Thursday, September 29, 2022

A Librarian Learns about the Society of Oshkosh Brewers

I’ve been beer-drinking my way across Europe for the last couple of week and while I was away Michael McArthur at the Oshkosh Public Library posted a couple of great videos about the history of homebrewing in Oshkosh and the Society of Oshkosh Brewers. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

B'Gosh It's Good Again

The bi-annual B'Gosh It's Good breweriana show returns this Sunday to Fifth Ward Brewing Company in Oshkosh. More than 30 collectors will be on hand showing off, selling, and trading their vintage brewery memorabilia. This show is free and open to the public. And it’s always a blast with plenty of beer-based eye candy for your perusal. The show runs from noon until 4 pm.

If you’re a collector who would like to have a table at the show, click here for details on how to get involved.

Sunday, September 11, 2022

Oblio’s Lounge and a Taste of 1937

Here’s what was cooking in Oshkosh in 1937…

A menu from Angel’s Coffee Shop, circa 1937. Click the image to enlarge it.

Angel’s Coffee Shop was located in the south half of the building now occupied by Oblio's Lounge at 434-436 N. Main Street. The menu was found hidden behind a wall in that same part of the building earlier this year.

Angel’s was run by a Greek immigrant named Angel Litras. He came to Oshkosh in 1925 after marrying a southside woman named Eva Sweet. He opened his coffee shop in April of 1937.

Oshkosh Daily Northwestern, April 16, 1937.

Litras' restaurant inhabited the space that had previously been occupied by the Schlitz Beer Hall. Here's what that area looks like now...

The north side of the property had been home to a restaurant called the English Kitchen. The restaurant and the beer hall were connected by a doorway. The image below shows the view looking east into the English Kitchen in 1902. The door leading south into the Schlitz Beer Hall is seen on the right.

Here's a more recent view of that same space.

The bar in the photo above was built by Robert Brand and Sons of Oshkosh in1936. It was installed that fall when another Greek immigrant named John Kuchubas launched his tavern there. Kuchubas called his place John Brown's Bar.

John Kuchubas behind his bar.

John Kuchubas and Angel Litras worked in cahoots with one another. The aforementioned door was left open, allowing customers to pass freely between Kuchubas’ tavern and Litras’ restaurant. Here's a portion of an ad from 1939 that spells out what they were up to.

Oshkosh Daily Northwestern, April 15, 1939.

The bar thrived. The coffee shop didn't. Angel Litras closed his restaurant sometime around 1942. The space then sat vacant for a couple of years before it became an auto supply store. On the south side of Oblio's, you may have noticed the garage door leading out onto the patio. The garage door opened onto an alley behind the auto store.

The last, stand-alone business on the south side of the property was Rudy's Shoe Rebuilders. Rudy's opened in 1992.

After Rudy's closed in the summer of 2005, the door between the two spaces was opened again. In fact, it was taken out altogether. The two spaces have been joined ever since. The former home of the Schlitz Beer Hall is back in the beer business; incorporated into Oblio's Lounge. One of the most historically significant public spaces in Oshkosh has come full circle.

The return of Schlitz to the Schlitz Beer Hall. Co-owners of Oblio’s Todd Cummings, on the left, and Mark Schultz, second from the right wearing a hat.

The story of Oblio’s and the other saloons and taverns that have occupied this building is far deeper than what I’ve posted here. To begin exploring that history, Click Here and then Here.
For a photo tour and a general chronology, Click Here.
For a story from the 1920s when this place was raided for being a speakeasy, Click Here.

Sunday, September 4, 2022

The Nearly Lost Labels of Peoples Brewing

Sneaking into Oshkosh's abandoned breweries became a hobby for some kids in the early 1970s (you can read about that here). Many of them were collectors of beer cans and other brewery memorabilia. The thrill of going into the untended breweries was heightened by the possibility of coming out with something worth saving. Those kids walked away with bottles, cans, beer labels, signs, log books... Anything bearing a trademark was fair game.

The scavenging led to the recovery of countless pieces of Oshkosh breweriana that otherwise would have been lost. The haul included some incredibly obscure items. This for example:

A prototype beer label, 1958.

The Hunt for a New Label
Peoples Brewing Company was aiming to update its image in 1958. The brewery had been using the same label for Peoples Beer since 1952. But the atomic age had given way to the space age. The old label was looking dated.

The Peoples label from 1952 until 1958.

That label was replaced by one that would become an iconic Wisconsin beer label. We’ll see that in a moment. First, let's have a look at a few of the labels that didn't make the cut.

The images below are scans of prototypes that were in the running to become the new label for Peoples Beer. These were rescued by one of those young brewery raiders. They were discovered in the deserted office at Peoples Brewing in 1973. Peoples had closed the previous year.

No correspondence or other information accompanied the artwork. They were tucked into a cardboard folio stamped by Norway Gravure and dated September 9, 1958. The Norway, Michigan printer was then one of the largest suppliers of American beer labels. Norway Gravure made labels for Blatz, Budweiser, Miller, Pabst, and Schlitz, among many others.

One of the rescued prototypes appears to have been in strong contention for final selection.
The label below was fully realized and pasted onto an artboard with an accompanying bottle-neck label. This is about as rare as a beer label gets.

The eventual winner was more dynamic than any of the other labels on the table for consideration. By mid-November of 1958, the new label for Peoples Beer was in circulation. More than 60 years later, it still looks like the right choice.

The 1958 design, here used for a 7-ounce bottle.