Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Inoculator 24.8

The strongest beer ever produced by an Oshkosh brewery is about to be "unleashed." Bare Bones Brewery's Inoculator clocks in at a walloping 24.8% ABV. There's no formal record-keeping for this sort of thing, but Inoculator may very well be the strongest beer ever produced by a Wisconsin brewery.

Erin Bloch of Bare Bones with a five-ounce pour of Inoculator.

The idea came from Dan Dringoli, who launched Bare Bones with his wife Patti Dringoli in 2015. His thoughts began to drift in the direction of strong beer last year while his stepson Jared Sovey was working on the launch of Tight Barrel Distillery in Menasha. "Spirits have always intrigued me," Dringoli says. "I began thinking about how strong can you make a beer and I wondered why no one in Wisconsin was trying to make a super high-gravity beer. So, I challenged Jody to create 'the strongest beer' in Wisconsin. He did not let me down."

The Jody in question is Jody Cleveland, head brewer at Bare Bones. Dringoli had steered him into the unknown. Cleveland had never brewed a beer stronger than 12% ABV. After a couple of weeks of research, he began brewing.

The first step began eight months ago with Cleveland making wort: the sweet liquid that gets fermented into beer. The process went on for days and consumed 132 pounds of malted barley and 10 pounds of locally sourced maple syrup. Normally that would be enough raw material to produce about 310 gallons of beer. This time, it resulted in just 10-gallons of exceedingly strong beer. "We're hoping the demand will justify the cost of making it," Dringoli said.

Brewers, unlike spirits makers, are not permitted to use distillation to concentrate the alcoholic content of their product. So Cleveland had to produce a wort so rich in sugar that it would have the potential to create an extreme level of alcohol solely through fermentation. He used a method known as reiterated mashing. It's a technique that has been employed in recent years at both Fifth Ward Brewing and Fox River Brewing in Oshkosh to produce stronger than usual beers. Cleveland took it to another level.

He began by mashing three successive grists of malted barley. When the sugary wort came flowing out of the first mash, he replenished his mash tun with fresh malt and ran the wort back into it to create and collect more fermentable sugars. Now Cleveland had a wort rich enough to make a beer in the neighborhood of 16% ABV. That wasn't enough. So he went at it again with another fresh batch of malt. After boiling the wort for four hours he finally had the high-gravity liquid he was shooting for. "That wort was so thick," Cleveland said. "I mean it was just viscus, almost like syrup."

But there was a problem. Each time the wort passed through the tun, the new bed of malt would soak up a substantial portion of it. The long boil further reduced the volume. At the end of Cleveland's first 17-hour brew day, he had the sugar-rich liquid he wanted, but there was just so little of it. So he came back to work the next morning and repeated the process. Then he did it again the following morning. After more than 50 hours of brewing spread across three days, Cleveland finally had what he needed.

The wort was fermented with a special ale yeast able to survive in a high-alcohol environment. Most beer yeast goes dormant when it encounters alcohol levels around 10% ABV. This yeast kept grinding. The fermentation lasted weeks, and when it was nearly finished Cleveland split the batch in two. Half the beer was conditioned on oak chips stripped from the interior of a whiskey barrel. The other half was conditioned on oak cut from the inside of a cognac barrel. The finished beer was then blended back together and packaged in kegs.

Inoculator is dark bronze in color. It's thick, rich, and boozy with a smokey/sweet character that's surprisingly mellow for something just shy of 50 proof. "The flavor is pretty close to what I was expecting," Cleveland said. "But I'm a little surprised by how smooth it turned out. It’s certainly strong, and you feel it, but it’s pretty smooth."

Inoculator will be released at the Bare Bones taproom at noon on Friday, April 2, as part of the brewery's Unleashed Series of experimental beers. Because of its strength and limited quantity, it will be served in five-ounce pours with a limit of one per customer.

A slightly different version of this article appears in today's Oshkosh Herald.

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

2020 Beer Production in Oshkosh and Vicinity

Each March for the past five years I've written a post about beer production in Oshkosh and the surrounding area. And each year those production numbers have told a story of growth. Not this year. COVID-19 has changed the trajectory.

The Wisconsin Department of Revenue has now issued its full set of beer production reports for 2020. The DOR reports production in terms of barrels. Here are the results for 2020 (red bar graph) compared to 2019 (blue).
Click the graph to enlarge it.

A barrel of beer contains 31gallons. That’s the equivalent of 13.7 cases. Or 248 pints. No matter how you slice it, beer production in Oshkosh has fallen for the first time since 2011.

