In November, the SOB’s gathered at the newly opened Sturgeon Spirits in Oshkosh. Another great turnout for our meeting! First and foremost, we’d like to thank Karl Loewenstein for hosting us and giving us a sneak peek before he opens!
Business first, spirits second.
We had a new member and a few guest come to check out the club as well as Sturgeon Spirits.
Paul & Barb Reed like beer and Travis said, hey, I know just the thing to do Wednesday night. They used to be annual attendees at Cask & Caskets and wanted to come see what we were up to these past couple of years. Aside from beer, Travis and Scott can vouch they also enjoy a bourbon here and there.
Ryan and Jessica Waljeko were shown our way by Mike. Ryan grows some hops and likes craft beer. Another easy fit with us! While we were joking around about morning beers, Ryan admitted he has no issue with a buzz at 10am, the buzz off a beer and not the alarm! He has 24lbs of chinook and cascade hops that he’d be willing to part with, if interested check with the board.
Jason Melstrand is neighbors and friend of Travis and Scott and Scott “coerced” him to join. Beer may have been involved. He used to home brew so that’s better than a few of us.
Travis will be reaching out to them to give them the official new member invite.
Brett Hintz has a Christmas Ale brewing for his family Christmas.
Chuck has an Irish red fermenting. His last brew of the year before he shuts down for winter.
Dick has an English porter going.
Travis didn’t get yeast but was going to do a Belgian quad. May do a Red IPA yet.
Brett did a cranberry edition to his sour. Took three hours to do and was glad when it was over.
Keven has a Weisenbock fermenting. A new variation of his 16 year old recipe. May be doing an Imperial Pilsner in the next few weeks with an updated recipe. Plans on putting it in Fond du lac Brewfest with a cider he has as well.
Doug and Spencer (Sunken Paddle Cidery) have a Rhubarb Dry Cider going for March and just pitched a Perry, a cider with just pear juice. It’s their first. They also have 500lbs of regular cider fermenting right now and freezing some ciders to last the year for them so they can hopefully avoid running out. They want to do an Apple Brandy with Sturgeon Spirits someday.
Mark Stanek has a Helles almost done. Two variations ready to keg next weekend. Also has a Jalapeño Mead in bottles that Chuck has sampled and approves of.
Scott’s Pear Wine is three weeks out yet for bottles. Has a Great Lakes Xmas Ale clone for the Christmas Party if it gets done in time.
Brett brought a Vienna lager. It was brewed with a four year old who had some fun incidents that lead to an extra hour of mash rest. Despite that, it was good!
Our regularly scheduled December meeting will be our SOB Christmas Party! It will be on our normal Wednesday meeting night, December 21st. It will be at Fifth Ward Brewing Company and it will start at 6pm. We will do the gift exchange like in the past. If you would like to participate please bring a gift in the $20-25 range. We’ll do a potluck again, so bring a dish to pass and the club will provide the meat. Beers to share are always encouraged. If you plan to attend the Christmas party, please sign up HERE. As a side note, Scott is working on getting the club competition trophies updated to bring to the Christmas Party.
A few club positions are coming up for elections in January so we will use the December Meeting/Christmas Party for nominations. President, Secretary, and New Member Coordinator are up for nominations. Scott would like to say he will not be seeking re-election to President nor will accept nominations for it. He wants everyone to know there is nothing to read into, he committed to Mike when he left that he would help transition the position for two years and then got us through COVID. He isn’t going anywhere and will still be brewing!
The Barrel Club will be getting together on December 18th for the members participating. Tentatively at 1pm (subject to change). Logan will be back from the fatherland to participate!
Fond du Lac Brewfest
The SOB’s have signed up to be part of Homebrew Alley at the Fond du Lac Brewfest. If you want to take part, get brewing and let us know! There will be an award for best Homebrew Club Booth. People’s Choice Homebrew winner will be brewed by Ooga in Beaver Dam!
The Board is working on the calendar for next year. If members have ideas for topics or field trips let us know. Speaking of, Jody is open to doing a wort share again at Bare Bones. It’s been a good time in the past and to see everyone’s variations. We’ll keep you updated as to when that will occur.
