New Ulm, Minn. — The August Schell Brewing Co., the second-oldest family-owned brewery in the country, brewer of Schell’s and Grain Belt, is hosting its much anticipated Bock Fest, taking place on February 9th.
Bock Fest is held every year in conjunction with the German Fasching festival. Fasching, a pre-Lenten celebration, is observed in the predominantly catholic regions of German-speaking countries. New Ulm, which was settled by a heavy German populous before Minnesota was a state, has celebrated Fasching since 1979.
February 28th, 1987 marked the first Bock Fest held at Schell’s. 120 family and friends of the brewery made their way onto the brewery grounds, finding refuge in the warmth of the old tap room. Inside the bottlehouse, a small stage located next to the drop packer hosted Smiley Wilcheck and his mother as they serenaded the crowd with polka music. Festers were welcome to cook their own brat at the grill and a roaster filled with sauerkraut provided the small group of people nourishment as they drank Bock beer to celebrate the end of winter. A hefty 7- ┬¢ barrels were consumed at the first Bock Fest.
Schell’s brewery has since grown larger and so has the festival. Swarms of adoring fans of the brewery make the annual pilgrimage to Schell’s to brave the winter weather. The festival has since moved outdoors as the sizeable crowd now reaches 6,000 people. But while the size of the crowd has changed, some things have not. Bock beer is still the staple of the festival. Smiley Wilcheck, now with the Bockfest Boys, still plays the accordion for the crowd with their lively tunes. Approximately 1,000 pounds of brats (made with Schell’s Beer), and 80 gallons of kraut are dished out to hungry festers as they sing and dance the day away.
The Great Bock Hunt takes place that day in neighboring Flandrau State Park. Schell’s president and “Huntmaster” Ted Marti writes ridiculous clues for hunters to find the wooden cutouts of bock heads hidden throughout the park. Hunters that find themselves low on beer can rely on the brewery’s own set of “saint bernards” to save those ailing from an empty glass. As the Bocks are found, each is posted on stage. Legend has it if all Seven Bocks of Winter are captured, it brings on an early spring. As the fest closes, one last “Ring of Fire” —the Bock Fest anthem- is played and festers are invited to visit downtown New Ulm to continue their revelry.
About August Schell Brewing Company
August Schell Brewing Company, located in New Ulm, MN, sits atop the same site it was built on in 1860. With its sprawling grounds, beautiful gardens, Schell Mansion, and deer park, the brewery is a tourist destination for any beer lover. Schell’s boasts a proud heritage of 153 years of continuous family ownership and specializes in craft beers. In addition to the line of specialty beers, Schell’s also produces Grain Belt Premium, Grain Belt Premium Light and Grain Belt Nordeast.