Monday, February 29, 2016

Oshkosh's Annual Parade of Goats

March was traditionally the time when Oshkosh brewers brought out their bock beers. The annual arrival of stronger, darker lagers was an occasion both brewers and beer drinkers looked forward to.

Here's an ad from 1940 that shares the sense of anticipation these beers were greeted with.

Notice that mighty goat at the ready, front and center. Bock is a German-style of beer. And bock is the German word for goat. Reason enough to present a horned beast. The goat also serves as an indication of the strength of bock beer.

For decades, Oshkosh brewers remained true to the tradition of adorning their bock-beer ads and labels with goats. Here's a herd of examples  from the last century.

Let's start of with a few more from Peoples Brewing.
Here's a bottle label that Peoples used before Prohibition arrived in 1920.

And here's a Peoples' label from the period following the end of Prohibition in 1933.

Jumping ahead a few decades, here's the label Peoples was putting on its bottles of bock in the 1960s.

Now over to Rahr Brewing of Oshkosh. This is a label for Rahr's Bock Beer, circa 1917

In 1938, advertising for Rahr's bock featured this anthropomorphized goat wearing a nice shirt and tapping a beer.

Here's a Rahr label from right about that same time.

A lot of the labels seen here were stock labels used by numerous, regional breweries. Other than the brewery name, the labels were identical. Here's a couple examples of Wisconsin bocks with the same label as Rahr's.

Can you imagine if Fox River Brewing in Oshkosh was using the same label on its beer as O'so Brewing in Plover? It's unthinkable in the modern age of branding. Then again, beer was a far more local product in the years before and just after Prohibition than it is today. Thankfully we seem to be returning to that. But I doubt we'll see brewers sharing labels again (though Bare Bones Brewery in Oshkosh does share a bottle labeller with other breweries in Northeast Wisconsin).

Moving on...  The Oshkosh Brewing Company always had an eye for design. This poster for their bock beer is one of my favorites. It's a lusty looking goat we have here.

Here's another stock label. This was appearing on bottles of OBC's bock in the 1940s.

These were the caps crowning those bottles of OBC bock beer.
Here comes a nice OBC tap handle. I believe this is from the 1960s.

One more. Here's a sign for OBC's bock beer that marries Native American imagery with that old German goat. Welcome to the new world.

With the closing of Oshkosh's production breweries in the early 1970s, bottles of Oshkosh-brewed beer with goats on them disappeared. Now that we have a couple of breweries packaging beer again, the revival of this tradition is due for renewal.

For more about the history of bock beer in Oshkosh, check this out.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Oshkosh Beer Show #37 – Oud Bruin on Ice

This week we head to the middle of ice-covered Lake Winnebago to meet up with our friend Jimmer Poeschel and drink Oud Bruin, a Belgian-style tart brown ale from Glarus Brewing.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Beer Bashes at Dublin’s

Quick note about a couple of upcoming beer blasts at Dublin’s Irish Pub in Oshkosh.

Tonight (as in Wednesday, February 24), Dublin’s welcomes Lakefront Brewery co-founder Jim Klisch to town for the release of two new brews from the Milwaukee brewery. At 6 pm, they’ll tap into kegs of Hop Jockey, Lakefront’s new double IPA, and Lakefront Maibock. Holy shit, it’s bock season! I’ve been getting into both these beers lately. They’re definitely worth checking out.

Before we move along, here’s a swell picture I recently came across. This shot was taken in the late 1980s and shows our man Klisch (white sweatshirt) sharing a beer with the one and only Beer Hunter, Michael Jackson (front and center). If you run into Jim tonight, do me a favor: pull out your phone and have him look at this picture. I wonder if he’ll recognize himself?

Then on Monday, February 29, Dublin’s welcomes in Sheboygan’s 8th Street Ale Haus Brewery for a tap takeover. This will be the first time 8th Street’s beers have been poured here in Oshkosh. You can say you were there. I gotta run. Prost!

Monday, February 22, 2016

Drinking Beer in Oshkosh's Bottling Houses

Last weekend there was a bottle show in Milwaukee, an event where collectors of antique bottles gathered to display, trade and sell their finds. A friend from Oshkosh brought this one home.

That's an August Rahr bottle from the 1880s. Most likely, it was filled with beer by Rahr at his bottling house / saloon / grocery on the corner of Rosalia and Rahr.

Here's a close-up of the embossed face of the bottle.

This bottle is said to be one of two known to exist. Both now reside in Oshkosh. I didn't ask my friend what it cost him. I know it didn't come cheap.

