Monday, March 30, 2020

Slim Suda, an Oshkosh Bootlegger

Looking back on it, Slim seemed destined to become a bootlegger. He fit the profile to a T. He was first-generation American. He had grown up in a working-class neighborhood on the south side in the old Sixth Ward between the river and Ninth Avenue. Before he got into bootlegging, he'd had a clean record and a regular job. Edmund “Slim” Suda had all the traits of the prototypical Oshkosh bootlegger.
Edmund “Slim” Suda.

Part 1: A Son of the South Side
Slim was born in Oshkosh in 1903. His mother, Jennie, had emigrated from Bohemia in 1886. Slim's father, Joseph, was born here, but his parents had also come from Bohemia. The year after Slim’s birth, Joseph bought a vacant piece of land at the corner of 4th and Knapp. He financed the purchase with money he borrowed from his brother-in-law, saloon owner Herman Steckbauer. Joseph launched a saloon of his own at the 4th and Knapp property. It's where Slim grew up. The building still stands at 301 Knapp Street.

301 Knapp Street, Oshkosh.

Joseph Suda's saloon ran in tandem with an attached grocery. It was a common arrangement in Oshkosh, especially on the south side. The Suda family lived in the flat above the two businesses. Joseph tended the bar. Jennie took care of the kids and helped run the store. Slim was their second child; their first boy. He appeared poised to take over the business one day. Slim was smart and amiable. At 16, he had enrolled in the Oshkosh Business College. Then 1920 came. And all that the Sudas had built began to crumble.

First, it was Prohibition. The goal of the dry law was to crush the saloon trade. Joseph Suda's reaction was like that of most other Oshkosh saloon owners. He took a license to sell "non-intoxicating liquors" and started calling his bar a soft drink parlor. It almost certainly was never that. In all likelihood, the Suda saloon had become a speakeasy. It would have been Slim's introduction to the business of illegal liquor.

Then on May 13, 1920, Jennie died. She was just 44-years old and left eight children. The youngest of them, her daughter Florence, was not even two-years-old. Joseph was shattered. When the census taker came along a month after his wife's death, Joseph listed Jennie among the residents of his home. Less than two years later, Joseph died. He was 46. His obituary said that "The death of his wife in May of 1920 was believed responsible for a general breakdown of his health. "

Slim and his older sister Mary were now heads of the household. Mary had recently married Anthony Ebersberger. He had moved in with the Suda family prior to Joseph's death. Ebersberger worked as a lineman for the City of Oshkosh until June 4, 1923, when he fell from a telephone pole and suffered a massive head injury. He died the following day.

Later that month, Slim and Mary sold the Suda's home and business to family friend John Drexler. Herman Steckbauer, the saloon owner who had loaned Joseph the money to get started, helped facilitate the deal to get them out of there. Slim and Mary moved the family into a house a few blocks away at what is now 1018 Knapp. Two months later, Mary gave birth to a son she named Anthony, after the boy's dead father.

There were nine of them in that home on Knapp. Mary, a widow at 22, was the oldest. Slim was 19. The rest of them were minors. Five of the kids were under the age of 10. They would grow up in that home. Slim lived there for the rest of his life. The house is still there.

1018 Knapp Street, Oshkosh.

Slim had left school. He needed to make money to help support the family. He got a job as a machinist at Universal Products just down the street from where the Suda's former home, saloon, and grocery had been. He probably passed by the place most days on his way to and from work. The saloon was still open. John Drexler with his "soft drinks" license was selling booze there. The Sixth Ward was awash in bootleg beer and liquor. There was good money in it. That wasn't lost on Slim.

Part 2: The Life of a Bootlegger
In 1980, newspaper reporter Myles Strasser interviewed three men who had been connected to bootlegging in Oshkosh. The interview formed the basis of an article about Prohibition that was written by Strasser and published in the Oshkosh Northwestern on November 13, 1980.

