Sunday, May 30, 2021


Brewing was a major industry in Oshkosh. Here's a display from 1959 showing the economic impact of the Oshkosh Brewing Company.

OBC was producing more than 60,000 barrels of beer at this point. Across the street, at Peoples Brewing, they were producing close to 40,000 barrels.

Today, it’s an altogether different game. Last year’s total beer production in Oshkosh was less than 2,000 barrels.

Tuesday, May 25, 2021


Liquorland opened about a week ago at 50 Wisconsin Street.

This is the first stand alone liquor store we've had in Oshkosh in a decade.

The last of this sort was Jordy's Beverage Mart on 9th. Jordy's opened in 1962 and closed in 2012.

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Oshkosh Archeology

I was invited to tag along yesterday on a dig at the site of the old Gambrinus Brewery on Harney Ave. This was also the location of the first bottling plant of the Oshkosh Brewing Company in the late 1800s/early 1900s.

Oshkosh diggers Bob Bergman (in the hole) and Matt Hostak.

Oddly enough, the first thing out of that hole was an 1890s swing-top bottle stopper with the Charles Maulick logo. Maulick was the bottler for Schlitz Beer in Oshkosh in the 1890s. He was also the first proprietor of the Schlitz Beer Hall, which is now Oblio’s.

Further down were bottle shards with the Maulick imprint along with an Oshkosh Brewing Company stopper and bottle shards. I'll have more to share on the exploits of Bergman and Hostak this summer.

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Red Ram Redux

Here's a story that could only have happened in Oshkosh...

Drew Roth, the head brewer at Fox River Brewing, found those cards while he was sifting through the attic of his garage. He got in touch with me and asked if I'd ever heard of the Red Ram. I had. Just a couple of days earlier, I also had been sifting around down in a rabbit hole that was connected to the Red Ram tavern. I'll share what I found there in a moment.

In the meantime, Drew decided that Red Ram would be a good name for the bock beer he had recently brewed. That beer was released at Fox River this afternoon. We have a long history with bock beer in Oshkosh and this one fits beautifully into that lineage. It's an excellent beer. The Red Ram lives again.

Life at 103 High
The Red Ram was located at 103 High Avenue in a building that went up in 1909. Originally, it was the home of Castle-Pierce Printing.

Castle-Pierce Printing in the early 1920s.

Castle-Pierce moved out of there in 1965. The fun begins. The first tavern license for 103 High was taken in 1968 by Charles Green, an insurance agent living in Neenah. Initially, the City of Oshkosh was less than eager to see Green go in there. He was co-owner of an infamous strip club named the Speak Easy on Omro Road. City officials had concerns about what Green might attempt with the old Castle-Pierce place. Would he have Helen from Hurley whirling on High?

Helen from Hurley appearing at the Speak Easy in February 1968.
When not performing, she was known as Mrs. Helen McKellip, aged 28 of Menasha.

Helen was a no-show. In fact, nothing much happened at 103 High until 1969 when plans for The Red Ram began to materialize. The man behind that plan was Green Bay Packer legend Jerry "The Zipper" Kramer.

The freshly retired Kramer was launching a chain of Red Ram bars and restaurants. There were Kramer-backed Red Rams in Chicago, in Denver, in Ames, Iowa... and as of April 1970, there was a Red Ram at 103 High in Oshkosh. It became the 15th Red Ram in the nation.

Outside the Red Ram, March 1970.

The Red Ram's Rathskeller had an alternate entrance through an underground areaway at the corner of Market and High. That areaway dates back to at least 1886. It's still there and one of the last of its kind in Oshkosh. You can see it in the picture below. Look to the left for the steps leading down.

103 High, where the Red Ram was located, is the Brown building on the right.

The Red Ram kicked the bucket the year after it opened. Out went the Ram and in crawled The Universal Turtle.
November, 1971.

The Turtle was the brainchild of John Hall, who had grown up in Oshkosh. His family had been in the hospitality business for years. John Hall's mother, Jeanne Hall, was the manager of the Athearn Hotel in Oshkosh in the 1950s. 

Here's a bit of a detour, but I like this next picture too much not to share it. The photo below shows Jeanne Hall in 1956 behind the wheel of the new Packard Caribbean convertible she was awarded by Server Magazine for her work at the Athearn.

OK, back to the Turtle Club. It was modeled after Turtles in Los Angeles and Seattle. In addition to the bar, the Oshkosh Turtle featured live entertainment. Among the early attractions were Johnny Diamond and his "fire" show; and Miss Nude Universe 1970, Sandi Shane.

The Turtle laid an egg. It closed in 1972. Then came the Paddock Club, which also promptly failed. Finally, there arrived a bar and restaurant with some staying power. A lot of Oshkoshers can recall Baxter's Beef & Pizza Company. Baxter's opened in January 1975.


The bar at Baxter’s. Photo courtesy of Dan Radig.

April, 1984.

Baxter's bit the dust in 1984. Its failure inspired another round of unsuccessful bars and restaurants at 103 High. There was Carlos Giovanni's Restaurant, Bravo's Bar & Restaurant, Steve's On High... with each passing year the place looked less inviting. The building sat vacant at the start of the 1990s.

The fun was done. In 1992, David Sparr's law office went in. Sparr and company have been there ever since.

103 High Ave.

Inside 103 High.

The building at 103 High is now part of the North Main Street Historic District and is listed on the Wisconsin Register of Historic Places. That’s fine, but in Oshkosh we have another way to memorialize these things. It comes full circle in a glass of beer. Prost to the Red Ram.

