Thursday, June 30, 2016

Of Bikes, Breweries & Beer

This interactive map tells the story...

Let me elaborate. We’re lucky. Our two breweries are connected by an excellent bike trail. With a holiday weekend coming up, this would be the time to take advantage of our good fortune. Here’s what I suggest...

Grab your bike and begin your peddling at the southern foot of the WIOUWASH Trail. You’ll find the trailhead next to 1799 River Mill Rd. Another map...

From there you'll peddle northwest along the Fox River and through the marshes that rim the southeastern portion of Lake Butte des Morts. It's an easy, scenic route four miles long that'll lead you to the doorstep of...

Bare Bones Brewery
Bare Bones has grown quickly since its opening a year ago. The brewery's taproom features 13 draft lines with 11 of them pouring Bare Bones beer. You can view the full line-up here

A couple beers to keep in mind: Bare Bones Stone Bone is a recent release brewed in collaboration with Appleton's Stone Arch Brewery. They describe it as a "dank pale ale" and that's dead right. The "dank" comes from the load of Columbus hops the beer was dry hopped with. At 5.9% ABV and 35 IBUs it's a good pick for the hop-loving cyclist. 

A Bare Bones beer that wasn't showing on their list this morning, but should be there this weekend is I Want Her Melon Wheat. I don't know about that name, but the beer itself ought to be a good refresher after a bike ride. This is a watermelon wheat beer brewed by Bare Bones assistant brewer Jody Cleveland on the brewery's pilot system. It's a small-batch beer that won't be available for long. Get it whilst you can.

All right, you've had a couple/three beers at Bare Bones, time to make the return trip. Back you go from whence you came, down the WIOUWASH Trail to...

Fox River Brewing Company
Now in its 26th year of operation, Fox River is at its peak. The brewery is producing more beer than ever before and with its large taproom and beer garden on the river it's an ideal spot for summertime beer drinking.

You can view the taplist here, but for the cyclist, Reel It In Session IPA is an obvious choice. This is a beautiful beer with Citra and Mosaic hops giving off a burst of mango and peach aroma with those same notes following through on the palate. I've grown very partial to this beer. At just 4.3% ABV you can still get your hop fix while managing to keep your bike upright.

A Fox River beer that should be available this weekend is Orange Dreamsicle. This was brewed in collaboration with Oshkosh homebrewers Bill and Karly Schwalbach from their recipe. Bill describes the beer as "sorta like the beer version of an Orange Creamsicle." And if that doesn't scream summer...

If you haven't had your fill yet, there's more beer and bike pairings in the offing. The last couple summers I've posted beer and bike tours that follow the riverwalk down towards Lake Winnebago. You can find those here and here. Whatever you do, have a great holiday weekend! 

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Oshkosh Beer Show #54 - The Ruby Owl Takes Flight

Oshkosh Beer Show co-host Adam Carlson tells of his new digs, the Ruby Owl Tap Room in lovely downtown Oshkosh. Check out the taplist for the Ruby Owl HERE.

Monday, June 27, 2016

High Times & Horror at Horn & Schwalm’s

In the late 1800s, no brewery in Oshkosh received more attention than Horn & Schwalm’s Brooklyn Brewery. It seemed something was always happening there. Newspapers in Oshkosh were all over it, publishing stories about the brewery that ran the gamut from the absurd to the tragic.

The best aspect these stories is the way they avoid conventional brewery trope. They’re not about beer production or business. They’re about people. They’re rare intimations of what daily life may have been like at Oshkosh breweries of this period.

I want to share a few of these stories. We’ll start light and end in a very dark place. Here’s one about a horse...

Oshkosh Daily Northwestern, Monday March 24, 1890
A couple things about that story: This occurred at a time when Oshkoshers were bickering about Sunday beer sales and the non-enforcement of Blue Laws. Not a word is mentioned in the story about the brewery selling kegs of beer on a Sunday night. But I’ll bet that’s the first thing the prudes in town clucked about after they read the article on Monday.

That keg of beer is also worth noting. Remember, this was a time when bottled beer was an extravagance. Most folks drinking beer at home were doing just like Burkhardt Krieger. They were bringing their beer home in kegs, often purchasing it directly from the brewery. They didn’t have kegerators either. What they were drinking was gravity flow, cask lager. I’ll bet it was delicious.