There's a wonderful irony to this. The appreciation that exists today for these artifacts was entirely absent when they were abundant in the late 1800s. August Rahr probably went through thousands of such bottles. One by one, he filled them with beer. Nobody gave it much thought. Nobody, except those who resented him for being engaged in such a business. There were plenty of those.

Beer bottlers in Oshkosh weren't exactly embraced by the community. As often as not, they were viewed as a blight upon the neighborhoods from which they operated. Sometimes the low reputation was deserved.

Independent bottling houses were often tucked away in otherwise quiet parts of town. The city found it difficult to regulate them. The lax atmosphere created opportunity for those willing to exploit the situation. Some beer bottlers in Oshkosh took an outlaw approach. They ran their bottling barns like unlicensed saloons. Charles Noe was one of those who operated outside the law.

Beginning in the early 1890s, Noe ran a small, beer-bottling plant from his home at what is now 202 Rosalia Street. Noe did well. Within a year, he was one of three primary bottlers of beer for Horn & Schwalm's Brooklyn Brewery.

His neighbors weren't at all happy with what Noe was up to. It wasn't the bottling that annoyed them. The problem was all those people hanging around drinking beer. The neighbors complained. On May 7, 1892, the Rosalia street bottler was arrested. Noe was charged with selling beer without a license. Here’s the Oshkosh Northwestern’s report of the incident.
For some time past, complaints have been coming in to police headquarters against Mr. Noe, but not until recently has evidence of a convincing character been secured. In Justice Merrill's court this morning he (Noe) at first became abusive and entered an emphatic plea of not guilty, but before he had left the building he had changed his mind and pleaded guilty.
     –Oshkosh Daily Northwestern; May 7, 1892
Noe paid a $10 fine and went on his way. It was no big deal. He wasn't the only Oshkosh bottler who'd been pinched for illegal beer sales. The same happened with August Rahr, Silvo Fenn, Fred Neumueller and others.

By 1898, the situation had gotten out of hand. In November that year, Fred Neumueller was charged with selling beer without a license. His bottler's permit allowed him to sell beer by the case, but not in single bottles for drinking on premise. Oshkosh Police Chief Rudolph Weisbrod charged that Neumuller and other bottlers in Oshkosh were doing just that: running their bottling houses like saloons. Weisbrod vowed to launch a "crusade" against the bottlers.

"Some of these places sell more beer at retail than do the saloons which pay $200 a year license, and I am going to Stop it," Chief Weisbrod told the Northwestern.

It didn't work out the way Weisbrod said it would. The chief must have known his threat would have little impact on behavior. The habit of drinking beer in these places was too deeply entrenched. Things weren't going to change because some public official wished them to. The beer continued to flow into and out of bottles in the bottling houses of Oshkosh.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Oshkosh Beer Show #36 – New Sours

​This week we get into a couple of new sour beers. We start with Infectious Groove, a Berliner Weisse style ale brewed by O'so Brewing Company. Then we try Otra Vez, Sierra Nevada's modern take on a Gose-style beer.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Cask Beer Tonight at Gardina’s

For the 26th installment of Gardina’s Beer Bar Series, they’re going old school.

Remember when these things started back in the summer of 2013? Me either. And I was there. Maybe that’s why. Anyway, when they launched this series, it was a simple, elementary sort of event. They’d put a cask of beer up on the bar, hammer a tap into it and everybody would drink.

But the scope has expanded. These days, there’s often a four-course tasting menu and tap takeover running in conjunction with the cask beer. Not tonight.

Tonight (Tuesday, February 16) they’ll do like they used to. They’ll put up a cask of beer and let her flow. This time it's Abita Brewing’s Horchata Turbodog, an English-style Brown Ale that’s been seasoned in the cask with vanilla beans and cinnamon. Sounds delicious.

The tap gets hammered in and the beer starts flowing at 6 p.m. Enjoy.

Monday, February 15, 2016

An Illustrated History of Oshkosh’s Independent Beer Bottlers – Part Two

This is the second in a two-part series about independent beer bottlers in Oshkosh. Part one can be found HERE.

This time, we'll start on the South Side...

Frank Lutz
Lutz was a long-time alderman for the old 3rd Ward on the South Side of Oshkosh. He also dabbled in beer. In the early 1880s, Lutz ran a bottling operation from his saloon, which doubled as his home. The property still stands at what is now 1301 Oregon St. Here’s a look at his layout circa 1885. The Lutz property has a red "X" floating over it. Notice the ice house at the rear of the lot. An ideal place for storing kegs of beer prior to their contents being bottled.

