The Howard is a historic and elegant event space located in the heart of Oshkosh. The building, built in 1927, hosts private and community events. On Thursday and Friday evenings, the basement of the venue opens up to the public for bowling, craft beverages, and...
Brews on the Bay takes place on select Wednesdays throughout the summer. Each event includes live music, yard games, discounted train rides, food trucks, and, you guessed it, beer. The beer garden is located in Menominee Park in Oshkosh at the Kiwanis Shelter. Simply park between the volleyball court and soccer fields. Then head toward the gazebo and take the footbridge that runs alongside the train across Millers Bay. At this point you’re sure to see, hear, and maybe even smell, all the fun.
Wisconsin has a strong history of brewing and enjoying beer. The Fox Valley is home to many unique craft breweries. On a lazy summer afternoon, it’s a nice treat to enjoy a cool ale out in a beer garden. With such a strong brewing culture in the Fox Valley, I was surprised to learn that there has not been a beer garden in Oshkosh for almost 150 years! Brews on the Bay is a summer time pop-up beer garden in Menominee Park that is putting an end to this beer garden dry spell.
The first thing my husband and I did was head to the food trucks. This evening there were two options for our meal. The first was a Nosh Fox Valley favorite, Caribbean Taste! (To read more about their delicious offerings click here, or here!). The second food truck was Zoua’s Fresh Egg Rolls. Don’t let the name fool you. While they do have some fabulous fresh egg rolls, the rest of their menu is also sure to please!
We decided to share their special for the day which was chicken fried rice and a choice of two egg rolls or five crab rangoons. We chose vegetable egg rolls and sprung for two stuffed chicken wings as well. Each item was fresh and flavorful. The chicken fried rice was stuffed with veggies and generous pieces of chicken. The egg rolls were crispy and light, with a sweet and crunchy vegetable filling. I had never had a stuffed chicken wing before but after trying these I think I’m hooked! The chicken wings were loaded with similar filling to the egg rolls and the skin was crispy and perfectly seasoned. The only thing missing from our meal was a refreshing beer!
The beer garden offers a few tried and true Wisconsin standards such as New Glarus Spotted Cow and Staghorn Octoberfest. However, we were more interested in the stuff made in the valley. If you’re interested in having a beer make sure you bring cash. All beverage purchases are cash only. If you’re like my husband and I, you may or may not need to run to an ATM before indulging.
Each of the four featured breweries chose a beer or two to showcase that evening. Fifth Ward brought their incredible hazy IPA, Haze it or Love it. Fox River came with their crowd pleaser Blu Bobber and new comer White Bobber pineapple wheat. My husband and I decided to try the two beers that were new to us: Bare Bones’ Chiquita Limon Cervesa and Omega’s Obe-Wan.
The Chiquita Limon Cerevesa was quite delicious. It has the backbone of traditional American lager with the addition of key lime and sea salt to give it a summer time vibe. It was an easy drinker and cooled us off in that late August sun.
The Obe-Wan is a delicious wheat ale. It has a beautiful rich brown hue, which is unique to what I’m used to for a wheat ale. It was smooth and balanced. The taste was creamy and malty. I’ll definitely be keeping my eye out for this one in the fall.
To the side of the shelter where the beers are sold, is the hidden gem of the event. The Society of Oshkosh Brewers, or SOBs, set up a few tables and gave out free samples of their homebrews. As we sampled, we talked with John Schaefer, a member of the society. He told us about his experience with homebrewing and the organization. His excitement and passion for the craft was evident. I was blown away by the bold and balanced flavors in the beers. We sampled the What is This? Rye Pale Ale, crafted by father and son duo Curt and Kyle Clark and Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Ale, brewed by Kurt Weina. Both rivaled the beers for sale around the corner. This year, the Society of Oshkosh Brewers is celebrating 30 years as an organization. If their members continue cranking out beers this good, I have a feeling they’ll be around for another 30 as well.
You cannot ignore the jovial atmosphere as you enter the event grounds. As we walked about, beer in hand, we saw families dancing to the polka tunes, couples playing bags, and friends catching up at a picnic table over a round. Every Brews on the Bay event features a different musical guest. That night Copper Box Duo was providing the entertainment. Copper Box Duo covered a few rock, pop, and folk classics with a polka twist. They had people up out of their seats dancing and singing along. It was a great atmosphere for people of all ages. While there are a few picnic tables available, if you plan on staying awhile to eat, drink, and enjoy the music, I recommend you bring your own chairs or a blanket to sit on.
As the sun set, my husband and I looked out over the festival and admired all the craftsmanship that went into the event. From the upbeat music to the homebrewed creations to the delicious food, every vendor there was putting their heart and soul into their craft to serve their community. And if that wasn’t enough, proceeds from the event go to help renovate the Menominee Park Children’s Amusement Center. There is one more Brews on the Bay this summer. Come on out Wednesday, September 8th and enjoy some great local food, beer, and so much more.