A Big Day Brewing

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This Saturday, May 2, The Society of Oshkosh Brewers will again take part in the American Homebrewers Association Big Brew. The SOBs will represent Oshkosh in the nationwide event by making beer in the parking lot in front of O’Marro’s Public House. Club members will fire up their kettles around 9 a.m. They’ll be brewing throughout the morning and into the early afternoon.

Big BrewThis celebration of National Homebrew Day has become an annual event for the SOBs. It’s also an opportunity for people outside of the club to get an inside look at what homebrewing is about and see the brewing process up close. The experience can sometimes be transformative.

Oshkosh homebrewer Jody Cleveland first happened upon the SOB’s Big Brew in 2011. “Everyone was so open, so friendly,” Cleveland says. “I just really enjoyed talking to everyone. Since then, I’ve made the best friends I’ve ever had. To be honest, stopping down at that big brew day changed my life.”

Cleveland joined the club not long after. He’ll be at Big Brew again this year. Camaraderie is what keeps him coming back. “It’s great being able to brew in a group like that, sharing techniques, and being able to try a large array of homebrew,” he says. “I learn more just by watching and talking to others than I do with all the reading I do.”

For Kyle Clark, attending Big Brew was an eye opening experience. “I learned just how individual the brewers and brewing equipment setups really were,” he says.

Clark began brewing in 2011 after his wife “Made the fateful decision to buy me a Mr. Beer Kit,” he says. From there, he tailored his own brew system building it up piece by piece. Later in 2011, he joined the SOBs. Earlier this year, Clark was elected the club’s president.

Like Cleveland, Clark enjoys the communal atmosphere of Big Brew. “It’s a great opportunity to get together and brew some beer and drink a few too,” he says. “It is a great time to get questions answered about a variety of topics. It’s a wonderful time to experiment and learn as well as share our versions of brewing disasters and old wives’ tales.”

Clark, who favors brewing English-style pub ales and Belgian-style ales, will brew an Amber Ale at O’Marro’s on Saturday. “It is going to be an extract kit,” he says, “because they require a bit less equipment to brew.”

Jody Cleveland will bring a more traditional flavor to Big Brew. He’ll brew an all-grain version of an Oshkosh original. “Since I love bock beer, I want to take a stab at recreating Peoples Bock,” says Cleveland. “I’ve been wanting to brew more classic Oshkosh beers from Peoples.”

The Peoples Brewing Company of Oshkosh was launched in 1913 with the backing of Oshkosh saloon keepers. The brewery closed in 1972. Would the founders of that fallen brewery have ever guessed that their beer would be revived by an Oshkosh homebrewer in the parking lot of a Southside tavern? Of course not. But it’s the kind of thing that happens when homebrewers get together.

The Wisconsin Micro-Brewers Beer Fest
They don’t just brew beer… The SOBs are chartering a bus to the Wisconsin Micro-Brewers Beer Fest in Chilton on May 17, 2015. Anyone can get on board by contacting Steve Wissink at 920-589-2602 or at wiss@centurytel.net. Tickets are $55. Fot that you’ll get a ride to and from Chilton and a ticket into the fest (tickets for this year’s fest are $40). The bus will leave Dublin’s Irish Pub at 11:30 a.m. (Dublin’s will open at 10 a.m.) and will head back to Oshkosh at 6:30 p.m. Oh, and beer is allowed on the bus, of course. This is one of Wisconsin’s great beer festivals. If you’ve never been, this is an easy way to check it out.

Growing Oshkosh and Hops
If you’re into gardening as well as beer, then you ought to consider growing hops. Here’s how to get started: This Saturday, Growing Oshkosh, a non-profit farm located on the East Side, will have its 1st Annual Spring Plant Sale. Among all the flowers, herbs and edibles, Growing Oshkosh will offer a limited stock of hop rhizomes that were cultivated in Oshkosh. These are Fuggles hops taken from a five-year old plant that’s been an exceptional producer of good brewing cones. The plant sale will run from 9:00am – 1:00pm at the Growing Oshkosh Farm at 530 Bay Shore Drive. It’s good to see Oshkosh’s urban farm fostering our hop-growing tradition. You know we have quite the hoppy history here, don’t ya?.

Let’s Have a Beer
Bock of the FutureWith all this talk of homebrewing and home growing, let’s dip into something with roots in the home-craft movement.

Stillmank Brewing of Green Bay was founded in 2012 by a Wisconsin-born homebrewer named Brad Stillmank. From the beginning, Stillmank has emphasized using local ingredients for his beer, including Wisconsin-grown hops and and malt from Briess Malt in Chilton. And if there’s a style of beer that says Wisconsin, it’s Bock.

Stillmank’s Bock of the Future is limited, spring release Mai-Bock brewed with Wisconsin grown Mt. Hood hops. This is a deep-gold beer with a full, malty aroma that made me think of bread crust and caramel. The aroma carries over into the taste with notes of toasted bread and malt sweetness. The beer finishes a bit dryer than expected for a Maibock allowing for a slight peppery twist from the hops to show through. At 6.3% ABV, it’ll provide a bit of warmth on a cool spring evening. I picked up a 22 ounce bottle of Bock of the Future last week at Gardina’s in Oshkosh. It’s an excellent spring tonic.

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Lee Reiherzer

Proponent of bitter German pilsener, homebrewer, beer history nerd, gardener of hops. Types compulsively about beer in Oshkosh at OshkoshBeer.blogspot.com.

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