Reuchel died on November 29, 1912 during a poker game at Gus Jeschke's saloon on the corner of 9th and Knapp streets (where the abandoned Sister's Pizza now languishes). Reuchel had won a hand. He reached forward to take the pot and abruptly died. Heart attack. Poor guy. He was only 33. Papers across the country picked up on the incident and turned it into a joke about card playing. They usually including something about a lack of hearts in his last hand.

Inside the Saloon where Reuchel died.
That's enough for now. If all goes well, there'll be more here next week about forgotten events that might have never happened in our mythical city (And here that post is).

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Oshkosh Beer Show #31 – Abbey Normal

This week we’re behind the bar at Gardina’s in Oshkosh drinking Abbey Normal, a Belgian-style dubbel brewed by our local Fox River Brewing Company. We gab about the beer and the upcoming cask tapping at Gardina’s on January 19, 2016. For details on that check out THIS.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

This Week's Local Brew News

Heads-up on a few things heading our way...

Sled Dog Coffee Porter
Bare Bones, Beer & Books
Friday, January 15, Bare Bones Brewery will welcome Kevin Revolinski, author of Wisconsin's Best Beer Guide, for a book signing. Kevin will be on hand from 5- 7 p.m. selling and signing copies of his newly updated book. Buy a copy of his 434-page guide and get a free pint of Bare Bones beer. I've purchased every edition of Wisconsin's Best Beer Guide. This edition is the best yet. It's easily the most complete resource about the current state of beer and brewing in Wisconsin. While you're there, check out beer #7 from Bare Bones: Sled Dog Coffee Porter. It's a 6.5% ABV, malty porter with a nicely integrated coffee flavor. Just the thing for this time of year.

Winter Brew HaHa at O'Marro's
Monday, January 18, O'Marro's Public House will host Winter Brew HaHa beginning at 6 p.m. This is a five-course beer dinner paired with winter brews (and a few other surprises). Your place at the table is $35. I know there aren't many seats left, so you might want to get moving on this one. Stop in at the pub to reserve you seats.

Gardina's Beer Bar #25
Tuesday, January 19, Gardina's brings back its Beer Bar Series. At 6 p.m. they'll tap into a cask of Fox River's Abbey Normal (Belgian Dubbel) that's been aging on brandy-soaked oak chips. In addition to the cask, Fox River will stage a mini-tap takeover. And as they usually do, Gardina's will offer a special beer pairing menu to go with the Fox River beers.

Tap Takeover at Chester V’s
Friday, January 22, there’ll be a four-tap takeover of Wisconsin Brewing Company beers at Chester V’s. The sampling begins at 8 p.m. A rep from Wisconsin Distributors will be on hand to talk about the beers. And here are those beers: Porter Joe infused with Barriques coffee; Josephine, a spiced espresso porter; Chocolate Lab porter, and Inaugural Red Lager.

Updates on Upcomings
Things continue to progress for a couple of breweries trying to get started here in Oshkosh.

Last week, Mike Schlosser and Shawn O'Marro of HighHolder Brewing Company posted a couple of pictures showing the brew system they're putting together. Here's a quick look at that. For more pictures and to keep up on their progress, check out the brewery's Facebook Page.

Fifth Ward Brewing Company is making progress, too. Yesterday, while running around town I spotted this in a window of the building at 1009 S. Main St. where Ian Wenger and Zach Clark are planning to launch their brewery. This is a good sign! Let's hope they breeze through the permit process.

One last thing... last week, I mentioned that the Gardina's taplist (look over there in the column to the left) was way, way out of date. No more! It's now current and will be updated every Friday. Sometimes my complaining actually works!

Monday, January 11, 2016

And Then Joseph Nigl Punched a Cop

Another visit to long ago for a lively night in the old, weird Oshkosh. This time we're at Joseph J. Nigl's Gemütlichkeit Saloon on the corner of 9th and Ohio.

Nigl's Gemütlichkeit Saloon
March 31, 1902
It was a Monday. Joe Nigl was at his bar. He was getting loaded.

It wasn't the best of times for the saloon-owning alderman from Oshkosh's Bloody Sixth Ward. Nigl was being squeezed by the Oshkosh Brewing Company. The brewery had gained control of the local beer market and forcing one price hike after another onto saloonists like Nigl. Eventually, he'd remedy that by helping to launch the Peoples Brewing Company in 1913. For now, though, Nigl was stuck footing the bill as he slung nickel mugs of the brewery's beer.


If Nigl's mood was already sour, it didn't improve any when he saw Joe Smick walk through the door. Smick was a beat cop in the 6th Ward. And  he was none too popular with the Highholders who dominated the neighborhood.

The residents of  the 6th had little use for cops in general and for Smick in particular. Relations had been strained ever since the divisive Woodworkers' Strike of 1898. Officer Smick had come to be especially loathed. A former employee of Paine Lumber, Smick had recently made a series of arrests in the neighborhood. Highholders like Nigl viewed him with disdain. When the cop walked into Nigl's bar, the alderman wasted no time in going after him.


