New Ulm, Minnesota Day Trip – August Schell Brewery, Buffalo, and a Glockenspiel
As we ventured off the interstate from Minneapolis towards New Ulm, Minnesota, I was reminded about how vast and beautiful the United States of America truly is. The farmlands and prairies we passed on the hour-and-a-half drive were alive with greens of a thousand different hues. Our final destination for the day was August Schell Brewery in New Ulm, Minnesota. But first, we had a few other fun stops planned to learn more about this heavily German settled land.
Minneopa State Park for Waterfalls and Bison
Minneopa State Park lives within the Glacial River Warren, which drained Glacial Lake Agassiz more than 15,000 years ago. You can still find some of the glacial traces like the banks seen from Seppemann Mill and the rather awkward looking rocks that protrude throughout the prairie.
The real reason you visit Minneopa State Park though is for Minneopa Falls (Minnesota’s largest waterfall) and the herd of roaming bison. A well-marked trail encircles the waterfall. Wear proper shoes, though. My Birkenstocks didn’t quite cut it, and I couldn’t descend as far down the trail as I desired.
The bison herd can be viewed from the bison drive with a lookout point where you can get out of the car. Note that there is no hiking within the bison drive itself for the protection of both humans and bison. Don’t forget your binoculars for a closer look at these marvelous animals in the wild (I like this compact pair from Emarth).
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New Ulm’s German Heritage
New Ulm was founded by German immigrants in 1854 looking for a place to create a “utopian German community on the American wilderness” and carries a pretty crazy history. Shortly after the town was founded, it was nearly destroyed in a series of attacks from the Dakota Indians during the Dakota War.
Not deterred by a not so minor setback, the German immigrants rebuilt. With the help of the railroad’s arrival in 1872, New Ulm was soon known for brewing, grain-milling, brick-making, and cigar-making. That’s my kind of town.
The city remained proudly German until World Wars I and II, when being German was no longer kosher. There was actually a secret commission sent by the Minnesota governor to spy on the city. Eventually, the governor had the mayor, city attorney, and country treasurer removed from office for treason.
Hermann the German Monument
Today, relics of the city’s German heritage can be found in monuments like the Hermann the German monument. The monument was built in 1897 in honor of Hermann the Cherusci, the ancient hero whose army liberated Germany from Roman rule in 9 A.D. Climb to the top of the looming monument for panoramic views of New Ulm and the Minnesota River valley.
An Authentic German Glockenspiel!
You can’t be an authentic German town without a glockenspiel, right? Don’t miss one of the glockenspiel’s performances. The twelve figurines take the stage daily at noon, 3:00pm, and 5:00pm. While the glockenspiel is more than a little cheesy, it’s good for a laugh or two as the figurines play out New Ulm’s history.
Feast on a German Lunch (and Beer)
Enough sightseeing, it’s time to start the eating and drinking. Line your stomach with a hearty lunch from Veigel’s Kaiserhoff. While the restaurant is known for the BBQ ribs, I suggest one of their German dishes like the jaeger schnitzel – breaded pork cutlets with a mushroom gravy. I can’t remember the last time I had a German dinner that authentic other than when I was in Germany. Afterwards, head on over to Turner Hall – the oldest bar in Minnesota – for a beer or two before heading out to August Schell Brewery.
Final Stop, August Schell Brewery
So, what’s the big deal about August Schell Brewery and why would you drive all the way out to New Ulm to visit the brewery. The answer is simple. August Schell Brewery is the second oldest family owned brewery in the country and that length of legacy deserves some respect. August Schell founded the brewery in 1860. The brewery survived not only the Dakota War due to the family’s friendship with the Indians but also Prohibition for reasons not discloses… Today, the brewery stands proud as a National Register of Historic Sites.
August Schell Brewery runs two breweries in New Ulm. Both are worthy of a visit. Starkeller Brewery is their sour brewery that opened at the beginning of March. The brewery has been four years in the making and is a worthy addition to craft beer’s growing sour scene. The second brewery is August Schell’s main brewery just outside of town. Here is where you’ll find their more traditional German influenced lagers along with a smattering of craft beer influenced ales thrown in. The beer garden is quite relaxing and worthy of an hour or two. The tour is also quite informative.
Make it a weekend getaway!
That’s a lot of drinking for a day trip. Why not make it a weekend to further explore the local craft beer and pub scene? Deutsche Strasse Bed & Breakfast and Bingham Hall are two quaint bed and breakfasts. Best Western Plus New Ulm is a popular budget hotel.
For additional assistance planning your Minnesota vacation, check out the Minnesota Day Trips by Theme guide book.
What would you add to this list on where to find craft beer in New Ulm?
A special thanks to Explore Minnesota for hosting the tour of New Ulm. As always, all opinions remain my own.