All the breweries in Oshkosh are down. Overall volume is down by a full 18 percent. Production at Fox River – Oshkosh, the largest brewery here, fell by 23 percent. Bare Bones is down 18 percent. Fifth Ward's production decreased eight percent.

The story becomes more of a mixed bag when you take a wider view that brings in other breweries in the area.

Area beer production in barrels.

Cick to enlarge.

Fox River, with its two brewpub breweries, continues to be the most productive brewery in our area. Fox River – Appleton, with its bottling line, was able to make up for most of the lost ground that occurred at Fox River – Oshkosh. Yet this was the first time in a decade that Fox River has not seen its production grow. That said, the brewery's overall decline of nine percent is at least somewhat encouraging in comparison to what’s occurred at other large brewpubs around the state.

Last year was unprecedented. But there are some patterns here worth making note of.

There were three area breweries with production of more than 300 barrels that saw significant growth last year: Barrel 41, Lion's Tail, and McFleshman's. Those three breweries share a set of traits that distinguishes them.

First, each of them has a canning line. That became a major advantage. In comparison to bottled beer, it’s easier, faster, and cheaper to release a new brand if you can put it in a can. When draft beer sales tanked at the start of the shutdown, these three breweries moved their new releases into cans and continued selling beer in a format embraced by drinkers who otherwise would have been in their taprooms. All three breweries made the most of that capability. It seems to have made all the difference.

Second, each of these breweries self-distribute. So they never found themselves at the mercy of a distributor who – when the sale of draft beer dried up – was incentivized to displace them by pushing the retail product of much larger breweries. The retail presence of these three breweries grew continually during 2020.

Finally, all three of these breweries employed their social media channels for all they were worth. Their customers were no longer in their taproom, but they still managed to keep those customers engaged. That effort will only continue to pay dividends.

Lion’s Tail is the exemplar here. The taproom at Lion’s Tail was closed for a full year. Yet the brewery didn’t miss a beat. When the shutdown began, the focus there immediately shifted to selling canned beer directly to customers and on expanding its retail distribution footprint. I doubt the folks at Lion’s Tail could have handled the predicament of 2020 any better.

I suspect Fifth Ward might have been part of this group had their canning line come in earlier in the year. Fifth Ward certainly had the other pieces in place. But the brewery wasn't able to begin selling its most sought after beers in cans until late December.

The breweries hit hardest in 2020 were the small breweries without the ability to redirect their output into retail packaging. After their taproom business fell off there was no alternate sales channel for them to resort to. The apparent outlier among that group is Emprize. But Emprize didn't begin reporting its production until July of 2019, so the year-to-year comparison isn't entirely valid.

A final note… as I mentioned at the top of this post, these production numbers are supplied by the Wisconsin Department of Revenue. The DOR’s figures are sometimes a point of contention. They don't always jibe with a brewery’s internal metrics. The DOR has the final say, but I’d be happy to add an addendum to this post for any brewery mentioned here that would like to provide additional information or context.

Here's some additional context related to Fox River. This comes from Drew Roth, head brewer at Fox River: I do have one additional piece of information to add to FRBCs numbers. One transition we made was to pull all production from Hinterland and bring it in house in 2020, which included the mobile canning. This meant that although we did see a drop in production, the 10% you reported seems on point, we felt the pain of this loss a lot less than others in our position as we saw an increase in margins on our packaged beer. We were also able to keep our staff fully employeed, which was important. One odd fact that came out of last year was that although production overall was down, we had our best month on record that year. July of 2020 saw 401bbls produced between both locations, the old record was around 280bbls. Im really interested in totals for this year. There is a solid chance a lot of those losses will be erased.

Sunday, March 28, 2021

150 Years Later...

In 1871 there was a saloon (1) run by John Powers at the southwest corner of 10th and Kansas Street (now named South Main). A door down from Powers' saloon was a cooperage (2); where Michael Scheimeyer made wooden barrels.

Detail from Ruger's 1867 drawing of Oshkosh.

That section is now the home of Fifth Ward Brewing Company.


And there are still plenty of wooden barrels there.

Sunday, March 21, 2021

The Wanderings of an 800-Pound Chief

Here we have about 800 pounds of baked earth. It's six-feet in diameter, 110 years old, and well-traveled.

For 75 years, that clay medallion was the emblem of the Oshkosh Brewing Company (OBC). After OBC closed in 1971, the emblem remained on the face of the defunct brewery for 15 more years. It endured in stark contrast to the decay gathering all around it.

