Thursday, December 27, 2018

The Year in Local Beer, 2018 Edition

With 2018 about to close out, it’s time to look back upon a few of the noteworthy happenings that shaped our local beer scene. This was our year in beer...


The Last Repp...
The year begins on a down note with the closing of Repp’s Bar at 1202 Oshkosh Ave. There’s been a saloon there since 1903. It’s been operated by the Repp family since 1943. The closing of Repp’s is the latest manifestation of the unfortunate demise of the neighborhood tavern in Oshkosh.

The Repp Tavern in the 1940s.

Fox Valley Winter Beer Festival...
On January 13, Bare Bone Brewery hosts the Fox Valley Winter Beer Festival. It’s the first outdoor, winter beer fest In Oshkosh. The temps never make it out of the single digits. Every brewery in the county is on hand pouring beer from tap lines that only occasionally freeze solid.

Yours truly having a blast and freezing his ass off.

Fox River Beer in Cans...
At the end of the month, Fox River releases Hooked Golden Ale, the first beer the brewery has packaged in cans. The 16-ounce cans are filled at Hinterland Brewing in Green Bay. Fox River follows up later in the year by releasing BLÜ Bobber in 12-packs of 12-ounce cans. BLÜ Bobber remains the best-selling beer produced by an Oshkosh brewery.

Fifth Ward Bottles...
Fifth Ward Brewing begins selling six-packs of its beer in area stores. It’s the first time since 1956 that three Oshkosh breweries have packaged beer available through local retailers. Design work for the labels and six-pack carriers is by Quill Creative, an Oshkosh-based design firm. Quill picks up a couple of American Package Design Awards for the effort. By the way, Quill is located in the old Pabst bottling house built in 1896 at 136 Jackson Street.


The Sours of Fifth Ward...
Fifth Ward releases its first sour beer, a fruited, kettle-sour. Fifth Ward goes on to release a series of kettle sours over the course of the year. It’s the first time since the early 1900s that an Oshkosh brewery is regularly producing sour beers.

Blackberry Frootenanny, Fifth Ward's most recent sour.


HighHolder is Pouring...
On March 16, beer from HighHolder brewing goes on tap at O’Marro’s Public House and the Roxy Supper Club. It marks the “official” opening of the brewery, which received its Wisconsin brewery permit on February 8, 2018. HighHolder’s opening beer is an Irish Red Ale. The beer is named, Bloody Sixth, an homage to the brewery's south-side roots. HighHolder is Oshkosh’s first nano-brewery. For the first time since 1894, the city has four breweries.

Shawn O'Marro (left) and Mike Schlosser of HighHolder

Omega Brewing Opens Omro Taproom...
Omega Brewing Experience opens its taproom in Omro on April 7. Omega had received its state brewing license in July of 2017. The first kegs of Omega beer went on tap at the end of January at Pilora’s in Oshkosh. Omega becomes the first nano-brewery to operate in Winnebago County and the first brewery ever in Omro.

Steve Zink of Omega Brewing Experience.

The New Brewer at Bare Bones...
Jody Cleveland is named head brewer at Bare Bones. He replaces RJ Nordlund who leaves to open a brewery in his hometown of Montague, Michigan. Cleveland, long a part of the Oshkosh homebrewing community, had previously been an assistant brewer at both Bare Bones and Fox River.

Jody Cleveland

A New Beer Garden on Main...
The April snows have finally receded. With that, Fletch's Local Tap House opens its new beer garden at 566 North Main. There are now three beer gardens located directly on North Main. The other two are at Peabodys Ale House and Barley and Hops Pub.

The beer garden at Fletch's.


There’s a Brewery in Menasha...
Emprize Brew Mill in Menasha begins pouring its beer. The brewpub is located at 200 Main Street in downtown Menasha. Not a lot to report here. I met with owner Craig Zoltowski in January, but efforts to reach out to him since then have proven fruitless. In addition to beer, Emprize produces mead and cider. Emprize is the first brewery to operate in Menasha since the Walter Brothers Brewery closed in 1956. 

A flight of Emprize beer.

The Haze Craze...
Fox River releases Independence Haze, the brewery’s first New England style IPA. By year's end, all four Oshkosh breweries have produced hazy IPAs.


HighHolder’s grand opening...
August 11, HighHolder Brewing has its grand opening. HighHolder has five beers on tap for the event. It’s the first time the brewery has released multiple beers simultaneously. The crowd bears down and consumes all of it. HighHolder hasn’t had a beer on at O’Marro’s since.


Fresh Hops...
For the third year in a row, both Bare Bones and Fox River produce fresh-hop beers. Both breweries use Wisconsin grown hops. The Fox River hops come from a Winnebago County hop yard.

Fox River head brewer Kevin Bowen in the brewhouse with freshly picked hops.


Lion’s Tail Growing...
On October 16, Lion’s Tail Brewing expands adding a 20 barrel, double-batch fermenter to its facility in Neenah. Later in the month, Lion’s Tail releases Brut IPA, it’s the first Brut produced by a Winnebago County brewery. Here’s a short video from Alex Wenzel of Lion’s Tail explaining what a Brut IPA is.

Bare Bones Gets Canned...
Bare Bones installs a crowler machine allowing the brewery to package beer fresh from its taps in 16 ounce, take-away cans. Bare Bones is the first brewery in Oshkosh to have such a contraption.

The SOBs Come Up Big...
The Society of Oshkosh Brewer’s hosts it’s fourth Cask and Caskets Homebrew Event for Charity on October 27. The event raises $6,200 for the Oshkosh Hunger Network.

The SOBs presenting their big check.


And then there were eight...
Barrel 41 Brewing opens in Neenah on November 19. The head brewer is Nate Sharpless, a former assistant brewer at Bare Bones. Barrel 41 brings the brewery count in Winnebago County to eight. The last time the county had eight breweries was 1888.

Opening weekend at Barrel 41.

HighHolder Upgrades...
HighHolder Brewing upgrades its brew system and returns to production brewing. The plan is to make HighHolder beer available on a more regular basis. 

A Year in at Fifth Ward... 
Fifth Ward celebrates its one-year anniversary by tapping 20 of the breweries own beers. It’s the most beer the brewery has had available at one time.

Ian Wenger (left) and Zach Clark of Fifth Ward.


On December 11, Lion’s Tail releases its 20th new beer of 2018. Other breweries in the county are going along at a similar clip. Such a thing has never occurred here before. We’ve entered a new world when it comes to local beer. Here’s to a great 2019. Prost!

1 comment:

  1. Do you plan a little follow up about the barrel count on the breweries for 2018?