Leroy Youngwirth, who then owned Leroy's Bar on Knapp Street, was the only one of the three men interviewed by Strasser whose participation didn't insist upon anonymity. Youngwirth was the son of Butch Youngwirth, who had led one of the largest wildcat brewing operations in Oshkosh. The other two men were later referred to in Strasser's article as Tom and Dick.

Thankfully, Strasser recorded almost an hour's worth of the interview. I obtained a copy of that recording about two years ago. I've listened to it dozens of times since then. Both of the "anonymous" men leave a string of telling clues over the course of the conversation. The quotes in Strasser's article that were attributed to Tom are mostly from Slim Suda. Those attributed to Dick were mostly from a man whose first name is Cyril, but whose last name I haven't been able to confirm.

Strasser begins by asking why and how Cyril and Slim got involved in bootlegging. Cyril immediately replies, "We got involved with that because there was no jobs no place. That was in the depression days. 1929 or 30 in there someplace. And 30 bucks a week was what we were gettin' for working. And that was a lot of money in those days. Everybody else was scrounging around trying to get a dollar here and there. So that's how we started in there. Anyplace was a job."

Slim doesn’t bother to answer Strasser’s question. How could he? How would he have ever explained that 55 years ago he was in his early 20s and needed money to support his brothers and sisters because their parents had just died? Or about his sister and her dead husband and their baby. Or how they sold off the family home and business and were trying somehow to make a new life for themselves. Unlike Cyril, Slim wasn't out of work when he got into bootlegging. He confides later in the interview, "I was working in a machine shop during the day and at night I was peddling."

Slim got into bootlegging around 1926 delivering beer for Elmer Steinhilber. Slim and “Steinie” had a lot in common. They were about the same age and had grown up in the same Sixth-Ward neighborhood. Steinhilber’s parents were German immigrants. Before the bootlegging business took off, he had been helping his father, Otto, run the United Cigar Store on Main Street.

Elmer Steinhilber

Steinhilber’s wildcat brewing operation was already one of the largest in Oshkosh by the time Slim got involved. "I went to work for him before he was handling alcohol," Slim said. "He was just handling beer. When I first started out I was just an operator. I worked on a commission and a salary. I got my flat salary of $35 a week and I got a dollar on every barrel of beer and I got a dime on every case of beer."

The weekly salary of $35 would be worth about $510 today. And then there was the commission. Slim was making good money and almost certainly more from bootlegging than he did from his day job in the machine shop. But it was a gamble. If he had been arrested and jailed, it would have dealt another major blow to a family that was in no condition to take another hit. Slim wasn't blind to the risk.

"If you got caught, you lost your car or truck and got three-to-five months in the House of Corrections and a fine of probably a thousand dollars," Slim said. That would have sunk the Suda family.

The risk was reduced by paying off Prohibition enforcement officials. "These lawyers would take care of us," Slim said. "You paid the first of the month and they distributed the money out. They'd say, 'We'll give you 90% protection. We won't guarantee 100.' But that other 10% could ruin you."

Slim said the money went to state and federal agents. "I'm not talking about city officials," he said. "The local police, they seemed to never bother the breweries. They were OK. They all drank it. But there was this one guy (a local official, Slim was unwilling to name) who had more goddamned guts than a government mule. He'd call you up and say, 'I haven't moved yet, I'm still living in the same place.' He wanted a quarter-barrel of beer and a can of alcohol. But there was no money handed out."

The lack of local enforcement led to an explosion of wildcat breweries in Oshkosh. Slim said he knew of seven or eight operations based here. They had their breweries planted in basements of homes, saloons, and on farms. He said there were two large outfits. The one was run by Steinhilber. The other by Butch Youngwirth.

Frank "Butch" Youngwirth

"He was our competitor," Slim said. “When I started, the agreement was made that we'd make the kegged beer and buy the bottled beer from them (Butch Youngwirth’s group). Then something happened along the line there. First thing you know, they were making kegged beer and we were making bottled beer. Everybody went for themselves.”