The emblem was produced in 1911. It was to be the crowning jewel on the new brewery OBC was building at 16th and Doty. They had gone to Chicago and commissioned the nation's premier supplier of terracotta work.

"Up in Oshkosh, once the home of the red man, now the home of the lumber kings and yachting regattas, the Oshkosh Brewing Company has caused its somewhat unique trademark to be “done” in terra cotta, and the Northwestern Terra Cotta Company was called upon to do the job.”
    – The Clay-Worker, February 1912.

The Northwestern Terra Cotta Company of Chicago.

The knowing gaze of the chief had been fixed in place by the time the new brewery opened to the public in May 1912.

The new brewery of the Oshkosh Brewing Company. 1600 block of Doty Street.

And there the emblem remained even as the brewery was being torn down. On December 27, 1986, with the demolition well underway, the emblem was put up for auction.

A flyer for the 1986 auction.

About 100 people gathered in front of the crumbling brewery on that Saturday morning. Nine of them, including Lynne Webster, had come to place bids. Webster was an Oshkosh Chamber official and was there to bid on behalf of the City of Oshkosh. She could go as high as $6,600. But within minutes of the first call, Webster was out of the running.

Auctioneer Don Wagner taking bids.

The minimum bid was set at $1,000. From there, the price quickly shot past $7,000. In 20 minutes it was over. The winning bid of $8,800 was placed by Paul Winter, a 27-year-old former Oshkosh resident who had, at one time, lived near the brewery. Winter said he spent about $1,000 more than he had intended to. “A person gets kind of caught up with an auction,” he said. The total with tax came to $9,240. That didn't include the cost of getting the embedded piece down off the brewery. Winter was given two weeks to accomplish that.

Lynne Webster was disappointed but unbowed. In the days following the auction, she began recruiting donors to raise money to purchase the emblem from Winter. The primary donor would be A. Thomas Schwalm. His family had helped to found OBC in 1894.

Catherine (Schwalm) Clark and her brother Thomas Schwalm.

A. Thomas Schwalm was also a past brewmaster at OBC. He had left the brewery in August of 1950 to become co-publisher of the Oshkosh Daily Northwestern. Schwalm was not at all happy that the emblem had fallen into the hands of a private collector. "We were going to get that emblem a long time ago," he said, "I didn't want it to be lost."

OBC in the 1960s.

It almost certainly would have been lost had Thomas Schwalm not filled the funding gap needed to get it back. "I think his connection over there at the brewery – it touched him," Lynne Webster later recalled. "He saved a bit of his personal history, but also a part of the city's history."

A week after the auction, Paul Winter was persuaded to sell the emblem to the city for $9,040. That was $200 less than he had committed to pay for it. "It was a really tough decision," Winter said. He wanted it to stay in Oshkosh “where everyone could share in its beauty.”

As part of the deal, the city agreed to have a fiberglass reproduction of the emblem made for Winter. The replica was expected to cost another $2,500. Lynne Webster said that Thomas Schwalm also paid for that.
Bringing down the emblem in January 1987.

City officials immediately announced plans to turn the emblem into a monument. Thomas Schwalm said he hoped it would help remind people that Oshkosh was once a center for brewing. The last brewery in Oshkosh – Peoples Brewing – had closed 15 years earlier. “This is a segment of Oshkosh history that we no longer have," said Lynne Webster. "This monument will commemorate all the different breweries that are no longer here.”

The demolition Peoples Brewing, 1974.

Meanwhile, the city needed to decide where the emblem would go. An advisory committee that included Webster was formed to identify potential locations. Three months later, they had narrowed the choices to three: The exterior west-facing wall of the Oshkosh Public Museum; the south exterior wall of the Oshkosh Centre near the Main Street Bridge; and in South Park near the intersection of West South Park and Ohio.

While the committee deliberated, James Metz – editorial page editor of the Oshkosh Northwestern, campaigned for the emblem to be placed at the museum. Metz ran an informal poll in the paper and then announced the museum site to be the overwhelming favorite of those who responded. Metz and his cohort didn't have their way.

In July 1987, the emblem was placed on the south wall of the Oshkosh Centre. The site was favored by the Landmarks Commission for being the most visible location of those under consideration. Thomas Schwalm paid for the mounting. The emblem remained there for the next 20 years.

Looking north over the Main Street Bridge towards the Oshkosh Centre.
The Chief Oshkosh emblem is highlighted in yellow.

