Thursday, October 18, 2012

New Ulm Oktoberfest - Roll out the Barrel!

New Ulm is a small town in southern Minnesota, with traditions deeply rooted from the German immigrants that formed the city in the 1854. However, there is nothing small about the party that takes place two weekends a year, as the German heritage erupts into Oktoberfest. In fact, it was featured in a USA Today article as one of the 10 great places to celebrate Oktoberfest in North America. 

Get ready to Polka at the Holiday Inn, the main hub of activity for the weekend. It was obvious from the start that there were numerous veterans of the event, and the polka dancing expertise was intimidating. No way we were holding back though, and we let the authentic live music propel us around the dance floor. Though I was never sure if our "polka" (quotes because I am not sure what I was doing can be truly called polka) was interrupting the flow of carefully planned choreography, or if the tremendous energy in the movements can look natural even for a novice. Either way, no one dancing had anything but a smile.

Schell's Brewery
Progressing around town, the sound of clinking glass highlights the cheery beer drinking atmosphere at the second oldest family owned brewery in America, Schell's Brewery (Yuengling is the oldest). It was founded in 1860 by German immigrant August Schell. Operating now with its fifth consecutive generation, the brewery reflects the character of the town.

The Oktoberfest party was in full swing here with a massive tent housing picnic tables, servers in lederhosen, live music, and an abundance of beer and brats. The brewery tour itself is exceptional. The area you tour is the original grounds that are now a museum, employee workspaces, and used for showcasing only, as the actual beer is brewed in newer facilities nearby. It is an informative tour covering both the history of the company and the beer making process, and hosted by an entertaining, passionate guide. The sampling portion is no slouch. With numerous options to try and a full beer at the end, you definitely want to come thirsty. There is also root beer on hand for non drinkers and children.
Schell's Brewery

Downtown is the final site of Oktoberfest happenings. This is the best location to eat, with my favorite being the traditional German fare at Veigel's Kaiserhoff, another establishment with long family ties. Local bars have fresh Schell's on tap and some drinks with unique German twists, such as a Sauerkraut margarita that I found quite satisfying. Most people have cringed when I mention this, but it is much more like margarita flavored sauerkraut vs. a sauerkraut flavored margarita. One of those things that you have to say you tried!

Other festivals take place throughout the year, and most tend to focus on music, beer, and food to celebrate the city's German culture. I highly recommend a weekend here for one of these events, as the drive is less than two hours from the Twin Cities and costs are inexpensive.

Quoting the New Ulm website (, as they describe the city better than I could. "Settled by German immigrants four years before Minnesota became a state, today this community 90 miles southwest of Minneapolis/St. Paul offers something for everyone, from one-of-a-kind shops and restaurants to important historical sites, inviting bed and breakfasts and a steady stream of live music and lively conversation. Most importantly, it’s still a place where friends old and new are greeted with a warm welcome."
Now hopefully, this was just practice for when we do this in Munich! Cheers!

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