Here’s one of those kegs from Horn & Schwalm’s Brewery. The keg Krieger’s horse made off with would have looked just like this one. You can’t see it from this angle, but “Horn & Schwalm” is branded into the wood on the top side of the barrel seen here.

Here’s a story that's positively bucolic. The newspaper I found it in was in rough shape, so I’ll transcribe it.

A Novel Sight
A novel sight attracted the attention of the passer by in the vicinity of the Brooklyn Brewery yesterday forenoon. It was no less than 26 wheelbarrows filled with grain and manned by 26 stalwart women that caused the usual listless pedestrian to gaze with considerable interest at the usual go-as-you-please race with grain for the sweepstakes. The women were those of the neighborhood wheeling malt and the refuse of the brewery for their pigs.
  - Oshkosh Daily Northwestern, Friday, September 28, 1883

Too bad you’re not allowed to keep pigs in town anymore. I’d like to have a pig. Back then on Doty Street there were plenty of families keeping a porker or two.

By the way, Oshkosh breweries still dole out their spent grain as animal feed. Both Bare Bones Brewery and Fox River Brewing have arrangements with local farmers who use the brewhouse leftovers as livestock feed.

I have to include this next one because it’s about one of my favorite subjects….

They Have Been Congregating in Oshkosh Recently by the Hundreds
Tramps have been infesting this city in unusually large numbers for the past few days. Monday night twelve were lodged in the city lock-up and the patrol wagon is kept busy bringing the vagrants in from the suburbs. The residents of the outskirts are the principal sufferers. Out where the police are not so apt to reach them the vagrants are more bold and insolent. One of the favorite resorts fro tramps is Horn & Schwalm’s brewery. They fairly haunt the place in the hope of begging beer from some of the employees about the place. Usually they are let off by being ordered off the place or if they are too persistent one of the large brewers brings his boot into play.
    - Oshkosh Daily Northwestern, Wednesday, December 31, 1890

A boot in the ass! On New Year’s Eve, no less. Oshkosh was beset with tramps all through the late 1800s. The city tried a number novel solutions to stem the transient tide. For example, in the 1880s Oshkosh cops were paid a bonus of 37 cents (about $6.50 in today’s money) for each tramp they collared. That didn’t help.

They finally hit upon a solution. A workhouse was established near 17th and Knapp. Tramps pinched in Oshkosh were sent there to pass their time breaking rocks. By the turn of the century, word had spread among the wandering tribe that Oshkosh was no longer hospitable. Problem solved.

Here’s an interesting tidbit. One of the people who played a role in the establishment of the workhouse was Fred C. Horn, a member of the same family that owned the Horn & Schwalm Brewery. I guess kicking ass stopped being fun after a while.

OK, I warned you we were headed for a dark place. Here we are. Abandon all hope, this one is utterly bleak.  Here’s a story that hints at just how different the lives of these people were from our own. Prepare for some old-school nihilism.

Dead Infant Found
The body of a dead infant was found last Thursday near Schwalm’s Brewery on the south side. One arm and one leg were eaten off evidently by dogs. The body was turned over by the Poor Commissioner and buried without an inquest or further investigation as it was concluded that formal proceedings would be useless expense.
 - Oshkosh Daily Northwestern, Monday, October 4, 1875

Let that sink in.... A dead baby found half eaten by dogs and nobody cares to investigate it.

Imagine the uproar that would ensue if it happened today. It would be national news instead of a 9-line blurb consigned to an inside page of a local paper. No doubt there’s more to this story. The rest of it was taken to the graves of those involved. Maybe that’s for the best.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Boiled Alive!

Here’s a tragic tale. I first came across this about five years ago. It made my stomach turn then. Same thing now. I’ve touched on this incident a couple times before, but never posted the entire, gruesome episode. Well, here it is...

We’re back at Horn & Schwalm’s Brooklyn Brewery located at what is now the 1600 block of Doty St.

On the Friday evening of February 2, 1872, a young brewer named Leonard Schiffmann was finishing up a long brew day when things went horribly wrong…

A Man Falls into a Vat of Boiling Beer
On Friday, a young man named Leonard Schiffman [sic], employed in Schwalm’s Brewery, Third Ward, met with one of those horrible accidents which occasionally startle the community and make us wonder at the carelessness of human nature.

