MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Not too many towns in Minnesota can say they have a 27-foot tall statue watching over them.

Hermann the German is hard to miss, but he’s just one part of New Ulm’s “tasteful” heritage.

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Ted Marti is a fifth generation owner of Schell’s Brewery. His great, great, great grandfather August Schell, a German immigrant, started it all in 1860 after realizing there was more money in beer than flour. Schells and Martis have owned the company ever since.

Through Prohibition — when all they could make was root beer and cola — to the time when Marti himself decided to buy Grain Belt, and then introduced a beer called “Nordeast.” He says the beer’s success was like the “perfect storm.”

“When do you introduce a beer and have people following the beer truck around to liquor stores because they can’t find it?” Ted Marti said.

Today, people can follow Schell’s history at the brewery’s museum, connected to the brand-new beer hall. Part of Marti’s job is to track down vintage Schell’s or Grain Belt signs and bring them home. It’s like walking down memory lane with a beer in hand.

(credit: CBS)

From the fifth generation to the sixth. Marti’s son, Franz, wears many hats; from keeping track of day-to-day operations, to planning for their Oktoberfest celebration. At one point, he was even in charge of taking care of the brewery’s peacocks, Bonnie and Clyde. Colorful birds have been brewery mascots since it began.

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Franz has watched his father and those before him build Schell’s into an operation that now produces 145,000 barrels a year, with more than 30 different kinds of beer.

Machines do what human hands once did, and keeping up is both challenging and rewarding.

“It’s definitely a labor of love. A lot of blood, sweat and tears goes into it,” Franz Marti said. “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

They’ve said cheers to their first century and a half. And now, Schell’s is getting ready for whatever the future has on tap.

“We’re not going anywhere,” Ted Marti said. “We’re used to good times, bad times, you know. “Lots of road blocks thrown in the way, and we manage.”

Oktoberfest is back at Schell’s this fall to recognize and celebrate more than 160 years. It takes place Saturday, Oct. 9. In addition to beer, visitors also get a pretzel and a brat.

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Click here for more information on Oktoberfest, the history of Schell’s, and their tours.

John Lauritsen