Guest speaker gives history lesson on beer

Nikki Brahm, News Writer

Lee Reiherzer spoke in the Reeve Memorial Union theater on Tuesday where he talked about a variety of beers that were produced in the county. He taught students and the community an in-depth lesson on the history of local breweries.

Reiherzer spoke on various topics regarding the history of beer in Winnebago county such as the dangers of breweries, how beer is produced, prohibition and more.

Reiherzer said beer brewing has a long lineage behind it and that he hopes students can appreciate the beers within that context.

“This is a history you can actually participate in; this isn’t just reading about some president or something that you maybe can’t relate to,” Reiherzer said. “This is right in front of you. This is something you can put in your mouth and you can put in your body. There’s beers being brewed around here that’s part of a lineage, and you’re able to participate in that lineage. It’s not something remote.

Reiherzer said he thought it was good that the event wasn’t a 21-and-over event.

“I think there’s so much stigma now about drinking beer and stuff and I don’t think it really needs to be that way,” Reiherzer said. “I mean, sure people should drink responsibly, but this is a beverage that goes back to the beginning of human civilization. It’s something that people should know about. It should be a part of life.”

History professor Stephen Kercher said he believes local culture is something students are not really aware of.

“They might be aware of the story of prohibition on a national scale or even aware of beer making on a national scale, but to realize the rich history that we have in our own backyards I think for a lot of students is a real eye-opener and it’s a real good way for them to identify with the past because they recognize that it’s not so remote that it’s very connected to their community,” Kercher said.

Kercher said there were places Reiherzer mentioned in Oshkosh and on campus that people walk past every day.

“Who would have guessed that there was a brewery where there is a parking lot,” Kercher said. “All of these are place-based associations that I think could help us connect with history.”

Kercher said he is impressed by the technical expertise of these brewers.

“You hear about them reading these trade publications and trying to make sense of the science and perfecting a process that is really kind of difficult,” Kercher said. “To be a really good brewer on a big scale, it’s something that takes a great deal of knowledge and ingenuity.”

Kercher said many students like beer and it’s one of those things that we consume and we’re not conscious of where it comes from or how it’s made.

“It’s kind of like with food, I think young people, students in college, are being encouraged to think about where everything we consume comes from and what its impact is on the environment and on their health,” Kercher said. “Beer is sort of in that same category. It’s something that we consume unconsciously and to realize something about the development of beer, the sophistication of beer-making processes is kind of a way for them to understand.”

Kercher said a lot of learning can be done outside of the classroom, like at events such as this one.

“So if we sponsor events that draw student interests, it’s a really rich part of their whole university experience,” Kercher said.

Chemistry professor Brant Kedrowski said the event overall was very interesting and that it opened his eyes.

“It was interesting how he said one guy considered himself almost an alchemist, someone that’s more reading the technical journals and really figuring out how it all worked,” Kedrowski said.

Graduate student Klaire Laux said she didn’t know about the history of Winnebago beer before the event, although she enjoyed learning about it.

“I learned that Oshkosh has a legacy of brewing beer and getting drunk,” Laux said.