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INTERVIEW: History of Oshkosh beer gardens

Published: Jun. 9, 2021 at 5:16 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 9, 2021 at 8:39 PM CDT
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OSHKOSH, Wis. (WBAY) - The City of Oshkosh is celebrating summer by turning back the clock 150 years. The parks department is bringing a pop-up beer garden to the Kiwanis shelters in Menominee Park for four nights this summer. The beer gardens will feature food trucks, live music, games and discounted train rides from 5 to 9 P.M. on June 9, July 14, August 11 and September 8.

Oshkosh has a long history with beer, but its history in beer gardens was short-lived. Local beer historian Lee Reiherzer, author of the Oshkosh Beer blog, says the first brewery in Oshkosh opened in 1849 and the first beer gardens followed soon after, but the last beer garden closed in 1871.

It was operated by a German immigrant by the name of Gustavus Bogk.

Reiherzer added. “Bogk developed this ten acres spawling beer garden where there was a bathhouse, they had bands playing every Sunday, there was a restaurant there, and within a mile of that Bogk’s beer garden there were three breweries.”

In the video above, Reiherzer talks more about the history of beer gardens and shares stories about an entrepreneur who hailed from Germany and became a bright star on the Oshkosh social scene.

Steve Zink of Omega Brewing Experience was one of the four featured brewers on Wednesday night.

He said, “We featured our Kolsch style beer which is a nice light easy drinking beer so it’s good for this type of weather. It’s up in the 80′s right now, hot and humid, good refreshing beer to cool people down and settle them down for the event and entertainment that’s coming up.”

The event was suppose to launch last summer but the COVID-19 pandemic forced organizers to delay.

Oshkosh Parks Director Ray Maurer said, “People are itching to get outside again and get outdoors. We have a local bike club that’s planning to stop by. We’d expect there could be 50-100 bicyclists coming in. So, I can’t guess on the numbers but we’re excited to see how it goes tonight.”

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