Updated 3/13/2015 to share a photo of the Gardina’s addition
Stop in at the retail side of Gardina’s Wine Bar & Cafe and you’ll notice that the store’s beer section has grown again. Over the past week, they’ve been busy reconfiguring the layout of the space and installing new coolers that will accommodate an expanded selection of craft beer.
“We’re putting in three two-door coolers in addition to the single-door cooler we already have,” says Adam Carlson, manager and beer buyer for Gardina’s. “At minimum, four of those doors will be allocated to beer.”
The added space will translate into more variety. “I’m hoping to bring in about 60 new beers,” says Carlson. “Right now it’s a matter of trying to figure out what I want refrigerated. My thought is that I want the hoppy stuff and the beers that are in six and four-packs in coolers. The barrel-aged barley wines and imperial stouts that are in bombers probably won’t be.”
This is the second major upgrade for downtown beer shoppers within the past six months. With the opening of Ski’s Meat Market last October and now the expansion at Gardina’s, N. Main Street cements its position as the best destination for quality packaged beer in Oshkosh.
It’s a development that was unforeseeable when Gardina’s introduced sales of packaged craft beer to downtown Oshkosh in early 2013. But Carlson isn’t altogether surprised by the rapid growth. “It’s been lock step with the craft beer revolution,” he says. “It’s been really interesting to watch it happen.”
He offers an example of how things have accelerated. “Two years ago, it took me three months to sell 15 cases of Hopslam. Last year it took me about a month to sell that same amount. This year we sold 15 cases of Hopslam in 48 hours.”
McKnight & Carlson Wines, owner of Gardina’s, appears intent on capitalizing on the beer revival taking place downtown. This summer, the company plans to open a restaurant and taproom named The Ruby Owl at 421 N. Main St., the site formerly occupied by Soirée Urban Gifts.
Carlson will manage the taproom side of Ruby Owl. “Tentatively, we’re looking at having 36 tap handles, with a couple of nitro lines,” he says. “Ideally, we’d also like to do take-away beer in the form of growlers. But the main focus over there is going to be draft beer whether you’re drinking a pint at the bar or taking a growler home with you.”
It’ll be another reason for beer lovers to spend more time on N. Main Street. The renewal of downtown has been talked about for years. It finally seems to be materializing. It’s fitting for Oshkosh that part of the revitalization is being fueled by the beer trade.
Photo of Gardina’s courtesy of Gardina’s.