Lutz also found time to work as a beer-wagon driver for the Glatz Brewery, so there's a good chance his bottles were filled with Glatz-brewed beer. Bottles embossed with the Lutz name are very rare, but here's one.

Charles Maulick
If you've been in Oblio's Lounge, you've tromped the same ground Charles Maulick did more than a century ago. Maulick was the first proprietor of the Schlitz Beer Hall at what is now 432-434 N. Main Street. It’s currently the home of Oblio's.

Maulick was an agent and bottler for Schlitz Brewing from approximately 1888-1898. Maulick was all about Schlitz Beer. Even the saloon he operated was owned by Schlitz. Initially, it appears Maulick did his bottling inside his saloon. Here’s a Maulick bottle that may have been filled at Oblio’s.

In 1891, Maulick’s bottling operation moved to a bottling house built by Schlitz at what is now 101 Commerce St. Along with his new partner Frank Kitz (not the same Frank Kitz mentioned in part one of this series), Maulick managed the Commerce Street plant until 1898. Most bottles that came out of there prior to 1898 bear both the Maulick and Kitz names. Here’s an example.

The Neumueller Brothers
Brothers Fred and Ludwig Neumueller were independent bottlers for the Rahr Brewery from about 1893 until 1915.

Here you can see the location of the Neumueller’s small bottling plant in the early 1900s at what was then 66 Rahr Ave. It was located just up the street from the Rahr Brewery.

Here’s one of those old bottles that was once filled with beer by the Neumuellers.

Charles Noe
A former carpenter and a Civil War Veteran, Charles Noe began bottling beer in 1893. He worked from his home at what is now 202 Rosalia St. His bottling operation lasted about four years.

Noe bottles are purported to exist. I’ve never seen one. The Oshkosh Public Museum has a great picture of Mr. Noe, though. Here’s our man in the mid-1880s, about a decade before he undertook his bottling endeavor.

Louis Plate
Louis Plate took over the Schlitz bottling house in about 1902, after Maulick and Kitz (see above) dissolved their partnership. Plate also operated a Schlitz tied house located on the south side of Washington Ave. between Main and State (right about where the Exclusive Company has its parking lot). Here’s a look inside Plate’s lovely, palm-strewn saloon.

Plate bottled beer for just about five years. His bottles are now quite rare. Here’s one that’s had its blobbed top knocked off.

Charles (Carl) Priebe
Carl Priebe bottled beer for Horn & Schwlam’s Brooklyn Brewery during the 1890s. His bottling operation was set up in a barn on the north side of Ceape Ave. The property spanned the current addresses of 1316 and 1322 Ceape Ave. The property was owned by Dietrich Havemann, who had previously bottled beer there. It appears Priebe leased the property from Havemann.

After Horn & Schwalm merged with the Glatz and Kuenzl breweries in 1894, Priebe abandoned bottling and went to work for the newly formed Oshkosh Brewing Company. He worked there into the early 1900s as a beer peddler and delivery-wagon driver. I’m aware of no surviving Priebe bottles. Here’s an ad from 1893 showing Priebe listed among other bottler’s of Horn & Schwalm’s beer.
(Note: I accidentally omitted this entry for Priebe when I originally posted this blog).

Oshkosh Labor Advocate, October 20, 1893.

August Rahr
Along with his brother Charles Rahr, August Rahr helped launch the Rahr Brewing Company of Oshkosh in 1865. August Rahr, piloted the brewery’s early foray into bottling in the late 1870s. But that project was abandoned soon after. In 1883, August Rahr left the brewery and become an independent bottler. His stint as a bottler lasted into the early 1890s. He primarily bottled the beer brewed by his brother Charles.

Rahr’s bottling business ran in conjunction with a saloon and grocery store, all of it housed in a large building that still stands at 320 Rosalia St. Here’s a recent look at that.

Better, yet, here’s a picture of August Rahr himself.

John Sitter
An Austrian immigrant, John Sitter came to Oshkosh in 1883, finding work at Lorenz Kuenzl’s Gambrinus Brewery. Sitter went solo in the early 1890s. He primarily bottled beer for the Kuenzl brewery and, after 1894, for the Oshkosh Brewing Company. The Sitter bottle house was located at what is now 1255 Harney Ave. Here’s a 14-ounce bottle of his that was in use from about 1912 to 1919.

Sitter remained in the bottling business until Prohibition arrived in 1920. He also ran a beer distribution company. Here’s an ad for Sitter’s Beverage Company from that same period between 1912 and 1919.

Frank Thielen
Frank Thielen began bottling beer in the late 1870s, probably from his saloon located at what is now 420 N. Main St. Here’s a Thielen ad from the 1879 City Directory.