After two decades, the emblem came down again. It was removed to make way for the 2008 remodeling of the Oshkosh Centre, which is now the Oshkosh Convention Center.

This time, there wasn't a debate about where it would go next. The Oshkosh Public Museum took possession of the emblem in March of 2008. Museum director Brad Larson said it would cost about $12,000 to create a proper display for the piece. The Kuenzl Foundation donated $5,000 towards the project. The Kuenzl family had launched the Gambrinus Brewery in Oshkosh in 1875 and was one of the three founding families behind the formation of the Oshkosh Brewing Company.

The emblem was placed in a brushed-metal framework and covered with a clear, thermoplastic shield. In September 2009 it was mounted outside the main entrance to the Oshkosh Public Museum. You can see it there today. The 110-year-old face of clay at the center of the emblem appears as composed as ever.

Oshkosh Public Museum.

A Few Notes...
A word of thanks to Paul Winter. Thanks also to Anna Cannizzo of the Oshkosh Public Museum. They both helped to clarify information related to the emblem and the replica that was made from it. And thanks to Tom Denow and Scott Krumenauer for sharing their pictures of the emblem while it was still on the brewery.

About that replica: It was created by the Oshkosh Public Museum from a latex mold reinforced with plaster. The fiberglass reproduction was then painted to match the colors of the original emblem. The museum kept the mold, but it eventually deteriorated and has since been discarded. Winter said he was pleased with how the reproduction of the emblem turned out.

A couple of weeks ago I put up a related post about the years of decay and eventual demolition of the Oshkosh Brewing Company's brewery. That can be found here.

You can find more on the tangled history of Chief Oshkosh and beer here.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Derek Gilbertson's Award Winning Homebrew

Winning the Best of Show award at this year's Midwinter Homebrew Competition could have proven fatal for 37-year-old Oshkosh Homebrewer Derek Gilbertson. “I damn near had a heart attack when I saw my name at the top of the results page,” Gilbertson says. You would think he'd be getting used to this kind of thing by now. Gilbertson has been entering his homebrewed beer in competitions for the past three years and in that time has managed to pick up his share of awards. His most recent award, though, is easily the most coveted of the bunch.

Derek Gilbertson making beer in his backyard.

Gilbertson's "Fuzzy Wuzzy" Barleywine, named as a salute to his dog Ginny, was chosen as the best beer from a field of 293 beers at last month’s Midwinter Homebrew Competition. The competition was sanctioned by the American Homebrewers Association and sponsored by the Beer Barons of Milwaukee homebrew club. It's among the largest regional competitions in the nation. This year's event brought in beers from 41 states and was judged by a panel that included 20 certified beer judges.

Gilbertson's best-of-show award and Fuzzy Wuzzy barleywine.

Gilbertson describes his winning beer as having "A really malty backbone with a nice, pine-resin note on the back end from the hops. You also get a little heat in there from the alcohol." The beer was over a year in the making and finished at 10% ABV. It's the sort of strong beer that Gilbertson has come to be known for among the family and friends he regularly shares his output with. "I like making big beers with bold flavors," he says.

In six years, he's come a long way from that first brew of his made with a Mr. Beer Kit. "It was terrible," he says. "I walked away from it saying I'm never doing that again. Then I was telling a friend of mine and he said I needed to go get a real beer kit with good ingredients. I got my first real kit at The Cellar (an Oshkosh homebrew shop) and that one turned out pretty good. So I thought I'd give it another try. After that, I just kept at it and started coming up with my own recipes. I fell in love with it."

Along the way, he began enlisting the help of local experts. Gilbertson met up with Shane and Laurel Coombs, the husband and wife team who operate Rushford Meadery & Winery in the Town of Rushford. The two of them also happen to be certified beer judges. "I started taking my beer over there and asking them to be brutally honest about it," Gilbertson says. "My friends and family would all tell me they loved the beer, they've all been really supportive, but that's not the same as having someone who can really pick it apart. Shane and Laurel helped me a lot with their feedback and suggestions."

That ethos of working with what you have at hand continues to inform Gilbertson's love of beer making. He still sources his ingredients at The Cellar and brews on a cobbled-together system that includes a 20-gallon kettle and a propane-fueled turkey fryer. He's made his home serve as an oversized fermentation chamber, using its varying temperature ranges to influence the flavors produced during the fermentation process. "I'm continually moving different vessels around the house," he says. "It started off as a little hobby and now we've got fermentors everywhere." Gilbertson has dubbed his home brewery Easy Rider Brewing. "Because I also love riding motorcycles," he says..

