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Lucy Saunders
4230 N. Oakland #178
Shorewood WI
53211 USA
@ site name

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Bock Fest and Fasching
August Schell Brewing Co. and New Ulm, MN

"Fasching in February" sounds like an accidentAntlers and costumes mark the Bock Fest at Schell's - photo by Lucy Saunders involving ligaments torn in a winter storm.

But in fact, Fasching is a crack-up of another kind, a big costumed carnival, the German version of Mardi Gras, and one last loop-dee-do before Lent.

And no where in the world is loopiness more evident than in New Ulm, Minnesota. About 90 miles southwest of Minneapolis, New Ulm is a town built according to the orderly plans of its first German settlers, and funded by the richness of farmlands.

Large mansions, lined with carved woodwork dating from the 19th century, overlook the Minnesota River which borders New Ulm. Some Victorian manses are B&Bs, such as the elegant Deutsche Strasse. Owners Gary and Ramona Sonnenberg are truly hospitable hosts - from lending me a pair of mittens when I lost mine, to making me muffins for a 6AM departure - so kind.

New Ulm has lots of festivals, plus access to Flandrau State Park, for cross-country skiing or hiking. Browse through the little shopping mall of antique stores and boutiques, anchored by a classic Glockenspiel.Schell's Brewery sits in a deer park in New Ulm, MN - photo by Lucy Saunders

But it is the brewery of August Schell, built upon a ledge abutting a forest in 1860, that most evokes the 19th century's affluence. Dark red brick decks out the brewery, which includes a German country home, situated in a forested deer park. The original brewery was expanded for the large modern bottling line. A brick carriage house was turned into a cozy museum featuring Schell's century-plus of memorabilia. The gift house is a former residence, a lovely brick cottage with a small front porch.

In February, the Schell brewery grounds accommodate about 3,000 beer-lovers for the annual Bock Fest.

These are serious beer-lovers - the antler-clad young man pictured above had managed to down about 11 glasses of the special Fest bock beer (limited to ABV 4% for public permit) by the time I got to the fest grounds at 3 pm. Brats as headress - photo by Lucy Saunders

Later that day, his headress
antlers dangled buns and brats, edibles that no one dared touch, let alone eat.

Bock brats are made with ground pork and spices marinated in Schell's beer, stuffed into casings, and then grilled over a charcoal fire.

Sauerkraut is extra.

One of the festive rituals of Bock Fest is the poking of the beer with a red-hot iron, laid among fiery logs logs until glowing hot.

The bock beer is caramelized by a plunge with a hot iron poker,Bock and fire - a warming plunge - photo by Lucy Saunders and can be a warming, even restorative beverage as the snow begins to swirl around you

The bonfires stay stoked to keep the chill away....

Bock Fest 2003 will take place on Saturday, March 1, 2003. Zicke Zacke!


After the bock fest ends at 4:30, the Fasching party continues at the local taverns. Wooden masked Narren dancer in New Ulm, MN - photo by Lucy Saunders

Masked Narren dancers in costume visit the taverns and dance for the crowds.The Narren masks were imported from Steinhilben, Germany (Learn more about them at www.heritagefest.net)

Pictured at right, one dancer hops to live polka music at the Schnitzelbank Stube. The stube boasts an ornate mahogany bar, with carved feral faces, backlit by tiny lamps to create the illusion of staring eyes.

And there's excellent German food at several restaurants downtown. Weary fest-goers find sustenance in gigantic platters of ribs at the Veigel's Kaiserhoff. You can get a full selection of Schell's at the bar, including the doppelbock on tap - a luscious brandy-like beer that is much smoother on draft.

August Schell not only brews their own wonderful lagers, but also contract brews lager specialties such as the Burnham Pilsner, for the Three Floyds Brewery in Indiana.

It's a mode of survival that should bring Schell well into its second century of operation.

For more information, visit www.schellsbrewery.com, www.newulm.com for general information, or the B&B at www.newulmtel.net/~glsonnen/deutsche.html.

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