Thielen bottled beer for Milwaukee’s Cream City Brewing Company. He was also an agent for the Anheuser-Busch Brewing Company. Thielen’s bottling operation appears to have remained in operation into the early1890s. Here’s an up-close look at one of his very rare bottles.

Emil Thom
Emil Thom started in the beer business in the 1880s at his father’s saloon on the corner of Main and Irving streets. The same place now known as the Mabel Murphy's. Thom took over the Schlitz bottling house in 1903, following Louis Plate’s (see above) tenure there. Thom ran the bottling business for just four years. Few of his bottles made it into the 21st century. Here’s an exceedingly rare glimpse of an Emil Thom bottle.

Otto Villnow
Around 1883, a former cobbler named Otto Villnow began bottling beer from his home at what is now 1417 Oregon St. Villnow appears to have had no direct tie to either a saloon or brewery. Like many such bottlers, Villnow bowed out of the business as bottling became more mechanized and less profitable for small-scale operators like himself. By 1893 he had given up bottling for barbering.

Here’s a picture of Villnow from about 1887, when he was at the height of his bottling career. He wears the uniform of the 2nd Wisconsin National Guard.

And here’s a map from the same period with a red arrow pointing towards the layout of Villnow's home and bottling operation. He may have used the building in back as his bottling house.

Few of Villnow’s bottles have remained intact. Here’s one.

The End of the Indies
By 1915, each of Oshkosh’s three breweries had constructed bottling lines within their respective breweries. Independent beer bottling in Oshkosh faded soon after. By 1919, there were just two independent bottlers working in Oshkosh. The crushing blow came a year later with the onset of Prohibition in 1920. The Great Mistake spelled the end of the independent beer bottler in Oshkosh.

Again, I need to send thanks to Steve Schrage whose bottle collection was sourced for most of the images here. These posts would have been sorely lacking without Steve's help.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Oshkosh Beer Show #35 – Vertical Hopslam

This week we taste and compare two vintages of Bell's Hoplsam. We drink a 2015 Hoplsam side-by-side with the 2016 release of Bell's potent, double IPA.

Monday, February 8, 2016

An Illustrated History of Oshkosh’s Independent Beer Bottlers – Part One

This is the first in a two-part series of posts about Oshkosh’s pre-Prohibition beer bottlers. Lot's to cover here, so let's dig in....

Prior to the 1870s, few American breweries bottled their own beer. And for good reason. Packaging beer in bottles was slow, sloppy work. Nearly all of it was done by hand. But getting the beer into the bottles was only half the battle.

After the beer was bottled and capped, the chances of it going quite bad were quite good. Primitive bottle corking coupled with crude sanitation practices often resulted in a flat, sour end product. That began to change in the mid-1870s. The complications of bottling beer on a worthwhile scale were gradually worked out. Bottled beer was coming into its own.

In Oshkosh, though, brewers were reluctant to take on the challenge. The first to dive in was John Glatz. He began bottling his Union Brewery’s beer in late 1877. Here’s an early ad for Glatz’s glass-packaged beer.

Oshkosh Daily Northwestern, May 21, 1878.

And here’s a bottle of that “Good as Milwaukee beer.” This dates from the late 1880s.

Though the methodology of bottling was advancing, Oshkosh brewers remained apprehensive. Holding them back was an antiquated tax law that required beer to be kegged before it could be bottled. The protocol, which remained in effect until 1890, also prohibited bottling in the brewery where the beer was made. John Glatz got around that restriction by building a small bottling shed behind his brewery. Here's an incredible map from 1889 showing the layout of Glatz's Union Brewery (where Glatz Nature Park now resides). Notice the bottle house at the top of the map.

Most Oshkosh brewers weren’t willing to go to the lengths Glatz did to bottle beer. Instead, they relied on independent bottlers to deposit their product into glass.

At the close of the 1870s, a host of independent beer bottlers came on the scene in Oshkosh. Often working from saloons or even their own homes, these indy bottlers would purchase kegged beer from local breweries and siphon it into pint and quart sized bottles for resale at saloons and grocery stores. Most of these operations were small. Often, just one or two people were engaged in the business.

Let’s see who these bottlers were and where and when they did their business.

Christian Elser
Elser may have been the first independent bottler operating in Oshkosh. He came to the job with a wealth of experience. From 1869 until 1879 he had been a partner with John Glatz in the Union Brewery. There, Elser spearheaded the brewery’s early foray into bottling.

In 1879, Elser sold his interest in the Union Brewery to Glatz. Shortly after, Elser went indy. He opened a bottling plant on what is now W. 17th Ave, between Oregon and Doty streets. Elser appears to have abandoned that business about 1894. Here’s a rare look at one of Elser’s embossed beer bottles.

