When we headed north to New Um, Minnesota for Oktoberfest, we planned on drinking lots of beer. But the highlight of our trip was a tour of the August Schell Brewing Company.
Founded in 1860, Schell’s Brewery is the second oldest family-owned brewery in the United States. The brewery has a rich history and offers a wide variety of German craft beers against the beautiful, wooded backdrop of New Ulm. We toured the brewery the day after its Oktoberfest festivities and enjoyed the ride up the winding hillside and changing autumn leaves. Our tour began in the Museum of Brewing where we learned about the Schell family and the history of the brewery.
Schell’s Brewery was founded by August Schell, a German immigrant and one of the founders of New Ulm, Minnesota, and his partner Jacob Bernhardt. In 1860, Schell built his business on the banks of the Cottonwood River, which provided a clean water source and the refrigeration needed for brewing. The Schell family also built their home on the grounds of the brewery. The home still stands today and is used as office space.
Shortly after the brewery opened, the Dakota Conflict threatened the safety of the town of New Ulm. However, the Schells returned to the brewery to find their business had been spared because of their friendship with the Dakota people.
When August Schell retired in 1885, he built a mansion on the grounds of the brewery. To this day, the president of Schell’s Brewery is the only person allowed to live in the house. Our tour guide told us that today the mansion is mostly used for meetings because the current president lives off-site.
In 1895, the Schell family purchased a solid copper kettle that could brew 110 barrels in 45 hours. This $25,000 investment significantly helped increase the brewery’s production even though it took two years to assemble. The giant kettle remained a part of the brewery’s production process for 116 years.
Despite Schell’s ongoing popularity, the brewery’s history hasn’t been without its struggles. In 1919 when Prohibition outlawed beer and drove many breweries out of business. For Schell’s, it was root beer and candy that helped save the family business during the dry years.
Passed down through six generations, Schell’s has produced more than 100 different varieties of German-inspired beers. Following our tour of the grounds, we returned to the taproom to taste a few of them. It’s also important to note that the only way to visit the taproom is while on a brewery tour.
During our tasting we made new friends at the taproom’s long, communal tables and sampled six of Schell’s brews, ranging from classics to limited-edition seasonals. We especially enjoyed the Firebrick, a Vienna-style amber lager, and the seasonal Schell Shocked Grapefruit Radler. After the tasting, visitors are able to choose another pint to wander the grounds with or enjoy outdoors on the taproom’s patio.
Fun fact: The Schell’s family crest is a white-tailed stag which appears on the brewery’s Deer Brand beer, its oldest recipe at 106 years old.
If You tour Schell’s Brewery
Whether you’re a craft beer connoisseur or more of a casual sipper, touring Schell’s Brewery is a great afternoon activity. Not only will you learn lots about the history of the brewery (and its relation to New Ulm), but you’ll also be able to sample a wide variety of Schell’s beers. We had a blast exploring the beautiful, historic grounds and appreciated the family backstory our tour included.
Be sure to arrive a few minutes early as tour tickets are offered on a first come, first serve basis!
Admission: $5 per person (ID required)
Tour Schedule: Fridays: 1 & 3 pm / Saturdays: 12, 1, 2, 3 & 4 pm / Sundays: 1 & 2:30 pm
August Schell Brewing Company, 1860 Schell’s Road in New Ulm, Minnesota
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I would love to hear from you! Do you frequent breweries when you travel? Have you been to Schell’s Brewery?