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What's brewing in New Ulm

Tour guide Matt gives visitors a look at the Schell's Brewery's original copper kettle, which was just recently decommissioned from brewing service. (Beth Rickers/Daily Globe)1 / 7
The Schell mansion stands on the brewery grounds, built by August Schell in 1885.2 / 7
An antique beer wagon, once used to deliver beer to customers in the New Ulm area, is on display in the Schell's museum in the brewery's visitor center. (Beth Rickers/Daily Globe)3 / 7
A newer addition to the Schell's brewery complex is the Bier Garten, open on weekends with live music on Sunday afternoons. (Beth Rickers/Daily Globe)4 / 7
Two peacocks currently live on the grounds of the Schell's Brewery. (Beth Rickers/Daily Globe)5 / 7
Memorabilia in the museum includes outfits worn by the Schell's Hobos, a band sponsored by the brewery. (Beth Rickers/Daily Globe)6 / 7
A visitor to the brewery enjoys a sample of beer on the veranda of the visitor center as part of the tour experience. (Beth Rickers/Daily Globe)7 / 7

It’s like the mother ship is calling us home.

Every year about this time, Hubby Bryan and I are compelled to hop in the Jeep and head northeast for about 90 miles. Our goal is New Ulm, an enclave of German heritage (an ancestry we share) as well as the location of the second-oldest family-owned brewery in the nation, August Schell Brewing Co.

Set on the hillside on the edge of the city of about 13,000 residents, Schell’s offers more than just a lesson on brewing beer and a chance to sample its liquid creations. Even those who have no interest in or taste for craft beer will find something compelling about this place and its history, but for those of us who do appreciate good beer, it’s a must-see destination.

The brewery has stood on this ground since its founder, August Schell, built it in 1860. Today, the brewery has been expanded, including a recent addition that almost doubled its brewing capacity. Its visitor center, built in 2006, includes a gift shop, expansive museum and Rathskeller tasting room. There’s also the family mansion (built in 1885) — no longer inhabited, but a stately presence overlooking expansive gardens that is used for company meetings — as well as a charming cottage that once served as housing for the brewery’s workers, so they didn’t have to make the long trek from town.

If you choose to take a tour, the guide will go over some of the highlights in the company’s history, including how the brewery survived the Dakota uprising of 1862, thanks to Teresa Schell’s kindnesses to the native people, and Prohibition of the 1920s. Bryan and I have heard the spiel so often over the years that we always joke that we could give the tour ourselves, but we always seem to come away with some new tidbits about the operation.

The tour ends with a tasting of Schell’s wares, including its latest seasonal beers and offerings from the Grain Belt line, acquired by the company in 2002. But I must emphasize, even though adult beverages are involved, a trip to Schell’s is family-friendly. There’s 1919 root beer — also brewed on the premises — for the kids to sample, and the history-focused tour is quite brief and not burdened by technical information. The only talk about the brewing process is during a brief stop at the facility’s original copper kettle.

When I called up the brewery this week to verify some information, I was stunned to be connected with Kyle Marti — August Schell’s great-great-great-grandson and son of current company president Ted Marti — who is currently learning the administrative side of the family business. Kyle said the visitor’s center has expanded the company’s draw as a tourist destination, welcoming between 25,000 and 30,000 people each year.

“Between that and the big boom in the craft beer market, and then the town of New Ulm itself with all the German history — it all brings in a lot of people,” Kyle said.

One of Kyle’s favorite spots on the Schell’s property is its newest addition, an open-air Bier Garten in the middle of the brewery’s gardens. If people opt not to do a tour, it provides a place for them to sample some brews as well as enjoy the tranquility of the property.

“It was new last year, and we opened it up to both Saturdays and Sundays this year,” Kyle said. “... It’s the perfect way to spend an afternoon.”

Visitors should keep an eye out for the brewery’s two resident male peacocks. If they don’t spy their brilliant plumage, they might be startled by the birds’ unique squawking. There’s also a deer park on the grounds, where a couple of new fawns have taken up residence, according to Kyle.

During the summer months, the brewery is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, with tours at 1, 2:30 and 4 p.m. weekdays; and noon, 1, 2, 3 and 4 on weekends. The Bier Garten is open from noon to 5 p.m. on weekends with live music on Sundays.

For more information, go to www.schellsbrewery.com

OTHER THINGS TO DO IN NEW ULM:

Sarah Warmka, marketing specialist at the New Ulm Chamber of Commerce, suggests checking out these other New Ulm area attractions:

HERMANN MONUMENT: Depicting Hermann the Cherusi, an ancient hero whose army liberated Germany from Roman rule in 9 A.D., the monument was finished in 1897. “You can walk all the way to the top,” said Warmka. “It’s 102 feet high, and you can see for 32 miles from up there. There’s a great interpretation center in the base of the monument.”

MORGAN CREEK WINERY: The only underground winery in Minnesota, Morgan Creek is located between New Ulm and Mankato off Minnesota 68. Current hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

THE GLOCKENSPIEL: Chiming three times a day — noon, 3 and 5 p.m. — the Glockenspiel tells the story of New Ulm through characters that rotate on a circulating stage.

HARKIN STORE: Operated by the Minnesota State Historical Society, this store served riverboat travelers along the Minnesota River from 1870 to 1901. When it ceased operation, the original stock was left in place. “Forty percent of the stock in there is original to when they shut the door,” said Warmka. It is located nine miles northwest of New Ulm.

GERMAN SPECIALTIES: New Ulm’s German roots are featured in import stores such as Domeier’s German Store and the Guten Tag House. For Old World cuisine, Warmka recommends The Kaiserhoff or Turner Hall, which has murals of Europeans scenes that were painted in 1873.

For more information, go to www.newulm.com.

Beth Rickers

Beth Rickers is the veteran in the newspaper staff with 25 years as the Daily Globe's Features Editor. Interests include cooking, traveling and beer tasting and making with her home-brewing husband, Bryan. She writes an Area Voices blog called Lagniappe, which is a Creole term that means "a little something extra." It can be found at http://lagniappe.areavoices.com/.  

(507) 376-7327
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