Aug 102016
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German Craft Beer in Minnesota, Schell's Brewery

Schell’s Brewery in New Ulm, Minnesota – a museum, a tour and a tasting

(Disclosure: I was a guest of Schell’s Brewery as part of an Explore Minnesota pre-conference tour to New Ulm at the travel bloggers’ conference TBEX North American 2016. Observations and opinions are my own.)

New Ulm, Minnesota calls itself “the most German town in America.” And what would a German town be without beer? Schell’s Brewery has been in business since 1860 and is the second oldest family owned and managed brewery in the United States. (The oldest is D.G. Yeungling & Son, which has facilities in Pennsylvania and Florida.)

August Schell was born in the Black Forest region of Germany. He arrived in New Ulm in 1856. When he had difficulty finding a good German beer, he decided to make his own. He located his brewery along the Cottonwood River, where it still stands today. It was both a beautiful and a practical location. The Schells made beer in the winter time. They kept it cool in underground caverns filled with ice from the river. In spring, the river provided a means of transportation for the kegs of beer. When many other buildings in the area were destroyed in the 1862 Dakota Wars, the brewery remained untouched because of the friendship the Schells formed with the Dakota. Otto Schell, August’s son, introduced refrigeration in 1900 so they could make beer year round.

German Craft Beer in Minnesota: Schell's Brewery beer wagon

Old beer wagon on display at Schell’s

Schell's Brewery - the original residence attached to the brewery

The family lived in a house attached to the brewery. (It is now office space.)

Home on Schell's Brewery grounds

In 1885, Schell built a beautiful home on the brewery grounds, with gardens and a deer park.

Other breweries opened in the area and throughout Minnesota. They hit hard times during the years of Prohibition from 1920 to 1933. Schell’s was one the few in the entire country to survive. They did so by making near beer, soft drinks and candy.

Old water pumping equipment at Schell's Brewery

Old water pumping equipment no longer used, but can be seen on brewery tours

Water is an important ingredient in beer. An artesian spring was the original source of water for Schell’s Brewery. Eventually the spring was replaced with wells. In 1995, the brewery switched to water from the city water treatment plant. The hard water is more suited to English-style beers, German lagers and Pilsners require softer water. Schell’s performs it own water treatment.

Modern water treatment equipment at Schell's Brewery

Modern water treatment equipment

German Craft Beer in Minnesota: Museum at Schell's Brewery

Museum on site, with historic information about Schell’s and beer-making in general

German Craft Beer in Minnesota: Schell's Beer

In additional to touring Schell’s Brewery and Museum, I had a chance to sample some of its brews. There is a large tasting room on the lower level of the museum. Schell’s makes a variety of year-round and seasonal beers.  Over twenty varieties were available in the tasting room. I sampled five – Schell’s Light, Goosetown, Firebrick, Maifest and Grain Belt Lock & Dam. All had their individual appeal, but Maifest, a blond double bock with a moderate hop bitterness, was my personal favourite. Lock & Dam is a new copper lager released under the Grain Belt label in April 2016. Schell’s acquired Grain Belt in 2002, when Minnesota Brewing Company closed its doors.

German Craft beer in Minnesota: Schell's outdoor beer garden

Schell’s outdoor beer garden

Schell’s Brewery and Museum is open to the public seven afternoons a week. There is a gift store on site. There is a small fee for the brewery tours, available on a first-come basis. The Beer Garden is open on weekend afternoons, weather permitting.

German Craft beer in Minnesota

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  12 Responses to “German Craft Beer in Minnesota”

  1. I think it’s wonderful that the Schell family adjusted to changing times and conditions and kept a family legacy alive and thriving.

  2. Oooh how interesting! I’ll be saving this in case I ever make it to Minnesota! I currently live in Germany and know how August Schell felt about not being able to find a good German beer in the States. Could have been why I moved back here haha #TheWeeklyPostcard

    • I think there are likely more choices for German-style beer now in the U.S. than back when August Schell started his brewery, but nothing like you have the chance to experience in Germany, Enjoy.

  3. Apparently Mr. Schell didn’t like the beer in the States, so he decided to make his own. I like family business like this. This is what makes our country so great. We have such a variety of foods, wines, beers, basically you can experience stuff from all over the world here.

  4. I love supporting local businesses and in a diverse food and beer country like Australia it will probably only be a matter of time before these beer are available here. Thank you for linking up with #TheWeeklyPostcard

  5. I live 30 miles east of New Ulm and I love to visit frequently. It’s the most charming little town and Schell’s is such a great brand and brewery. Loved your recap.

  6. We visited New Ulm and area a few years ago. Very good beer!

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