Here's Oshkosh Police Chief Rudolph J. Weisbrod to describe the ensuing mayhem.
"When he (Smick) entered, the proprietor asked him to stand the treat for the crowd. This the officer declined to do and said that he did not care to drink, and could not afford to treat. Upon this, the proprietor called him a dead beat and began to abuse him. One word led to another and after calling him several opprobrious names the alderman struck the officer."
      - Oshkosh Daily Northwestern, March 4, 1902.
With the crowd at the bar gathering to mob him, Smick beat a hasty retreat. Word of the event spread quickly through the 6th Ward. Nigl, already something of a legend in the neighborhood, added to his renown. He never faced charges for the attack. Smick said he didn’t want to arrest an alderman.

The following day Nigl apologized. He said he wouldn't have acted the way he had if he'd not been drinking. Smick, with one eye blackened, accepted Nigl's apology. That was the end of the matter.

Chief Weisbrod said Nigl was lucky he was dealing with Smick and not some other Oshkosh cop. He told the Northwestern, "Many of them would have found their clubs a convenient weapon of defense, and if that had proven insufficient, would have been justified in reaching into the other pocket for that more convincing argument, a revolver."

The Northwestern tried to get Nigl's take on the incident. The alderman told the reporter to get lost. The flare up faded away. Just another Monday night in Sawdust City.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Oshkosh Beer Show #30 - Imperial Stout from Black Husky Brewing

This week we’re warming the winter with a big bottle of imperial stout from Black Husky Brewing of Marinette County in Northern Wisconsin. We also touch on a few of the many beer events happening in Oshkosh this month.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Plenty On Tap Around Oshkosh

A quick blip about some goings on around here…

They have returned. Over in the column on the left under the Oshkosh Area Tap Lists header you’ll notice the names of 8 local places with good beer on tap. Click any name there to see their most recently updated taplist (a few of them also list bottled beer). I can’t vouch for the up-to-the-minute accuracy of any individual list, so please keep that in mind when referencing them. I can say that the Gardina’s list is woefully out of date. Next time you see Adam Carlson at Gardina's, give him hell for me. Anyway, try them out. I especially like the lists hosted by Taphunter (see Bare Bones, Becket’s, Chester V’s, Dublin’s, TJ’s). Taphunter gives you all the info you’re looking for in a straightforward manner. I wish more places around here were using it.

Also in the left column is the newly updated Oshkosh Area Beer Events schedule. This is going to be a busy January for beer. I’ll try to touch on each of these events as they approach, starting today with the first three on the list.

The 2016 Northeast Wisconsin Open is a homebrew competition sponsored by Lion's Tail Brewing. It's an open competition not based on style categories. The winner will get to help Lion’s Tail brewmaster Alex Wenzel brew a 10-barrel batch of the winning beer in February. That beer will be served in Lion’s Tail taproom beginning in March. The winner also gets to host a private launch party at the brewery with an open tap to serve the winning beer. The entry fee is $0. Cool. There's a link in the left column where you can download the entry form (or do it HERE). If you have issues with the download, send me an email (my address is at the top of the left column) and I'll be happy to email it to you.

Here's another one at Lion's Tail. The brewery will host three, beer-school sessions. Classes begin at 7 p.m. on the Wednesdays of January 13, February 10 and March 9. Tuition is $45 (that's for all three sessions combined) and includes samples and a pint of your choice each week. Topics covered will be: Beer Tasting and Measurables, Flavor Perception and Common Off-Flavors, and Modern Beer History (with sampling). Your instructor will be brewmaster Alex Wenzel. Alex is a fun, knowledgeable guy. He's just the sort of person you'd want to learn these things from. To enroll, shoot an email to:

Then there's this... Fox River Brewing will again host Paint and Pint Night on January 13. For $35 you get beer, canvas, utensils, paint and lots of instruction from art teacher Ronessa Lund. Everything you need to know to get in on this one can be found HERE.

A Beer
I can’t get out of here without suggesting a beer. If you’re into the hops, try making it over to Fox River Brewing for a pint of their One Size Fits All IPA. It's fantastic. Loads of citra and simcoe hop aroma and flavor come screaming up from this beer. Framing all that juicy hop music is the rich flavor of Golden Promise malt. It's 7% ABV, yet exceedingly drinkable. IPA lovers oughta love this.

That's it from me today, Prost!

Monday, January 4, 2016

The Oshkosh Beer Timeline

Here's an update on something I've been chipping away at for quite a while. I began building the Oshkosh Beer Timeline in 2011. It's an ongoing project. My goal has been to create wide ranging and deep history of beer and brewing in Oshkosh. It’s getting there.

I’ve just added another set of entries to the site. There are now more than 130 individual points on the timeline. Most of them include a link to explore the specific topic in detail.

Here’s a link to the Oshkosh Beer Timeline.

There’s a lot to digest there. But even a passing glance will give you a sense of Oshkosh's incredible history of beer and brewing. What jumps out at me is the 2015 portion of the timeline. Clearly, things are ramping up. We have a phenomenal past. Our future may be even better.