Back in December the Minnesota beer world was shaken by the accusation that the August Schell Brewery of New Ulm was, according to the Brewers Association, not producing “craft beer” but rather “crafty beer.” Well, it wasn’t precisely headline news, but it was still a big deal (kind of). I mean, Schells is the second oldest family-owned brewery in America. I have rested in the shadow of the brewery listening to a polka band celebrate their 150th Anniversary (admittedly the memory is a bit blurry due to their product). They brought a horse-drawn wagon covered with flowers and beer barrels. These are my people! You can’t just call them… “crafty.” Right?
The problem here does not stem from the fact that one of the big beer companies owns Schells or that they themselves grew to the size of one of those companies. It comes from the fact that they consciously add corn to their beer. Not because it’s cheaper (which it isn‘t), not because it adds some effects to the beer (which it does), but because of pure, unadulterated tradition. Their family recipes demand corn, because in the time they were written that’s an item they had no choice but to use. Ironically, the category they were kicked out of by the Brewers Association was “Tradition.”
So what has Schells response been? Well first they wrote angrily at the Brewers Association. Then they shifted the nomenclature. The brew from New Ulm is no longer “Craft Beer,” but rather “German Craft Beer.”
Friends, it’s time for an intervention.
Schells, we love you and so much of what you do. We love what you have done with Grain Belt, the best cheap beer in the world. We love your brewery and its estate, a paradise in the woods. We love your parties and promotions, especially the one at the Renaissance Festival. We love the fact that you want to keep to the family traditions.
But we don’t love your use of corn in beer.
It tastes like a trashy addiction. It takes what often seemed like a good idea and recipe, and sells it short. Your forefathers envisioned a future for you that they could not provide themselves; they never really wanted to put corn in the beer, but they had to, because they had to make beer. Now you have reached a time where all the materials they wanted are at your fingertips. Do you honor them by clinging to their limited ways? No. You honor them by making the beer that they would have made had they been able.
I don’t care about the Brewers Association or the Craft Beer label. The only reason you should ever add corn to your beer is if it makes it taste better. August Schell, I know you can do better, but I’ll love you regardless.
Photos via: August Schell Brewing
The personal views expressed in this post are the writers’ own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Minnesota Connected or its sponsors.