OSHKOSH (NBC 26) — A UW-Oshkosh professor is taking his passion and turning it into a special business that connects history with unique drinks.
Sturgeon Spirits will be the one and only craft distillery in Oshkosh. It's a project that's been years in the making and is almost ready to come to fruition.
"Probably going on five or six years ago, I just got interested in distilling. And so I started doing it kind of casually and for fun," said Karl Loewenstein, Sturgeon Spirits owner and creator. "Then I began thinking about the opportunity it presents to Oshkosh and to me."
That's when Loewenstein, an associate professor of history at UW-Oshkosh, decided to bring his love for distilling to life.
"It makes me really excited for, in many ways, my second career," Loewenstein said.
The COVID-19 pandemic temporarily put a pause on the project. Then, one year ago, Loewenstein said he found the perfect building for Sturgeon Spirits, located at 2663 Oregon St.
"I found this building and it was time to do it," Loewenstein said.
The craft distillery will combine specialty drinks with pieces of Oshkosh history, which will include historical artifacts and fun facts about the city's past. It'll also feature the famous sturgeon, to which Loewenstein said he has a personal connection; he lives in a house that was built by sturgeon fishermen.
Loewenstein's tie to sturgeon will show at the distillery through a bar made out of an old ice shanty.
"When somebody like Karl comes forward with a business idea that in and of itself is a destination, we could not be more excited about it," said Amy Albright, Oshkosh Convention & Visitors Bureau executive director.
With the addition of Sturgeon Spirits to Oshkosh, Albright said they can now create a special brewery-distillery trail for tourists.
"This is something we do not have in our market right now: a distillery," Albright said. "We know people will travel to visit distilleries. We know people that are already here, this will enhance their experience. We can't wait for it to open to be honest."
Loewenstein said Sturgeon Spirits will begin selling clear liquor, such as vodka and gin, while they age whiskey and bourbon in barrels.
Some of the vodkas will eventually include fruity flavors made with fresh ingredients from Loewenstein's own backyard.
“I’ve been putting away cherries. I’ve been putting away apples. Our freezer at home is full of products that we can use to make all these cool hyper-local products that we can sell here," Loewenstein said. "It's really about the experience that you will find nowhere else in the world except little old Oshkosh.
The distillery is set to have a soft opening on Oct. 1.