Friday, September 30, 2011

Brewer of the Week

The year is 1860, and immigrants are flooding into the US. The Civil War is still a year away. Germany won't exist as a nation state for another 11 years, and only then after giving the French a bit of a spanking. The British Open is played for the first time, near Ayr in Scotland, and in New Ulm, Minnesota there is a new brewery.

Having been born in the Schwarzwald area of Baden-Württemberg, August Schell was one of those immigrants and on realising that good German style beer was difficult to find in the New World he set about making it himself. Much like the pioneers of today's craft beer movement. 151 years later, the August Schell Brewing Company is the second oldest brewery in America.

Name: David Berg
Brewery: August Schell Brewing Company

How did you get into brewing as a career?

After working in the avionics industry as an engineer for 8 years, I decided it was time for a change in my life. I had been homebrewing for a number of years and I really enjoyed it. So, I decided to go to brewing school.

When I graduated from the American Brewer’s Guild in 1996, I accepted the head brewing job at Water Tower Brewing in Eden Prairie, MN. I brewed there until 2002, and then I took a job as head brewer at Bandana Brewing in Mankato, MN. When I was laid off in 2006, I accepted the job as Assistant Brewmaster at August Schell Brewing.

What is the most important characteristic of a brewer?

Attention to details.

Before being a professional brewer, did you homebrew? If so, how many of your homebrew recipes have you converted to full scale production?

Yes, I did homebrew. I wouldn’t say any of the recipes were necessarily converted to full scale production, but rather that any beer I’ve brewed (as a homebrewer or professional) has influenced subsequent beers.

If you did homebrew, do you still?

I haven’t homebrewed since 1996.

What is your favourite beer that you brew?

I really like the concept of our winter seasonal, Snowstorm. The style changes every year, and it’s always our most anticipated seasonal. As the tagline goes “Much like snowflakes, no two Snowstorm beers are alike”

If you have worked in other breweries, which other beer did you enjoy brewing, and why?

I enjoy the process of brewing, so it’s not necessarily about the particular beer you are brewing.

Of the beers you brew, which is your favourite to drink?

That’s a little like asking which child is your favorite! I like them all and drink them all. But, if I have to choose which one I grab for the most, I’d say Schell’s Pils.

How important is authenticity when making a new beer, in terms of flavour, ingredients and method?

It’s important to a point. However, with technological improvements in malting and brewing over the years, it’s probably equally important to understand why certain methods were historically used. In the end, it’s about the flavor of the beer in the glass, not how you got there.

If you were to do a collaborative beer, which brewery would you most like to work with and why?

That’s a tough one, as I have a lot of friends and folks I respect in the brewing industry. However, if I had to choose one, I’d go with Yuengling. Think about it, the two oldest family owned breweries in the US collaborating on a beer. The beer websites would hate it!

Which beer, other than your own, do you wish you had invented?

Probably either Anchor Steam or Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. Both those beers were forerunners of today’s brewing industry.

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