The atmosphere was competitive but never grew fierce. "There was no murders or anything like that," Slim said. "We always got along. We didn't try to outdo one another. If your brewery got knocked off (raided) and you needed some beer, you'd go to your competitor and you'd buy beer. When Butch got knocked off they'd come to us and buy some."

But Slim told another story illustrating how dubious the camaraderie could be. "We had a place where we stored our beer out in the country and I sent my kid brother out there to pick up a load. I says, 'Take three halves over to so and so.' I was in bed yet. I'd had a rough night. He finally came back and he said, 'Slim, there's nothing out there.' I said, 'What are you talking about?' I jumped in a pair of britches and a pair of shoes and out we went. It was an inside job. We had about a dozen cases or so out there that were spoiled; that turned sour on us because it wasn't pasteurized right. We had that set aside and we had 200 and some cases of good beer and some 30 halves out there. They took all the good stuff and left the sour stuff there. It was an inside job. The guy finally committed suicide you know."

By 1928, Slim was making enough money bootlegging to leave his day job at the machine shop. When people asked him what he did for a living, he'd say that he worked at the frog farm that Steinhilber had purchased on Josslyn Street near Campbell Creek.

And ad for Steinhilber's frog farm from the February 1970 Journal of the National Association of Biology Teachers.

Actually, Slim had become a partner in the Steinhilber bootlegging outfit. He said that the group’s principals were himself, Steinhilber, and an Oshkosh butcher named Bruno Siewert. At the time, Siewert was also involved in what was almost certainly a speakeasy named the Green Parrot, an aging dive located on what is now Division Street (formerly Light Street).

The base of operations for the Steinhilber outfit was a speakeasy at the southwest corner of 9th and Knapp that came to be called the Böhmerwald (German for Bohemian Forest). It was an old saloon run then by Ted Miller, who also worked for the Steinhilber outfit. Miller was cut from the same cloth as the others. He was first-generation American and hailed from the old Sixth Ward.

The bar at the Böhmerwald.

"I remember when we got knocked off on the farm and Ted Miller wound up with the pigs," Slim recalled with a wry laugh. "The place was knocked off and he runs out and hid himself amongst the pigs in the pigpen. They never found Ted. He was out there with the pigs." Miller wouldn't always be so lucky to find pigs that would hide him. He would later get arrested and serve jail time for selling alcohol. Miller was one of at least three men from the Steinhilber outfit who served jail time as a result of their bootlegging.

Slim managed to avoid arrest. And by the end of the decade, the operation had grown well beyond Oshkosh. The Steinhilber outfit was also into whiskey by then. Slim said they took their hard liquor out as far as Billings, Montana. He said they were distributing their beer throughout the Fox Valley and into northern Wisconsin. "The farthest we ever hauled beer was into Somerset, Wisconsin," Slim said. "And from there it was distributed to the Twin Cities; they'd come over and get it. That was almost a 300-mile haul"

By 1930, Slim's outlaw existence had become normalized. It was just another job. But with Oshkosh hit hard by the Great Depression, he was getting by better than most of his neighbors. The Suda family, except for Slim’s brother Joe, was still living together at the house on Knapp Street. Florence, the youngest of the Suda children, was now 11 years old.

In the summer of 1931, Slim eloped. Edmund Suda and Edna Baker were married in Waukegan, Illinois on July 23. Edna was 31. She was the daughter of an Oshkosh blacksmith. Slim was about to turn 27. When they returned to Oshkosh, Edna moved in with the Suda clan at the Knapp Street house.

Slim and Edna.

The Suda’s appeared to be a fairly typical Oshkosh family. But the contrast between Slim's home and work life remained stark. He recalled a run he made to Chicago to pick up a load of whiskey from one of the outfits there.

“I had a white shirt on and Oshkosh B'Gosh overalls and down I go,” he said. “The closer to Chicago I got, the scareder I got. Every day you'd pick up the paper and they'd be bumping somebody off down there. I was thinking, Jesus, I don't know if I should go through with this. But if I turned around I'd be the laughing stock of Oshkosh among the bootleggers. So I finally said, to hell with her. I had to go to the Morrison Hotel to meet this guy. I knew these guys. They all had gats (guns). They were tough bastards. I could hardly talk, I was scareder than hell. I left there with 100 gallons of alcohol. I paid $1,800 for it. When I hit Wisconsin, was I tickled!"