A large vat, seven or eight feet deep had just been filled with hot beer which had just been drawn off from out of the kettles where it had been boiling. A plank lay across the top and Schiffman attempted to cross it. The room was dark and in groping his way across, poor Schiffman slipped and fell into the seething hell beneath him. Fortunately he grasped the plank and saved himself from a descent which would have ended his career at once. As it was, he descended into the boiling liquid as far as his waist, and then, after struggling for several minutes, during which his lower limbs were in the boiling beer, he succeeded in extricating himself, with the assistance that his agonizing screams soon brought to his aid. Dr. C. and F.H. Lind were at once sent for and they did what was possible for his relief.

His flesh is boiled and his recovery is very doubtful. The physicians think that the amputations of one or both limbs may be necessary, and even in that event he may not recover.
  - Oshkosh Weekly Northwestern, February 8, 1872

A double amputation in 1872 would have been as torturous as his plunge into the boiling liquid. He was spared that additional agony. Three days after his accident, Schiffmann died on Tuesday, February 13, 1872. I haven’t located his exact birth date, but he would have been about 22 years old at the time of his death.

Some background on young Schiffmann: He was born about 1850 in Prussia and immigrated to America with his parents and siblings sometime prior to the Civil War. The family had reached Oshkosh by 1865.

Early on, Schiffmann worked here as a carpenter while living above his father’s saloon on the east side of what is now the 400 block of N. Main.

But the Schiffmann’s were brewers. In addition to the saloon, his father operated a Weissbier brewery in Oshkosh, first on N. Main and later on Doty. And Leonard’s older brother Andrew appears to have preceded him into the Horn & Schwalm brewhouse.

Leonard Schiffmann took up the brewing trade just months prior to his death. The 1872-1873 Oshkosh City Directory lists his occupation as “saw filer and carpenter.” That directory was being compiled about the same time Schiffmann was changing careers. A move in the direction of a very bad end.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Oshkosh Beer Show #53 - Anti-Hero IPA from Revolution Brewing

This week, we’re drinking Anti-Hero IPA from Revolution Brewing of Chicago. Revolution has just begun distributing its beer in Wisconsin. We yap about the brewery as we down Revolution’s flagship beer.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Oshkosh Beer Show #52 - 3rd Sign Brewery

This week, Adam and I check out a very nice Witbier from 3rd Sign, a new brewery from Waunakee, Wisconsin that just began sending its beer to Oshkosh.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Beer Here, This Week

A few quick words about the beer around here this week…
Last Saturday's Rainbow over Bare Bones

The Launching of the Short’s
You may have noticed beer from Michigan Short's Brewing Company showing up recently on tap lists on store shelves in Oshkosh. This week, Short’s will make a bigger splash with launch parties at Chester V’s and Oblio’s.

• Tuesday, June 7, Oblio’s will host a Short’s launch party from 6-8 p.m.
• Then on Wednesday, June 8, Chester V’s will host a Short’s tap takeover from 7-9 p.m.

If you can’t hit either of those, you can always swing by Ski’s for a taste of Short’s. The downtown market currently has Short’s flagship beers in stock, including Bellaire Brown and Huma Lupa Licious. Speaking of Ski’s, they’re also now offering mix 4 and 6 packs. Check that out here.

And if you want to find out what Short’s is all about, here are two guys who have a few things they’d like to tell you.

Bare Bones Anniversary Party
Hard to believe, but Bare Bones has been up and running for a year now. Seems like only yesterday this was happening.

The celebration at Bare Bones begins Thursday, June 9, with a tent party featuring live music from Bare Bones brewmaster RJ Nordlund. Food will be available from Tasty Weiner's on Wheels.

Then on Friday, June 10th, Bare Bones will have a Pig Roast by Hillbilly Bob with live music by Bad Habitz. It’s been an adventurous year for Bare Bones, they have plenty to celebrate.

Check out the brewery's Facebook event page for more.

Butte des Morts Beer
Sunday, June 12, at 1 p.m., I’ll be speaking at the Butte des Morts Lion’s Club about the history of brewing and salooning in Butte des Morts. For such a little place, Butte des Morts sure had a lot going on when it came to beer.

