August Schell left his home in Germany’s Black Forest region at the age of 20. Finding his way to the United States, Schell settled in Cincinnati, before joining other former Germans in founding New Ulm. The south central Minnesota community would be his home for the rest of his life.
Schell worked as a miller to support the family. Unable to find a quality German beer that he reminded him of home, Schell decided to make his own. Schell founded his brewery in 1860, making it one of the 10 oldest in the country. Schell Brewery remains the second oldest family-owned brewery in the United States, behind only the Yuengling family in Pennsylvania.
The Schell Brewery still sits along the Cottonwood River. Though the river no longer acts as a transportation route, it adds to the natural beauty of the area, with trees surrounding the 157-year-old brewery.
Though I’m not an avid beer drinker anymore, I enjoy touring breweries and sampling good beer. The Schell tour provided a different take on a brewery tour. The hourlong visit started with a guide highlighting the company’s history and its leadership. A Schell descendant has always served as the chief executive officer of the brewery. Though the Schell name faded with the deaths of August and his son, his son-in-law and his descendants have led the company since.
We saw the house and garden area where August and his wife Theresa. The family lived on the campus.
Schell suffered along with other breweries during Prohibition. Following its repeal, more than a thousand breweries across the country had died off. Schell Brewery was among the few still standing.
The tour took us to the old brew house – Maschinen Haus. Schell uses a variety of brewery styles, some relying on German tradition and others take a contemporary approach to creating craft beer. The small brewery produces a large variety of beers during the year. It has about 50 employees.
Schell has been active in the community over the years. It has fielded company baseball teams, as well as a band. Al Marti (Schell’s grandson) loved music, so the company sponsored Schell’s Hobo Band.
Schell became Minnesota’s largest brewery when it obtained Grain Belt Beer in 2002. It is the oldest brewery in the state. Schell – the top-producing brewery in the state (www.bizjournals.com) – turns out nearly 150,000 barrels annually.
While brewery tourists enjoy seeing how beer is made, they love the end of tours because it means beer sampling time. Schell Brewery didn’t disappoint the nearly two dozen people on our tour. We sampled six flavors of Schell Beer, including light beer, dark and one with a strong hops flavor. Lisa and I finished our sampling with a glass of Schell’s root beer soda, which was a popular drink during Prohibition.
The Schell tour offered us a look at a brewery in a unique setting. We love that the brewery is located on the edge of town with tons of nature surrounding it. The brewery tour should be on everyone’s must-see list when visiting New Ulm.
See more about our full visit to New Ulm, Minnesota here
Disclaimer: Thanks to the New Ulm visitors bureau for the complimentary tour. However, all opinions and views are ours.