Slim remained a bootlegger until the ratification of the 21st Amendment in 1933 shut all the outfits down. The law that had closed his father’s saloon thirteen years earlier had finally been rescinded. Oshkosh's three breweries surged back into production. Black-market beer was made redundant.

When it was over, Slim, like a lot of the former bootleggers, went to work in a tavern. He took a job tending bar at the Dutch Grill on North Main. It was a former speakeasy that had gone legal upon repeal.

The Dutch Grill was located at the southwest corner of North Main and Ceape. It later became the Wharf Tavern.

After a few years of working the bar, Slim went back to the trade he had learned before getting into bootlegging. In 1937, he took a job as a machinist at U.S. Motors in Oshkosh. He worked there for more than 40 years. He joined the Knights of Columbus. He regularly helped out as an usher at Sacred Heart Church. His bootlegging days were behind him.

Slim never denied his past. "There were many tales about Uncle Slim running shine," says Becky Wegener Yurk. Her mother, Florence, was Slim's sister. "He was quite the guy. One of the most kind, gentle giants you’d ever care to know."

Slim is at the far right with Edna in front. Three of his sisters are also seen here with their husbands.
In the front row from left to right are Lucille, Josephine, and Florence. 
Edmund "Slim" Suda died in Oshkosh on July 24, 1986. He was 82 years old. He's buried in Sacred Heart Cemetery.

Here's a follow up to Slim's story: Audio of Slim telling a tale from his bootlegging days.

Special thanks to Becky Wegener Yurk and Dan Radig for the help they provided with this post.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

A World Away

Here's a picture taken two weeks ago during the Winter Beer Fest at Bare Bones Brewery in Oshkosh. Hard to believe how much has changed since then. It seems like another world.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Oshkosh Saloons and the Influenza Pandemic of 1918

The autumn of 1918 was a time of panic in Oshkosh. A deadly pandemic had arrived.

The virus for what would come to be known as the Spanish Flu had been spreading west since early September. By the end of the month, it was a full-blown pandemic. The first cases in Oshkosh were reported on October 5, 1918. City Health Commissioner Dr. Arthur H. Broche confirmed that 10 city residents had been diagnosed with the Spanish Flu. Two days later, two of them were dead.

It was a horrid, rapacious disease. It struck so quickly that some were reduced to helplessness within hours of first showing symptoms. It began with a raging fever, head and body aches, and burning eyes. Then hair loss, delirium, and vomiting blood. Death within a day or two of onset was not uncommon.

Over the next three days, more than 150 people in Oshkosh became infected. Signs were posted on their homes: "Warning! Influenza Here." The city came to a near standstill. A ban was placed on public gatherings. Schools, churches, and businesses closed. Events of all kinds were canceled. There remained, however, a refuge for those unwavering in their commitment to social living. The swinging doors of Oshkosh's saloons continued to swing open.

Inside Tom Ryan’s Clipper Club saloon on North Main Street, Oshkosh, in the early 1900s.

There's a well-known adage favored by politicos: never let a good crisis go to waste. The pandemic of 1918 roused Oshkosh's ineffectual anti-liquor agitators. The rising body count inspired them. On October 12, a week into the crisis, a crowd of Oshkosh prohibitionists rallied at City Hall demanding to meet with Oshkosh Mayor Arthur C. McHenry. The mob was made up mostly of women representing groups such as the Winnebago County Dry League, The Woman's Christian Temperance Union, and the Women's Missionary Society.

"The delegation was quite large, but because of the order of the board of health against people congregating in considerable numbers, only one representative from each organization was present at the conference. The others remained outside the mayor's office or at the Otter street entrance to the city hall while it was in progress."
   - Oshkosh Daily Northwestern; October 12, 1918.

