Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Oshkosh Beer Sampler 21: Schell's Maifest

A slanted and endless survey of what’s pouring in Oshkosh, tallied one beer at a time.

What: Schell's Maifest, a traditional Maibock, or Heller Bock. This is a strong, golden German-style lager brewed by the August Schell Brewing Company of New Ulm, MN.; established 1860.

Where: The only place I’ve seen this in Oshkosh is at the north side Pick n’ Save where they’ll deal you a sixer of it for $6.99.

Why: Because it’s probably the best Maibock available in Oshkosh and at this price you definitely can’t beat it. Besides, today is May Day and you ought to go with a beer that celebrates the occasion. As the German’s say, “Tanz in den Mai!" ("Dance into May!"). And this is a beer that will get you dancing. It’s pours to a lovely, deep gold with a puffy white head that hangs in there until the end. The aroma is bready and grainy and of clean malt. The flavor is just the same with a hearty burst of bitterness that comes charging in at the end. Sporting 6.7% ABV, it’ll add a good kick to your polka around the Maypole. Seriously, this is a wonderfully satisfying beer from a brewery that deserves a lot more respect than it gets.

Speaking of Getting No Respect: The Brewers Association, a group the advocates on behalf of America’s Craft Brewers, decided a few years back that Schell’s Brewery is too déclassé to be included among their ranks. Their reasoning is that Schell’s uses “non-traditional” ingredients, i.e. corn, in some of their beers. I’ve never heard anything so dumb. Being the Brewers Association, you’d think they’d know a thing or two about traditional brewing practices; the legitimate use of adjuncts; and the role these ingredients have played in developing a distinctly American style of beer. Apparently not. American brewers have been using corn and rice in their beers since at least the 1860s and they were regularly winning international competitions with such brews right up to Prohibition. The fact that mega brewers later co-opted and abused the practice does not magically render the original intent “non-traditional.” Meanwhile, the Brewers Association seems to be just fine with a brewer pouring table sugar into their beer, so long as the label is adorned by something vaguely Belgianesque. It’s a shame the BA chooses to remain so willfully ignorant of the history of the craft they purport to represent? August Schell’s most recent response to the BAs snub is classic. You can read that HERE. And if you want to go deep and long on the history of adjuncts in American beer, HERE’s an enlightening piece by Maureen Ogle.


  1. First read Maureen Ogle's linked article and then update your knowledge on the history of August Schell Brewing Company. For over 150 years Schell's has been quenching local thirst with American style lager brewed of necessity for reasons outlined by Ogle. In the last number of years Schell's has used their abundant brewing skill to create an entire stable of craft beers of nearly all styles. Does the BA expect or desire that Schell's ditch their history to make their non-adjunct list? In comparison, Dogfish Head Brewery makes terrific craft style beers, but also has a history of brewing many beers using a great many non malt adjuncts. My question remains, why is the BA is holding Schell's 150+ year family brewing history hostage to adjuncts in some of their beers while ignoring adjunct use by modern upstarts. Why is BA doing this and should we even care about them?

    1. Couldn’t agree more, Leigh. Speaking of Schell’s, just had another good beer from them: Goosetown, a German Gose Beer brewed with wheat, salt and coriander.