Sturgeon Spirits Tour
Karl Loewenstein is a professor in Russian/Soviet history. Six to seven years ago he started playing around with a still in the garage. His wife was afraid he’d blow the house up, so the garage was next best. He enjoys bourbons as well as making them. Since Karl is a state employee he can retire at 55 and he’s 54. His kids are grown and he’s ready to do something new. A new retirement hobby! Oshkosh doesn’t have a Craft Distillery yet and he loves all the experimentation of distilling. It’s been almost a year since he closed on the building and getting everything all setup. He was planning to do this before COVID but that blew everything up, fortunately not literally. He was looking for a building and found this building that still has a cabinet maker in a small part. The whole structure is concrete, walls, floors, joists, which is great for when the Fire Marshall came to visit. It also helps when making spirits in case there was an accident. The size of the building worked out great, around 5500 sq ft. It leaves some room to scale up. His spring break this year was tearing down walls. Sledge hammers were flying. Equipment was ordered in November 2021. Has three stills and is running into some supply chain issues. For example, the garage door is supposed to be glass but they gave him a sympathy door for now to use that is just a standard one. Right now he has vodka and gin at the distillery. He will have more but as we all know it takes time for the rest. Karl said that craft distilling is growing and spirits are set to overtake beer in market value over the next few years. Craft Distilleries are starting to take a bite out of the big guys just as smaller breweries have to the large ones. The bar top was new as of our visit. The boards/beams came from the old Appleton Tractor Factory that helped hold it up. Karl is a big proponent of reuse. The tin under the bar is an old shanty he stripped down. The hall has boards from the Waite Grass Carpet Company that was on Custer Ave and is now apartments.
Karl himself is not a sturgeon spearer but has always admired the experience and took his kids out to watch fish come in for weighing. His house was built by sturgeon poachers. They ran an ice business but always had more fish than ice according to the neighbors. The house used to get raided but they had an insider in the Oshkosh Police Department who would tip them off. It was a nice house built in 1932, which who builds a nice new house in the middle of the depression? Criminals obviously.
Up front is his 40 gallon still he plans on using for education classes on Saturdays. Something he wants to work with people like us potentially. Keep an eye or ear out for that.
Karl to report to the TTB all his plans for the building and every lock and all, anyone who has had to deal with them understands this. Has a cool water tank and hot water tank as well as a mash tun. He uses mostly corn but also barley and ryes. When that is done mashing he pumps it over to one of his three fermenter tanks. He has a control panel to circulate water to the tanks. From there it goes into the still. He boils the mash and it goes up through the copper top and into the condenser. This goes through the baskets to get up to 95% alcohol and then reduces it down. He uses a reverse osmosis system for his water. For storage he has an H3 room which is fire proof to put all his 50%+ alcohol in. This allows him to not need sprinklers overhead. For his barrels and aging he plans to use an old shipping container. Apparently it’s good for expansion and contraction here in Wisconsin with our temperature swings.
All of his equipment is electric. Karl helped personally design all of his equipment and even traveled to China to work with the manufacturer on it. He wanted to get something made in the states but again, with supply chain issues he had to go where he could get it. Along those lines, while looking for bottles he had to buy 5000 bottles sight unseen just to get some on time. Fortunately, they have worked out.
For production, he can do 800 bottles a week if needed but would probably need more fermenters. However, he said he’d be going nuts if he was producing that much! Karl has been talking to distributors about distribution. He can’t self-distribute like some of the smaller breweries can.
Karl mentioned he would be open to doing whiskey with beers with us. Possibly hire out the equipment and do educational things and experimentation.
Right now he is looking for some bar help. Tasting Room hours will be 12-8pm, Wednesday to Sunday once staff is lined up. May just be weekends until then. He doesn’t want to be open later and come across as more of a bar. Wants the type of crowd who enjoys coming to taste the spirits and drinks, not just to get rowdy.
Currently has a sturgeon photo contest running to win a bottle, see his Facebook page if interested.
Lastly, here’s a look at our upcoming meeting locations:
December – Fifth Ward (Christmas Party)
January – Fifth Ward
February – Fifth Ward
If you’ve made it this far, please give a big thanks to Matt Saunders next time you see him for taking exceptional notes during the meeting while Michael was out of town!
Happy Thanksgiving! See you in December!