Silvo Fenn and the Fenn & Nachtrab Bottling Plant
Silvo Fenn was a brewer working at Horn & Schwalm’s Brooklyn Brewery in the early 1880s. Near the end of the decade he launched a bottling operation from his home on Doty, just across the street from the Horn & Schwalm Brewery. Fenn appears to have been the main bottler for the Horn & Schwalm Brewery prior to 1894.

By 1898, Fenn had partnered with Robert Nachtrab to form Fenn & Nachtrab Beer Bottling at what is now 1664 Nebraska. In the early 1900s, Fenn & Nachtrab were the primary bottlers for the Oshkosh Brewing Company. I’ll have much more on Fenn & Nachtrab in the not-too-distant future. For now, here’s a picture of an early Silvo Fenn bottle.

William Ganzer
In the early 1890s, William Ganzer was proprietor of the Fashion Sample Room. It was a saloon located on the east side of N. Main, four doors south of Waugoo. Ganzer turned to bottling in the early 1900s. His line was dedicated to Schlitz. He also worked as a distributor for the Milwaukee brewery. As late as 1917, Ganzer was still tied to Schlitz. Here’s a handsome Ganzer bottle from near the end of his run.

Thomas Getchius
Known around Oshkosh as The Old Roman, T.A. Getchius operated a saloon, dance hall and grocery store on land now occupied by West Algoma Park. He started his bottling operation there in the late 1880s. Unfortunately, I’ve never seen a Getchius bottle, though they do exist. Getchius was an interesting guy. There's more about him HERE. The map below shows an outline of the Getchius operation located at what was then 253 W. Algoma.

Gustave Hafemann
Hafemann bottled beer from about 1911 to 1918. He was located on the west side of Grove Street just north of Cleveland. He appears to have worked almost exclusively with the Oshkosh Brewing Company. In 1914, he was listed as an employee of the brewery. By that time he was probably no longer bottling beer on Grove Street. I’ve never come across an image of a bottle bearing the Hafemann name. Considering his close ties to the brewery, there’s a good chance his bottles bore the Oshkosh Brewing Company stamp.

Dietrich Havemann
Havemann ran a small bottling operation from a barn behind his home in the early 1890s. The property spanned the current addresses of 1316 and 1322 Ceape Ave. Havemann’s known financial connections to August Rahr suggests that some of the beer he bottled may have originated at the Rahr Brewery. Havemann bottles are very rare. I’ve never seen one.

August Herzog
Herzog was the foreman of the bottling department at the Oshkosh Brewing Company in the early 1900s. Prior to that he partnered with Robert Ihbe. The duo ran a bottling plant at what is now 1225 Waugoo. Here’s a great looking Aug Herzog bottle from the turn of the century.

Robert Ihbe
Like his partner August Herzog (see above), Bob Ihbe was employed as a bottler by the Oshkosh Brewing Company. Herzog and Ihbe moonlighted with an indy bottling operation. This sort of double-dipping was commonplace among Oshkosh bottlers. Ihbe appears to have sold and bottled only OBC beer from his bottle house at what is now 1225 Waugoo. The Ihbe bottling plant opened in the early 1900s. It remained in operation as late 1916. Here’s an outline of the Ihbe property shown in a 1903 map. The big, red arrow points the way. The bottling house was probably near the back of the property.

Frank Kitz Sr.
Frank Kitz the elder was another short timer doing business from his home. Kitz lived and bottled beer at what is now the northwest corner of Parkway and Monroe streets. The home still stands at 530 E. Parkway. The Kitz bottling business operated from this property for approximately six years – from about 1888 to 1894. Here’s a picture of a very rare Frank Kitz bottle.

Image courtesy of

James Laing
Laing was best known in Oshkosh as a producer and bottler of soda. He did dabble in beer, though, particularly in the years surrounding 1910 when he sold and bottled the Rahr Brewery’s beer. His plant was located on Ceape Ave, just across the street from where the Leach Amphitheater now sits. Here’s a quart bottle from Laing, circa 1912.

And here's a Laing wagon making a delivery to J.J. Nigl's Saloon (now known as Ohio Street Station).

That’s enough for now. I’m working on part two of this series (and here that is). If all goes well, that’ll show up here next Monday.

In the meantime, I send huge THANKS to Steve Schrage. Several of the bottles seen here are from his collection. I’ve grown increasingly indebted to Steve. His enthusiasm and dedication to preserving Oshkosh’s incredible beer history is boundless. Thanks, buddy!