Schell’s 150th Anniversary Beer: Hopfenmalz

Jason Walker / Heavy Table

With 150 years of experience, the August Schell Brewery ought to produce a stellar anniversary brew. Hopfenmalz was the worthy beer tapped by fans as Schell’s 150th Anniversary Beer, and it could signal a new dedication to craft-style production by the New Ulm mainstay. It’s a fitting choice for a brewery that, like its hometown, never strays far from its German roots.

A malty, bready first sip of Hopfenmalz definitely takes you to Lowenbrau country, but then up pops a perfectly measured dose of hops and some ever-so-slight citruses. The hops don’t hit you over the head like Surly Furious or even carry a mild bite like Bell’s Two Hearted, but that’s obviously not the point, and the seamless malt-hop blend is what makes Hopfenmalz so damn refreshing.

It’s not that Schell’s makes crappy beer, but they certainly don’t have a reputation for delivering near-first-class stuff. It’s the opposite of the Surly high-expectation problem: I want every new Surly to absolutely knock my socks off, and when it is merely excellent, it’s slightly disappointing. Hopfenmalz starts out subtle and keeps growing on you, to the point you realize it may be the best everyday beer in Minnesota.

France 44 Wine & Spirits beer manager Matt Fisher said my reaction to Hopfenmalz wasn’t surprising, because it’s clear the brewer is redoubling its high-quality creative efforts, like Hopfenmalz and its recent (and very solid) Snowstorm. Plus there’s the wonderfully clear-bottled Schell’s Dark, the dark lager which had been far and away their best beer and stands up against most anything Europe can offer.
It’s unclear whether Hopfenmalz will be a permanent addition to the Schell family. But Fisher says it should, because in Hopfenmalz Schell’s has found a recipe that rejects the trend of microbreweries trying to out-shock each other, making highly anticipated batches that, by walloping your tongue, throat, or both, aren’t really drinkable long term. Schell’s made a much-needed decision to go against that grain and strike a balance that even non-beer geeks can embrace.

“They did something that was really original,” Fisher says. “It was more than I was expecting. The day we tested that in the store, everybody was an instant fan… it’s flying out the doors.”

Let’s hope Hopfenmalz signals a new commitment by the brewer to expand into a more quality-driven, risk-taking model, because that’s probably what it’s going to take for the brewery to stay relevant in the crowded Minnesota / Wisconsin market. And, in hindsight, perhaps it’s not so shocking that Schell’s can make a damn good beer.


  1. SB

    There was voting all last year on the Schell website to elect a new year round beer. The winner was Hopfenmalz. Do your research please!

    Just for another point of view, I’d have to say Schell’s Dark is my least favorite. It is thinner and not as full flavored as either the Firebrick or Bock if we’re talking darker lagers.

  2. Jason Walker

    SB, there’s been no official word from Schell’s as to how long they’ll produce Hopfenmalz, otherwise experts like Matt Fisher would know. Let’s hope you’re right and it is year-round and permanent!

  3. BrianJ

    I think Schell’s has to deal with a lot negative perceptions from people who still only see it as Deer Beer but Hopfenmalz is hardly their first good craft beer.

    Stout, Firebrick and all of their seasonals are great beers and they make a solid Pale Ale and Pilsner too although I think their friends in St. Paul do both better (rumor is that Hopfenmalz will replace Pale Ale which would be welcome news to me).

    They are technically very solid brewers, witness what they did to restore Grain Belt Premium to its old lawn mowing glory.

    Pick up a Schell’s sampler some time, you might
    get stuck with a Dark or Deer Beer in the pack but you’ll also find a lot of good stuff in there.

    I’ve noticed that not many stores are carrying Hopfenmalz, other than France 44 I’ve only seen it at the Four Firkins.

  4. Jon

    It’s entirely possible France 44 has more stock, but when I went in on Saturday afternoon I took the last 6-pack of Hopfenmalz on the shelf…might want confirmation before making the trek. I can’t say I’ve sampled more than 4 or 5 brews from Schell’s but this is my clear favorite.

  5. Ryan

    I think the dark is my favorite…did the tour down there a few weeks ago and had a blast.

    Back in the day pre-revamping the combo of a golden nugget bacon cheeseburger and a schell dark was about as good as it gets.

    Can’t wait to give this a shot.

  6. s

    Wow. What a crappy article. Hey, Jason, try evaluating the beer on it’s own merits and not comparing it to Bells or Surly. You clearly know very little about beer and are just another ignorant Surly fanboy. Guess what? Not everything needs a shitload of hops or to be extreme to be a good beer.

    WTF is with the bullshit beer writing on this site?

    What’s not relevant about the beer Schells makes? Snowstorm? The stout. Any of the anniversay series. Seriously, pull your head out of your hop-sutffed ass and get a clue.

  7. s


    Did you talk to the brewer? Do any research? Your article is shoddy. You rely on some guy at a liquor store as your one and only source? WTF does Lowenbrau have to do with anything?

    On what are you basing your value judgement? Personal opinion? Other wanker fanboys who need over-hopped crap to even taste anything?

  8. Nate

    S – I think you may have had a few too many Schell’s. Lay off.

    That said, Snowstorm has been around for nearly a decade, by my count.

