Sunday, October 30, 2022

As it Never Was

Here's an impressive rendering of the Oshkosh Brewing Company. This was produced by the Tuchfarber Company in Cincinnati in the late 1890s.

But there was never anything in Oshkosh that looked like this. The artist took the liberty of combining OBC’s three separate facilities into one big, beautiful brewery. 

In the image below is the key to unlocking this amalgamation. The building highlighted in red was at 16th and Doty. The building in blue was further down the road near 24th and Doty. The one in yellow was way over on the other side of town on Harney Avenue. This sort of overstated representation was common at the turn of the century when it came to breweries.

Sunday, October 23, 2022

Open Season on Ostertag

There was a time when Sebastian Ostertag was plagued by bullets. More on that in a moment. First, let's meet this guy.

Johann Sebastian Ostertag

He was born in W├╝rttemberg, Germany in 1839. He was eight when he migrated with his family to a farm in the Town of Nekimi. Ostertag left the farm in 1861 and joined the Oshkosh Rifles. He was off to fight in the Civil War.

Three months later, Ostertag took a bullet to his right thigh at the First Battle of Bull Run. He got hit again at the Second Battle of Bull Run in 1862. This time, Johnny Reb clipped his right hip.

The Union Army in retreat after the disastrous Second Battle of Bull Run.

The mutilated Ostertag was sent home to heal up. Back in Oshkosh, he got well and got married. Then he returned to his unit. Ostertag now belonged to the Iron Brigade.

The Iron Brigade at the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863.

At Gettysburg Ostertag was perforated again. He got shot in the face. The bullet entered his left cheek and drove deep into his head, coming to rest behind his right eye. The battlefield doctors wrote him off for dead. But he was still squirming a week later. They finally sent Ostertag to Satterlee Hospital in West Philadelphia where the bullet was extracted. He survived that ordeal, too. The fateful bullet now resides at the Oshkosh Public Museum.

Ostertag convalescing in his "Union Blues" and his head wrapped in bandages.

He got back on his feet and came home to Oshkosh. After a short stint with the railroad, he opened a lager beer saloon and grocery on the west side of what is now South Main Street.

An 1867 drawing with an arrow pointing the way to the front door of what would become Ostertag's saloon and grocery. The view shows the west side of what is now South Main Street (Kansas Street then) between 7th and 8th Avenues. Ostertag's grocery was on the ground floor. His lager beer saloon was above it.

There isn't a trace of that place left.

The empty 700 block on the west side of South Main Street.

Ostertag involved himself with all sorts of endeavors in Oshkosh. Aside from the saloon and grocery, he ran a hardware store, and a farm, and was a Southside alderman. His pugnacity never left him. In 1885, the five-foot-eight-inch Ostertag was charged with assault and battery after he attacked an Oshkosh blacksmith for reasons unknown.

Ostertag retired in 1904 and built a home for himself and his wife at what is now 515 Pleasant Street. His old home is still there.

515 Pleasant Street.

Ostertag died in that house in 1930. He was 90 years old. Johann Sebastian Ostertag is buried in Riverside Cemetery. His grave lies in the shadow of a monument to the Grand Army of the Republic.

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

The SOBs Move to Fifth Ward

Fifth Ward Brewing is the new home of the Society of Oshkosh Brewers. The club will begin having its monthly meeting at Fifth Ward starting tomorrow night at 7 pm. If you’re a homebrewer, homebrew curious, or just into good beer, stop in and check it out (wine, cider, and mead folks are also welcome). The SOBs move to Fifth Ward has been a long time coming. When the club formed in 1991, Oshkosh was without a brewery and finding good beer here could be a challenge. Part of the original SOB mission was to agitate and educate with the goal of improving the beer scene in Oshkosh. Now we have three breweries, each of them with ties to the SOBs. Fifth Ward was launched in 2017 by SOB alumni Ian Wenger and Zach Clark. It's fitting that this place would become the club’s home base.

Monday, October 17, 2022

This Week in 1972...

Peoples Brewing Company stopped making beer 50 years ago this week, in October of 1972. When that happened, it marked the first time since 1849 that Oshkosh was without a functioning brewery. And for the next 23 years, the only beer made here was homebrew. Commercial brewing did not return to Oshkosh until 1995 when Fox River Brewing Company opened. We’ve had a brewery or breweries ever since.

The abandoned Peoples Brewing Company in the 1500 block of South Main St. in Oshkosh, circa 1973.

Monday, October 3, 2022

Bable On

Bad things happen when south side boys are refused service.
This little nugget is from the Oshkosh Daily Northwestern of August 17, 1897….

Charles Bable and Frank Bable were in court this morning charged with having thrown a stone through the window of a south side saloon. Charles pleaded guilty and paid a fine of $2… Charles said that the trouble started over the saloonkeeper refusing to sell him beer because he was not of age.