Here’s the best part: There’s going to be beer to sample. I put together a recipe for the sort of beer that was being brewed in Butte des Morts Beer in the 1860s. The recipe was brewed at Bare Bones by assistant brewer Jody Cleveland and will be offered during and after the program. Here’s all the info. Hope to see you there!

Monday, June 6, 2016

Fire at the Brooklyn Brewery!

Saturday Evening, March 29, 1879...
Brewers at Horn & Schwalm’s Brooklyn Brewery are nearing the end of a long brew day. Suddenly, fire breaks out near the boil kettle. The brewers respond quickly.  They’ve been through this before. With pails of water, they wash down the flames before the fire can spread. Catastrophe averted. This time.

Fire was a constant concern at the Brooklyn Brewery. The wood-frame building was not even 15 years old, but it looked much older. Its vernacular architecture was out of step with the production facility it was being used as. In 1878, Horn & Schwalm had produced 1,366 barrels of beer. Walking by, you wouldn't guess the place capable of it.

Horn & Schwalm's Original Brooklyn Brewery
Lit by candles and fueled by wood and coal, the the Brooklyn Brewery was an accident waiting to happen. A few hours after the Saturday-night fire in the brewhouse had been doused, the waiting ended. The brewery went up in flames.

Total Destruction of Horn & Schwalm’s Brewery
About five o’clock Sunday morning the brewery on Doty street just south of 16th which is owned by A. Horn and Leonard Schwalm’s estate was totally destroyed by fire… about four o’clock the building was discovered by neighbors in a mass of flames. Two or three employees slept in the brewery and they barely had time to escape… The brewery itself was totally consumed together with a large amount of stock both in grain and beer.
 - Oshkosh Daily Northwestern, March 31, 1879

Bad enough, but it could have been much worse. Until recently, the Horn and Schwalm families had been living above the brewery. But with the the business and its output growing, both families had moved to separate dwellings nearby. They had homes, but their brewery was gone.

The impact was devastating. The fire destroyed nearly $500,000 (in today’s money) worth of equipment, beer and property. Insurance covered half the loss. The Horn and Schwalm families bore the rest. But there was no compensating for the loss of future business.

The Brooklyn Brewery headed into the summer of 1879 without a product. Beer has always been a somewhat seasonal commodity, but that was especially so in the late 1800s. The brewery relied on brisk sales during the warm months to fund the winter brewing season of its cool-fermenting lager beer. In the summer of 1879, the Brooklyn Brewery had no beer to sell.

Instead of peddling beer, they went to work building a new brewery. By July it was taking shape. This one was nothing like the rustic, wooden brewery they had lost.

New Brewery Building 
The brewery of Horn & Schwalm on Doty street near the city limits, which was burned last winter, is being rebuilt on quite an extensive scale. The building is now up as far as the second story. It is of solid brick with massive stone foundation, and is being built as nearly fire proof as possible, all the rooms being arched in brick and with little wood about them. The main building is 45 by 60 feet, and will be three stories high, which, with the half underground basement, makes a building practically four stories high. All the modern improvements are being put into it, and when completed it will be the largest and finest brewery in the state outside Milwaukee. Later in the season immense ice houses and other additions will be built. The brewery will be in full operation in about a month.
 - Oshkosh Daily Northwestern, July 15, 1879

Here’s a look at the completed brewery. The wooden structure with the cupola was the malt house. The brick brewery is to the right.

This was a brewery built to last. And it has. The malt house is gone, but brewhouse that was the core of the Brooklyn Brewery still stands. It’s the oldest intact brewery structure in Oshkosh. Here’s how it looks today.

Below the original brewhouse, you can still see the aging cellars with their “rooms being arched in brick.” Here’s a look.

This part of the Horn & Schwalm story ends well. The new Brooklyn Brewery soon surpassed its south side rival, the John Glatz & Son Brewery, to become the most productive brewery in the city. By the time Horn & Schwalm merged their operation with that of Glatz and Kuenzl to form the Oshkosh Brewing Company in 1894, the Brooklyn Brewery had become Winnebago County’s leading brewery.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Oshkosh Beer Show #51 – Toppling Goliath’s Sol Hunter

This week, Adam and I are drinking Toppling Goliath’s Sol Hunter Pale Ale, a beer that showcases Equinox (a/k/a HBC 366), one of the newer American hop breeds.