    Also, any article about Schell’s that doesn’t mention Maifest – the best beer ever made – is missing the beauty that is Schell’s beer.

  9. Ryan

    SB is right. Hopfenmalz is indeed Schell’s new year-round beer. It is replacing their Pale Ale, which will no longer be produced.

  10. Jonny

    Thank you for a fine review, Mr. Walker!

    I’ve been looking forward to trying Hopfenmalz for a while now, and it looks like France 44 will be the best place to find it.


  11. pp

    What a truly peculiar article.

    “…but they certainly don’t have a reputation for delivering near-first-class stuff”

    They’ve been in business, owned and operated by the same family, for 150 years because their beer is second class? That truly is remarkable.

    “It’s unclear whether Hopfenmalz will be a permanent addition to the Schell family.”

    As others pointed out, this is a rather silly statement that could have been verified by talking to someone at the brewery. Perhaps that required too much effort.

    “Let’s hope Hopfenmalz signals a new commitment by the brewer to expand into a more quality-driven, risk-taking model, because that’s probably what it’s going to take for the brewery to stay relevant in the crowded Minnesota / Wisconsin market.”

    Once again, they haven’t been quality-driven for the last 150 years, yet they are still in business? Seems hard to fathom. I’m sure, however, they will appreciate the insight you offer in staying open in the future.

  12. Jason Walker

    I was just at France 44 and they only had three 12-packs left. Better call before driving across town.

  13. s


    Nice job. Classy, when I was a foul-mouthed d-bag.

    Does Heavy Table have any standards? Journalistic or otherwise? This Schells article is pure crap by a hack with no beer knowledge.

    While real journalism dies we’re left in a void of amateurish, fannish drivel. Thank you, Intertubes, for such shit.

    Jason, WTF do you know about beer? Really? You’ve had Bells and Surly? BFD. Do you know a noble hop from a Pacific North West hop? Can you taste or smell the difference? Do you know the difference between an ale and a lager? Do you know what it took for Schells to survive prohibition? Do you know the craft beer movement dates back decades? Yes! Before Surly!!! OMFG!!!!!

    Have you had fresh Anchor Steam? Have you been to Russian River? Lost Abbey? Belgium? How about New Glarus? Done a tour of any of the local breweries? Know anything about malt or yeast?

    Get a clue, Jason.

    And, hey, Heavy Table editors: this ain’t good beer writin’. It’s hack work.

  14. Frank

    I don’t understand why sites like Heavy Table, MNBeer and Star Tribune allow comments at the end of their articles. It’s great when people can throw out a comment that’s informative, but we don’t need a critique of the writer and his relative skill or lack thereof, just because you didn’t agree with the angle he wrote the story from. If you don’t like what he wrote, get your own site. Otherwise, save us your “I’m having a crappy life” venting fit.

  15. Jonny

    @ S

    It was clear from your earlier posts that you weren’t happy with Mr. Walker’s coverage of either August Schell or Hopenmalz in particular, and yet you continue to harangue him.

    In doing so do you honestly believe that you will ‘wise him-up’? Show a little patience, man: it wasn’t so very long ago that a respected gourmet food and beverage journal such as this one would consider coverage of beer to be unfit for their publication, and we should welcome all such honest opinions on the matter, especially as it brings this beer to the attention of others outside the Craft Beer hobby.

    @ Frank

    Hear, hear!

  16. Joedon


    So the critic cannot be critiqued? While I may not agree with the tone of some of the comments (in fact, some are quite childish), doesn’t it stand to reason the credentials of the critic are of vital importance to the reader? This is, after all, not just some blog on the internet only read by the writer’s mother. It’s The Heavy Table.

    But, perhaps I expect too much. It’s just a bit disappointing the cavalier attitude toward journalism is not only rampant on the internet, but also condoned by many.

  17. CC

    “Let’s hope” these comments “signals a new commitment by the” reviewer “to expand into a more quality-driven” journalism “because that’s probably what it’s going to take for the” author “to stay relevant in the crowded” world of the online critic.

  18. Steve Wellmer

    Judging from the comments, this story would have been better written by the ghost of August Schell himself. Maybe Jason should have just let the brewery write the article for him, instead of offering his own take on the product. God forbid he actually give us his opinion on how Hopfenmalz tastes. I guess he could have bored me with technicalities that most arrogant beer snobs would cream themselves over. Instead I had to settle for an honest and non-pretentious review of a solid brew. For shame.

  19. NUBR

    “It’s not that Schell’s makes crappy beer, but they certainly don’t have a reputation for delivering near-first-class stuff.”

    Really?!?!? Based on what? Nearly every single beer they make has won a medal at the Great American Beer Festival. They make classic German-style beers that are amazing for daily quaffers. Surly and Bells make great beers, but you’re not comparing apples to apples here. It is not Schell’s intent (other than the Stag series) to do really big beers, double IPAs, etc. Even most of the Snowstorm beers have been textbook renditions of overlooked classic styles. They aren’t here to push our palettes in new directions, they are here to remind us in this market of $20 bottles of Imperial Stouts (shame on you Surly…there are others just as good out there for much lower cost) how great a normal old Vienna Style Lager can be.

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