Thursday 11 May 2017

New Ulm

After the bottle-leaking disaster, I’m forced to review my clothing policy. Yesterday’s shirt doesn’t look too filthy. It’ll do for today as well.

There’s a long drive ahead of us, so Kristen picks me up early. No time for breakfast. Not even a cup of coffee.

We’ve plenty to talk about during the drive. Not all of it beer-related.

Kristen’s sons is already thinking about which of his three choices of national team he’ll play for. His father seems more interested in which would make the most amusing headlines. Like “England humiliates England” should he play for Hungary. Though you could pick any random country. Really any random country. FFS Iceland beat England. And were the better team.

The peacocks are a bit of a shock. Not just their screechy cries. Also that they were up in the rafters of a roof. Who knew the things could fly? Their feathers look to be purely for amusement purposes only.

We’re meeting Jace Marti, one of the brewers at Schells. But he isn’t answering his phone. While we wait Kristen and me take a spin through the small museum. When we get to the display of coopering tools, Kristen says: “They used some of these when fixing ups the vats in the Starkeller.” How cool is that?

I notice a lot of people named Marti in the family photos. George Marti married a granddaughter of the founder August Schell and became manager after both her mother and brother died in quick succession in 1911. Members of the Marti family have been involved in the brewery ever since.

When Jace turns up we have a quick chat before heading over to Turner Hall for a spot of lunch. Which I could definitely do with. Not having eaten since yesterday.

On the way over, Kristen explains what Turner Hall is. The founders of New Ulm were a group of German immigrants keen on promoting physical and mental health. Which explains the classroom and gymnasium in the hall. At first I wondered why they had the English name Turner. Then I twigged: they Anglicised a German term. The official name of the group running Turner Hall is the New Ulm Turnverein.

Being Germans, the founders remembered to put a Ratskeller in the basement. It’s decorated with murals of idyllic German scenes. Evidently they’ve only recently been restored, having been painted over at the end of WW II.

While we eat, Jace explains about Carlsberg and Tuborg yeast. Basically all modern bottom-fermenting yeasts are derived from either the one or the other. What a nerdy conversation.

Once lunched, we pick up coffee and head for the location of my talk: Starkeller. It’s not such a cellar as a barn. And is where Jace runs his sour beer programme. Stars of the cellar are 10 massive cedar vats, which used to be in the main brewery before being removed decades ago. After years of disuse they were recently repaired and put back into commission.

While we prepare for the event, Jace lets me try several of his Berliner Weisse variations.

Luckily the projector box does contain a VGA cable. Yippee! I’m all connected.

It’s an MBAA meeting, with me as featured speaker. Usually, I’m pretty calm before speaking. Bit nervous, this time. As it is an audience of professional brewers, mostly, I’ll be talking to. And it’s a few years since I gave this talk on German sour beer styles. I hope I can remember all the muscle and fat that fills out the skeleton of the slides.

There is one heckler. Kristen, obviously. He pulls me up when I mention that the acidity in Adambier probably came from Brettanomyces.

“No, that doesn’t produce so much acidity. Probably Pediococcus.”

Bastard. I’m sure he’s right. I’ll remember for next time. If there is one.

Talk talked, I vainly try to flog some books. Despite attendance of around 100, I only sell one. Disappointing doesn’t do it justice.

We return to the main brewery for dinner. It’s right over the other side of town. I can understand why Jace’s father didn’t want it too close, what with all the bugs knocking around.

The food consists of a steak the size of a tablecloth, a potato bake thing and broccoli salad. As much meat as I usually eat in a fortnight. And a half. Or so. A lot of meat. Very nice, but an awful lot of it. I regret having that burger for lunch. Should have had something smaller. And not bothered with the chips. Oh well, lesson learned.

After eating we tour the brewery. Which is compact and packed full of interesting old stuff. Unfortunately, it’s raining quite heavily. And we start outside. I wrongly assumed this morning that I wouldn’t need my coat. I’m getting rather wetter and colder than I care for. It’s mostly warmer inside the brewery. But not everywhere. It varies up and down dramatically, depending on the function of the particular room. Probably going to catch my death.

After the tour, we have another beer and everyone starts to melt off into the night. As Kristen and I do.

It pisses it down all the way back to Minneapolis. Just as well we’re in a car. Seeing as I have no coat.

I’m looking forward to tomorrow. It’s a free day. No events, no meetings no nothing. Going to be wonderful. And I’ll remember my coat.

New Ulm Turner Hall
102 S State St,
New Ulm,
MN 56073.
Tel.: +1 507-354-4916

August Schell Brewing Company
1860 Schell's Rd,
New Ulm,
MN 56073.
Tel.: +1 507-354-5528

The Starkeller
2215 N Garden St,
New Ulm,
MN 56073.
Tel.: +1 507-354-5528

Master Brewers Association of the Americas

Buy my new Scottish book. It's why I was in the USA.


Anonymous said...

National team of which sport?

Ron Pattinson said...


surely that's obvious in the context? At which sport did England recently lose to Iceland?

Lee said...

Ron, Anon may be American and not know of real sports?