The protestors delivered a predictable set of demands. Shut down all saloons and pool halls in Oshkosh. Now.

Arthur C. McHenry had been Oshkosh's mayor for seven months. He was "avowedly wet" and defiantly pro-saloon. McHenry had no use for prohibitionists. He had campaigned saying, "I stand for the largest possible measure of personal liberty... my attitude toward the saloon will be my attitude toward all legitimate business – a square deal to all without fear or favor!”

The anti-liquor crusaders couldn't have been too surprised with the result of their efforts. This was a group grown accustomed to losing in Oshkosh. The Daily Northwestern reported that "Mayor McHenry received the delegation with courtesy and gave attention to what its members had to say, but he declined to accede to their request."

McHenry told them that he'd already done all he was going to as far as the bars were concerned. The city had instituted a 5:30 pm curfew on cafes, restaurants, pool halls, and saloons. Onto that was tagged a "no spitting" ordinance. Though as one Oshkosh man observed, it did little to stem the saliva tide. He counted 108 globs of expectorant on North Main Street between Algoma and Church.

A sign common across the nation during the the 1918 influenza pandemic.

A few days after the confrontation at city hall, McHenry was being less solicitous towards the anti-saloonists. He noted that in Madison, a dry town, deaths from Spanish Flu far exceeded those of wet Oshkosh. McHenry added that he wouldn't be cowed by "Agitators whose interest in the spread of the epidemic is evidently secondary to their desire to grasp this opportunity in closing institutions whose business does not coincide with their ideas of public welfare."

But McHenry's tactics were more nuanced than his rhetoric. The 5:30 pm curfew was tantamount to shutting the saloons down. The majority of Oshkosh’s saloon patrons didn’t leave work until 5 or 6 pm. So the taps were off by the time they reached their watering hole. The curfew had the effect of preventing people from congregating at the bar without making it a mandate.

Meanwhile, the disease raged on. By the end of October, approximately 1,000 cases of Spanish Flu had been confirmed here.

The Oshkosh flu wagon outside of the State Street Fire Station.
The city’s old, horse-drawn ambulance remerged in 1918 to transport those sick with the flu.
The motorized ambulance was reserved for those with illnesses other than the flu.

The mayor’s approach proved effective. In early November, the spread of the disease in Oshkosh appeared to be under control. Restrictions were eased but then reinstated after another spike in new cases. Finally, in late November, the disease abated. Eight weeks after the first reported cases, the curfew and ban on public gatherings were lifted. Schools reopened on the first Monday in December.

By that time, 116 Oshkoshers were said to have died from the dread disease. Christmas was coming. Black wreaths were hung from the doors of the dead.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

The Oshkosh Brewers

Here's a picture that I believe is the first of its kind. Here are all of Oshkosh's brewmasters together in one place. I took this Saturday at the Winter Beer Fest at Bare Bones.

From left to right we have: Zach Clark of Fifth Ward Brewing Company, Mike Schlosser of HighHolder Brewing Company, Andrew Roth of Fox River Brewing Company, Jody Cleveland of Bare Bones Brewery, and Ian Wenger also from Fifth Ward.

I haven't seen another picture from any other era that shows all the brewers from Oshkosh together like this. Thanks for indulging me, guys. I’ve wanted to do this for years.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Beer Production in Oshkosh and Beyond

The Wisconsin Department of Revenue recently issued its final set of 2019 reports for beer production in the state. Let's see what those numbers have to say about what's happening here in Oshkosh.

Filling Kegs at Bare Bones Brewery.

In 2019, Oshkosh’s four breweries produced a combined total of 2,296.43 barrels of beer (a barrel contains 31 gallons). That's a 5% increase over last year's combined output. Here's how that production is distributed among the breweries here.

