Sunday, April 11, 2021

Oblio's

Circa 1927

The building in color on the left is the home of Oblio’s Lounge. It was built in 1884 from plans drawn by Oshkosh architect William Waters. The first saloon there – the Schlitz Beer Hall – opened in the spring of 1885. When Prohibition began in 1920, the saloon became a speakeasy. This postcard shows the building during that period. The bar closed in 1927 after it had been raided by federal officials. It remained closed for nine years. It’s the longest stretch of time since 1885 that the bar there has been closed. The second-longest closure is about to come to an end. Oblio’s has been closed for the past six months due to the pandemic. The home of the old Schlitz Beer Hall – Oblio's Lounge – reopens Monday.


Thursday, April 8, 2021

Omega Brewing Experience Three Years Later

Three years ago, Omega Brewing Experience opened its taproom at 115 East Main Street in Omro. In celebration of that anniversary, the brewery is releasing a series of special release beers throughout April. This weekend, the little brewery in Omro is going big.

The Omega taproom in Omro.

When the taproom opens Friday, the heaviest hitter on the list will be Clearly Ambiguous, a 12% ABV barleywine aged in a rye whiskey barrel. Next in line is Westhaven XII, an 11.8% Belgian quad that Omega owner and head brewer Steve Zink says was inspired by the famous Trappist ale Westvleteren XII.

“I’m still keeping things balanced, though,” says Zink. “We’ll have beers and seltzers ranging from 4% to your 12%.”

The current taplist at Omega (click to enlarge).

Omega opened in 2018 as Winnebago County’s first nano-brewery – a designation applied to breweries that produce beer in batch sizes of three barrels or less. The first beers went on tap in Oshkosh at the Chalice Restaurant and Pilora’s Cafe in early 2018. The Omega taproom opened in April that year. And in the time since, Omega has carved out a comfortable niche as Omro’s sole brewery. It has developed into one of the more unique beer destinations in the state.

Both the brewery and taproom coexist in the same space. When you’re sitting in the taproom, you are also sitting in the brewery proper. “We don’t have a lot of extra space, so we have to do everything right here,” says Zink.

Omega's barrel-aging rack doing double duty as a taproom counter top.

Beyond the back door is another world entirely. The taproom exits onto a deck that ushers you to a gentle slope of lawn that meets the Fox River. It's all part of the taproom property and includes park benches and boat docking. It's become a popular spot for Omega customers to picnic with a couple of beers.

The beer garden.

Built in 1927, what is now the Omega taproom was initially Anton Bang's Meat Market. Since purchasing the property in 2016, Zink and his wife Kathy have transformed the building inside and out. “Every wall has been taken down, and the floors taken up. We cleared this place out and entirely redesigned it,” Zink says.

2017, pre-restoration.



During the interior remodel in 2017.

Steve and Kathy Zink behind the bar in the Omega taproom.

The brewery has been a family affair from the start. It began as an outgrowth of the homebrewing Zink was doing with his son Eric and son-in-law Cory Tellock. It continues to be a family brewery in the truest sense with Zink's daughter Becca Tellock now part of the brewing team. "Our lead-assistant brewer is Becca," Zink says. "She works on most, but not all of the brews. She also has a background in the sciences and biology that will help in the future as we refine our water treatment, process controls, and yeast program."

The output has been prolific. Since its opening, Omega has released 60 unique beers, including a number of sour beers and hard seltzers. And though, the output has been wide-ranging, it is still very much a nano-brewery with Zink's 40-gallon, glycol-chilled, fermenters sharing space with patrons.


Like most small breweries, Omega was hit hard by the Pandemic, but the rhythm now seems to have returned. "We're back to running at full capacity," Zink says. "Right now, our number-one challenge, due to the size of our brewing system, is keeping up with demand."

This month will offer the full range of what this small brewery is capable of. Updates on new releases for the April anniversary celebration will be posted to the brewery's Facebook page. The Omega taproom is open on Fridays and Saturdays beginning at 4 p.m.

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

More on the Mess of 2020

How about some sobering news for National Beer Day.... Yesterday, the Brewers Association released its 2020 production figures. Beer production for craft breweries is down 9%. That's the first decline for craft beer in the modern era that the BA has reported.

Those production numbers are self-reported, so I suspect the loss is considerably more than 9%. The data from individual state reports (like those issued by the Department of Revenue in Wisconsin) showed craft beer production down by 18%. That is identical to the decline in Oshkosh's 2020 beer production. Nationally, draft sales are down by a full 40%. Meanwhile, there are now 8,764 American craft breweries. That's a record number. I doubt that will be sustainable without a dramatic and swift recovery this year.

 

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Beer Gardens Coming to Menominee Park

This was supposed to happen last summer. But like most events set for the summer of 2020, the Beer Gardens planned for Menominee Park never came to pass. This year those gardens will finally bloom.


The first Brews on the Bay will be Wednesday, June 9, from 5-9pm at the Kiwanis Shelter in Menominee Park. Beer Garden dates have also been scheduled for the second Wednesday of July, August, and September. Save the dates. More to come...

Monday, April 5, 2021

The SOBs Turn 30

On this day 30 years ago an ad ran in the Northwestern announcing the formation of a new club for homebrewers in Oshkosh. It would be known as the Society of Oshkosh Brewers.


Oshkosh Northwestern; April 5, 1991.

Thirty years later, the SOBs are still chugging along and the club’s meetings are still held in what used to be the Lake Aire Center at O’Marro’s Public House. The card shown here is from the first set of membership cards issued by the SOBs.