Red Ram Copper Bock at Fox River Brewing, Oshkosh.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Breweriana Show at Fifth Ward

The B'Gosh It's Good Breweriana show is this Sunday, May 16 at Fifth Ward Brewing.

Stop by, grab a beer, and peruse all manner of choice brewery memorabilia. They'll have 26 vendors and lots of Oshkosh items on hand. And it is FREE! The show starts at Noon. Last fall's show was great, this one should be even better...

Last year's breweriana show at Fifth Ward.

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Chilton's Last Call

Here's a growler I picked up last weekend from Rowland's Calumet Brewing in Chilton. It was filled with Last Call Pale Ale.

Last Call was made with malt from the last batch of malt made at the Briess malthouse on South Irish Road in Chilton.

The Briess facility in Chilton.

Briess' Chilton malthouse went into operation in 1902 as the Chilton Malting Company.

The Briess family became involved with the business in the 1950s and then bought the facility in 1978.


The Briess malthouse in Chilton has been the source of brewing malt for many small breweries and homebrewers in Wisconsin. Earlier this year, Briess ended its malting operations in Chilton and moved that output to the old Rahr Malting facility in Manitowoc. 

I've been brewing with Briess malt for years. I always liked the idea that the I was making beer from barley that had been malted just across the lake. Right now, I have about 70 pounds of malt in my basement that came from the Chilton plant. I'll be thinking about that retired malthouse with every beer I make this summer.

Sunday, May 2, 2021

The Return of Oblio's

When Oblio's Lounge re-opened on April 12, it marked the beginning of another chapter for one of Oshkosh's best-known and longest-lived bars. Oblio's had been closed for more than six months beginning last October when COVID-19 infections were spreading rapidly in Oshkosh. Locking the door was a step that owners Mark Schultz and Todd Cummings didn't take lightly.

Mark Schultz (left) and Todd Cummings of Oblio's.

"We thought that what we were doing was right for us and the community," says Cummings. "I don't begrudge anybody for staying open. We have 42 years of business here, so it's a little bit different for us. It was just what we thought was right for us and our customers."

"That was the thing," Schultz says. "We think what we did was the right thing for our situation. Some people disagree. That's their right to disagree. But we were both on the same page this whole time."

It was just the second time in the past 135 years that the beer had stopped flowing at 432-434 N. Main Street. The building that is home to Oblio's was built in 1884 from a plan drawn by noted Oshkosh architect William Waters. The first saloon there, the Schlitz Beer Hall, took up residence shortly thereafter.

The sign for the Schlitz Beer Hall appears at the upper right. Circa 1887.

Schlitz Brewing purchased the building in 1886. At the time, there were already more than 80 saloons in the city. All but six of them sold nothing but locally-made beer. The Schlitz Beer Hall was one of the few places where variety was featured. The saloon became the 19th-century equivalent of a craft beer bar. Everything from Pilsner and Vienna lager to porter and stout was served there.

More than just pale lager; the Schlitz beers of1891.

It was a precocious start for a location that would go on to have more influence on the beer culture in Oshkosh than any other series of saloons or taverns in the city's history. But that high profile wasn’t always advantageous.

At the turn of the century, the Beer Hall became the target of prohibitionists who lobbied city hall to have its saloon license revoked. When Prohibition arrived in 1920, the Beer Hall became a speakeasy. The now renowned taproom was the sight of the first raid in Oshkosh by federal agents on a doomed mission to stem the flow of illegal liquor here. In 1927, during the depths of Prohibition, the bar was finally forced to close. It remained closed for the next nine years.

What is now Oblio's Lounge is shown at the extreme left, circa 1927.

Though the recent, six-month closure of Oblio's was comparatively short, it felt much longer for Mark Schultz and Todd Cummings. “It's become such a part of our DNA after doing it all these years," says Cummings.

When he and Schultz purchased the building in 1985 they became just its fourth owner. By that point, the two of them had already been running Oblio’s for 6 years and had managed to again make the bar into a destination for beer enthusiasts.


The roots of craft beer in Oshkosh were established at Oblio's. But at the moment, things are different. Almost half of the bar's 27 tap lines are not currently being used.

"After we closed, we emptied all of the beer lines and had the distributors take the kegs back," says Schultz. “ We're gradually building the line-up back up. At this point, we want to make sure we're only putting fresh beer on.”

“We're also doing smaller barrels," Cummings says, "which is quite a bit more expensive. We want to keep the beer flowing and fresh. We're trying to ease back into it with a nice balance of beers."

Balance has long been a hallmark of the tap list at Oblio’s. It's become something of a rare take in a craft-beer market besotted with gimmickry. “Our demand isn't that great for those sorts of beers,” Cummings says. “We've dipped our toes into that, but overwhelmingly that's not what our clientele is asking for. Maybe it’s a clientele that's a little more experienced; or knowledgable. I don't want to sound condescending, but I think Oblio's customers come in looking for certain types of beer. We're not pushing an agenda, we're more trying to provide what our customers want.”

It’s that relationship with the customer that Cummings and Schultz say they missed the most during the time Oblio’s was closed. “There was never the thought of not reopening,” Cummings says. “It’s more than just Mark and me, it's this building and its history and the generations of people who come here. There's a lot of feeling of family here.”

“We really missed everybody,” Schultz adds. “It's so good just to see them again.”

A slightly different version of this post will appear in Wednesday’s Oshkosh Herald.

This piece touches only lightly on the deep history of this bar. There’s so much more to the story. You can find the full story in two parts Here and Here.