Fox River Brewing
Fox River Brewing led the way again this year. The 1,200.57 barrels Fox River made at its Oshkosh brewery is more than all the other breweries in the city combined. That, however, is just one part of Fox River's output. The brewery produced an additional 1,555.54 barrels of beer at its Appleton facility where its bottling line resides. After outgrowing its capacity last year, Fox River began contract brewing beer at the Hinterland facility in Green Bay. This year, Fox River brewed an additional 1,500 barrels in Green Bay. That puts the brewery's total production for 2019 at 4,256.11 barrels; about a 19% increase over last year. That's an especially large bump for a brewery that's been around for 25 years.

For the second year in a row, Fox River is the largest brewery in the Fox Valley metropolitan area that includes Oshkosh and Appleton. Stone Arch of Appleton remains second with a production of 2040.43 barrels. It's also interesting to see that Fox River's production now outpaces that of O'so Brewing, which had long been a prominent brand in the Oshkosh area. O'so produced 3905.23 barrels in 2018.

Fifth Ward Brewing
Fifth Ward had a break-out year. The brewery's 2019 production of 547.17 barrels is a 26% increase over its 2018 output. "We were running at full capacity at the end of 2019," Zach Clark of Fifth Ward said. "If we continue at this pace, we're going to have to look into increasing our capacity at some point later this year." Fifth Ward is still doing all of its own distribution. The brewery now sells its beer throughout the Fox Valley and into Green Bay and Sheboygan.

Bare Bones Brewery
Bare Bones had another good year in 2019 with production of 544.19 barrels; an increase of 1% over its 2018 output. The brewery's output has been consistently in this range for the past three years; a period that has seen a significant increase in local competition. Bare Bones distributes its beer through Lee Beverage, but the brewery doesn't have a salesperson. That may be changing soon, and if it does, I would expect you'll see the brewery's output increase.

HighHolder Brewing
HighHolder is Oshkosh's only nano-brewery and it had a rough year in 2019. Early in the year, Mike Schlosser – HighHolder's jack of all trades – had a serious health scare that put the brewery on hold for much of the year. The 4.5 barrels Schlosser managed to brew was a 62% decrease from 2018's output. But Schlosser is now back in the brewhouse and this year has already surpassed his 2019 output. He expects HighHolder to produce about 20 barrels this year.

The Overall
At this moment, the picture in Oshkosh looks fairly encouraging. The 5% increase in overall production is slightly better than the projected 4% increase for craft breweries nationally. But this market is definitely tightening.

There are now more than 8,000 breweries in America. Approximately 200 of them are in Wisconsin. And eight of those are in Winnebago County. I'll end here with production numbers for several other area breweries. This illustrates how competitive it's becoming for small breweries in this region.

2019 Production in Barrels
Stone Arch Brewpub, Appleton: 2040.43 ( Down 1.6% from 2018)
Lions Tail Brewing, Neenah: 683.23 (Up 25% from 2018)
Knuth Brewing, Ripon: 441.59 (Up 18% from 2018)
Appleton Beer Factory: 317.46 (Down 5.1% from 2018)
McFleshman's Brewing, Appleton: 327.14 (First full year of production)
Barrel 41 Brewing, Neenah: 228.04 (First full year of production)
Rowland's Calumet Brewing, Chilton:  169 (Up 1.8% from 2018)
Omega Brewing Experience, Omro: 32.39 (Up 31% from 2018)
Emprize Brew Mill, Neenah: 17.82 (First began reporting production July)

Note: After this story was posted I received a message from Alex Wenzel, owner of Lion’s Tail Brewing. He informed me that the Department of Revenue’s 2019 reporting for Lion’s Tail was incorrect. Lion’s Tail’s actual production was 683.23 (the DOR reported 514.68). This post has been updated to correct the error.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Here Comes the Fourth Beer in the Oshkosh Heritage Series: The Busch Brewery's Salvator

The fourth beer in the Bare Bones Brewery Heritage Series arrives this weekend. This time we're going all the way back to 1858 when the Busch Brewery of Oshkosh released a bock beer named Salvator.

