Oshkosh Rising on a Tide of Beer

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This week the curtain was pulled back on a new brewery being planned for the corner of 7th and Oregon streets in Oshkosh. The Fifth Ward Brewing Company plans to be open for business there by the end of this year. Co-founders Ian Wenger and Zach Clark believe their brewery and taproom could bring new life to a part of town that could use a boost.

Fifth Ward Brewing

611 Oregon Street

“We’ve been telling the city that we want to help jump-start the renovation on this side of town,” Clark says. “They’re pushing for it too.”

The building that Clark and Wenger have optioned at 611 Oregon St. has been vacant for at least two years. It was formerly the home of Perfection Glass Company, but its history stretches back to the 1870s when portions of the space were inhabited by a saloon and a cigar company.

The brick, Italianate-style structure has seen better days. Clark and Wenger would like to restore its charm. With plenty of room, the building has the potential to be well suited for a brewery. “That was part of the point of going into this building” Clark says. “We wanted a place where we can grow.”

With the Ruby Owl Taproom slated to open this summer on Main St., Fifth Ward Brewing planned for Oregon St., and a number of plans for other breweries in the works, the long talked about revitalization of central Oshkosh may finally end up being spurred along by beer. It’s a phenomenon that’s already playing out in other cities. With our growing beer scene and storied brewing history, Oshkosh would appear to be ripe for this sort of revival. Clark thinks so.

“With all these breweries potentially coming into Oshkosh, this could be good,” Clark says. “This could make us a destination town. People who wouldn’t come here otherwise will come to visit our breweries and stay at our hotels and spend a couple of days here.”

Of course, it’s all just conjecture at this point. But the signs are definitely pointing in the right direction for beer lovers in Oshkosh.

Events
Monday, April 27: O’Marro’s Public House will host a Whiskey Loves Beer Dinner. The evening will feature an eight-course dinner, each course paired with a beer or whiskey. Tickets are $35. Contact O’Marro’s to reserve a seat.

Beer of the Week
With all this talk about local breweries, let’s check out a local beer: Fox River Brewing Company’s Sterling Pils. This is a terrific twist on a traditional German-style Pilsener. It’s a pale-gold beer brewed with a generous dose of American-grown Sterling hops. Sterling Pils is medium bodied with a bright hop flavor that’s assertive and lemon-like. It has a crisp, bitter finish that makes the beer exceptionally refreshing. At 5% ABV and 30 IBUs, this would be a great warm weather beer. Don’t wait for that. Get it while it’s fresh.

The Buzz
A few more morsels about the aforementioned burgeoning beer scene here….

• Oshkosh was visited by a few Wisconsin craft brewing heavyweights this week. Carl Nolan, President of Wisconsin Brewing Company, was at Gardina’s Tuesday night along with his brewery’s vice-president and brewmaster Kirby Nelson. They appeared to thoroughly enjoy themselves. Nelson mentioned that he was surprised by how engaged people are in the beer scene here. Then on Wednesday, Russ Klisch, co-founder and president of Lakefront Brewery was in town to check in on the progress of Fifth Ward Brewing. Klisch is mentoring Clark and Wenger as they attempt to launch their brewery.

• The Roxy Supper Club hosted its first beer dinner on Monday night. From what I’ve heard, the evening was a success. The event was well attended and people I’ve spoken to who were there raved about the pairings. It’s good to see another Oshkosh venue showing some love for craft beer. If you haven’t been to The Roxy lately, stop in. They’re making a point of keeping a few craft handles in their draft line-up.

• Last week, I mentioned that Barley & Hops is putting in a beer garden at 663 N. Main. Diggers discovered something unexpected while ripping up the pavement. During the excavation, several old beer bottles were unearthed. One of them is an embossed bottle from the Oshkosh Brewing Company that dates back to the late 1800s / early 1900s. Not too surprising, I suppose, when you consider that the building was first used as a saloon after it was built in 1900.

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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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