Gilbertson is preparing to take his hobby to the next level. "I'm going to start doing some national competitions next year," he says. His friends and family have encouraged him to go pro. "They keep telling me to open a brewpub," Gilbertson says. "I do parties a lot in the summertime where I'll smoke a bunch of brisket and have everybody over for barbecue and homebrew. We get together and have a good time." Which is exactly what successful homebrewing is really all about.

Sunday, March 7, 2021

The Second Death of the Oshkosh Brewing Company

The last gasp of the Oshkosh Brewing Company came on October 18, 1971. It was a Monday. Production stopped and the workers went home. Oshkosh’s best-known brewery had met its end.

The dormant brewery sat there for 15 more years. It was gutted and the carcass was left to rot. It became the moldering eyesore at 1642 Doty Street.


By 1986 a lot of Oshkoshers had forgotten what a magnificent thing that brewery had once been. It was built in 1911 and 1912. At that point, the Oshkosh Brewing Company (OBC) had already been in operation for 17 years. The new brewery would replace the two separate facilities OBC had been using to produce its beer.

There was the old Glatz Brewery on the south end of Doty where OBC made its keg beer.

OBC’s Glatz Brewery.

The higher-end beers were made at the OBC plant on Doty just south of 16th. This was the more modern of the two facilities. It had formerly been Horn and Schwalm's Brooklyn Brewery.

Horn and Schwalm's Brooklyn Brewery.

The Glatz facility was torn down in 1914. The Horn and Schwalm plant, most of which still stands, was converted into a bottling house.

By the summer of 1912, all of OBCs beer was being made in its new brewery.

It was designed by the eminent brewery architect Richard Griesser. The sprawling facility was composed of two wings flanking a seven-story brewhouse. The Doty-facing portion of the complex was done up entirely in red brick. It cost $90,530 to build (well over $2 million in today's money) and was said to be the most modern and best-equipped Wisconsin brewery outside of Milwaukee. The home of Chief Oshkosh Beer would be a south side landmark for decades to come.

In the fall of 1971, that brewery stood empty and idle. But there was a glimmer of hope. Less than three weeks after production had stopped, OBC president Harold Kriz announced that the brewery's brands had been sold to the rival Peoples Brewing Company. Ted Mack, president of Peoples Brewing, opened the door to the possibility that the OBC brewery might eventually go back online.

Oshkosh Daily Northwestern; November 5, 1971.

Mack, whose brewery was facing its own set of hardships, was saying a lot of things in those days that didn't add up. A year later, Peoples Brewing closed. Now there were two idle breweries within 500 feet of one another on the south side of Oshkosh.

The south side skyline. Peoples Brewing on the left, OBC on the right.

The defunct Oshkosh Brewing Company began stripping the brewery to capitalize on what value the property still held. Permits were taken out in 1974 and 1976 to open holes in the exterior walls so that conditioning tanks could be removed from the stock house. Over time, the south wall of the brewery became pocked with gaping holes.

Vandalism at the untended property was commonplace. Windows were broken out and the interior was ransacked. In 1975, the brewery suffered extensive damage after two separate fires were started by arsonists.

Inside the brewery.

In 1976, OBC sold the dilapidated property.

Broken windows and a “For Sale” sign. The view from South Main Street in 1975.

The building at 1642 Doty was vacant when Winnebago Northland Inc (WNI) purchased it on May 14, 1976. WNI had been incorporated in 1975 with the intention of acquiring and rehabilitating the property. Leon Luker of WNI said they intended to convert the space into retail shops and offices. It sounded viable, but Luker also mentioned that "The most discouraging note has been the vandalism damage and mess made by young people."

The WNI plan never materialized. A series of small businesses shuffled through, but the old brewery never managed to attract the kind of cornerstone retail establishment that other businesses could grow around. The unabated decay compounded the lack of appeal.

The sign at the lower right reads: Under New Ownership. Occupant Winnebago Northland.

The neighbors began to complain. Each year the brewery looked worse with ever more vandalism and debris scattered about the premises. In 1977, the property was sold again. This time to LSW Enterprises, a group headed by Leon Luker and Robert Stauffer, Sr. During its period of ownership, LSW accomplished nothing in the way of preservation.

In 1979, the Oshkosh Jaycees took advantage of the horror-show atmosphere by holding their haunted house at the empty brewery. It would become an annual event. But that ended after the Halloween of 1982. It was decided that the building had become too unsafe to allow people inside.

October 18, 1979; Oshkosh Advance-Titan.