Our story begins in 1857 when German immigrants Tobias Fischer and Christian Kaehler teamed up to launch a new brewery in Oshkosh. They bought land in the old Fifth Ward and went to work digging beer cellars and building a brewhouse. By the winter of 1857, Fischer and Kaehler had the Busch Brewery up and running. It stood near the southeast corner of Algoma and Vine on land that's now part of the UW - Oshkosh campus. Not a trace of the old brewery remains.

The northwest end of the UW Oshkosh Campus, former home of the Busch Brewery.

That first winter, Fischer and Kaehler brewed a strong bock beer they named Salvator. At the time, Salvator was considered a style of beer; like Pilsner or Porter.  Some 40 years later, the Paulaner Brewery in Munich would trademark the Salvator name. But prior to that, dozens if not hundreds of breweries made a Salvator beer. The little Busch Brewery in Oshkosh was among them.

Fischer and Kaehler released their Salvator at the brewery on May 1, 1858. They announced its coming in the Oshkosh Deutsche Zeitung newspaper. Here’s their ad with a translation following it.

Salvator Bier
“Oshkosh’s beer-thirsty souls
Will soon rejoice
That above Bacchus’ majesty
Gambrinus reigns supreme!

This famous Salvator Beer, which was
brewed on the coldest day of this
winter, has now finished its lagering
period and is to be tapped at our
brewery on the coming Saturday
evening, the 1st of May.

We invite all Oshkoshers to visit us on
Saturday and the following days in our
Busch Brewery, and we promise to give them
a pleasure like never before.
Come, come all to
Fischer and Köhler.”

The Busch Brewery's Salvator would have been quite unlike the Salvator you find on grocery store shelves today. The Salvators of old began with a concentrated wort that was fermented in a manner that left plenty of residual sugar in the finished beer. It was sometimes referred to as "liquid bread." The beer was moderately strong and especially hearty; perfect for ushering out the remaining cold days of winter.

Jody Cleveland, head brewer at Bare Bones, and I knew we were taking a shot in the dark when we decided to try to replicate this one. The Busch Brewery had lasted just a couple of years. No brewing logs from it are known to have survived. But we did have a fair amount of information on how this type of beer was being brewed in 1858. We coupled that with known tendencies of Oshkosh brewers during the era that Fischer and Kaehler worked here. I'm pleased to say, the beer turned out just as we expected. You probably haven't had a lager like this one before.

Here's a look under the hood: We started with a blend of malts that included Wisconsin Munich and 6-row to emulate the sort of grist Fischer and Kaehler would have worked with. The beer was hopped with Cluster, which was almost certainly the hop of choice at the Busch Brewery. The original gravity was 1.074 (or 18 plato). The finishing gravity was 1.025 (or 6.3 plato). The result is a 6.4% ABV beer with an apparent attenuation of just 65%. Hat tip to Jody Cleveland for hitting that mark. An attenuation level like that one is tricky to obtain using modern ingredients and equipment. But it's essential if you're trying to reproduce the character of a 1800s-style Salvator.

The Busch Brewery Salvator is going to get a fairly wide release around Oshkosh in the coming days. Its first appearance will be at the Bare Bones Winter Beer Fest this Saturday, March 7. On Tuesday, March 10, a limited-edition bottle release (six-packs labeled with the 1858 advertisement seen above) will take place  at 5 pm at the Bare Bones taproom. Then on Wednesday, March 11, Jody Cleveland will be at Dublin's Irish Pub pouring Slavator from 5-7 pm as part of the Bare Bones tap take over for Oshkosh Craft Beer Week. Jody will be at Chester V's on Thursday, March 12 for another Oshkosh Craft Beer Week event starting at 6:30 pm. That event includes a wing-pairing that'll feature Salvator as part of the gustation. Meanwhile, Salvator will continue pouring at the Bare Bones taproom.

Here’s to Fischer and Kaehler. Prost!

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

In Today's Oshkosh Herald...

If you live in Oshkosh, you’ll see the Oshkosh Herald delivered to your door today. I have a story in there about Oshkosh’s first Craft Beer Week. If you don’t live in Oshkosh, you can check it out HERE.