Earlier in 1982, the brewery had been nominated for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. The designation would have made the property eligible for tax incentives and grants for rehabilitation and preservation. But LSW Enterprises objected to the designation killing any chance of it being listed.

Instead, LSW offered to sell the building to the City of Oshkosh for $375,000. The proposal followed closely on the heels of similar offers made to the city by the owners of the Paine Lumber Co. property and the Deltox warehouse complex. None of the proposals fit within the city's budget constraints.

The last substantial effort to save the brewery came in 1984 when Vintage Investment, a Lansing, Michigan development company, made an option-to-purchase agreement with LSW. The agreement was contingent upon Vintage Investment obtaining $2.5 million in financing to convert the brewery into apartments.

Oshkosh City Manager William Frueh advocated for the deal and sought a federal grant to facilitate the transfer. But in the end, Vintage Investment was unable to raise the money required for the project. The option-to-purchase agreement lapsed. It was over.

In 1984, a raze or repair order had been issued by the city for the badly deteriorated building. Now, there was no question as to which option would prevail.

At city hall, Frueh had grown frustrated with the LSW group and Robert E. Stauffer, Sr. in particular. "We’re still hoping the owners can come up with something concrete and that the building can be saved," Frueh said. "But we haven’t heard anything. We’ve given him ample opportunities to develop something so the building could be used. But so far nothing has happened."

William Frueh (left) and Robert E. Stauffer Sr.

Demolition was set to begin during the week of October 12, 1986. Former OBC employees gathered at the brewery in the days leading up to the teardown.

At the brewery in early October 1986.
On the left is Merritt Safford, an OBC salesman. He worked at the brewery for 38 years beginning in 1931.
Audrey Ackerman was OBC's corporate secretary. She was with the company from 1950 until it closed in 1971.
On the right is George Ratchman who worked in the bottling department for 15 years. He was hired in 1954.

"Razing the brewery is like dying a second death," Ackerman said. "But this time the death is going to be more final. No one is ever going to see it again.”

As the building was coming down, the owners of the property extracted its last bit of value. The iconic Chief Oshkosh emblem above the entranceway to the brewery was put up for auction. It sold for $9,240 to Paul Winter, a collector of brewery memorabilia. Winter later sold the emblem to the City of Oshkosh. It now resides near the entrance to the Oshkosh Public Museum.

An auction amid the rubble.

The obliteration resumed. It took months to bring the brewery down.

There’s nothing left of the towering brewery that loomed over Doty Street for 75 years. Where there once was an architectural work of art there now squats a drab, metal warehouse.

The brewery has been gone now for almost 35 years. Even after all this time, it still seems like something there is missing.


Well if that wasn’t painful enough... A few years ago, I made a three-minute video showing the brewery’s demolition. You can see that here.

I owe a debt of gratitude to Correen Redlin and Chuck Kunz of Oshkosh for supplying some of the pictures used in this post. Thanks, I appreciate your time and help!

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Woke Cold Brew Coffee Stout

There’s a coffee stout on at Fox River Brewing that’s a collaboration of a different sort.

Woke Cold Brew Coffee Stout

The beer was made by Fox River. The coffee was roasted by Bare Bones. “The coffee was a Peruvian blend at medium roast,” says Drew Roth, head brewer at Fox River. “Dan (Dringolli, owner of Bare Bones) had given me a sample of some and I liked it. Whenever possible, I like to use local ingredients so it seemed like a good fit.”

At the Fox River taproom, Woke is pouring on nitro, but even with that less boisterous gas, the coffee aroma leaps out at you. I could smell it well before the glass reached my face.

To help preserve that aroma, Roth introduced the coffee – 10 pounds of it – on the cold side; treating it like a dry-hop addition. “The coffee itself was added as a whole bean and allowed to cold steep in the cold-crashed fermenter for around a week,” he says.

That process seems to have helped inhibit any of the acrid, bitter flavors you sometimes find in a coffee stout. The beer is exceptionally smooth with the coffee flavor having a sweet, caramel-like aspect.

“The way we added the coffee, as well as how we treated the dark malts, is what I think led to the super-smooth flavor,” Roth says. “The dark malts were also added as cold steep.”

If you’re into coffee stouts you should make a point of getting to this one. It would be an ideal beer for a weekend brunch. In addition to the nitro release, Fox River also now has the standard carbonation version available in bottles.

Woke Cold Brew Stout is 5.2% ABV and pouring in both the dining room and the taproom at Fox River Oshkosh.