We’re highlighting Minnesota’s 100-plus craft breweries with our flight series – four short questions for the people behind the beer. This week is The Starkeller.
The Starkeller Brewery opened in New Ulm back in March as August Schell's expanded it's sour beer program. The brewery was formed around Schell's brewmaster Jace Marti's Noble Star series of Berliner Weiss beers.
Brewing sours is "challenging and there's a lot of unknown – which is maddening and exciting at the same time," Marti said.
The plan at Starkeller is to offer several rotating varieties of sour beer. It's a style that's been growing in popularity in Minnesota, with one of the lesser-known styles being Berliner Weiss.
These German-style, mixed-culture beers are described as being pretty dry, tart, and highly carbonated, with elements of wine, cider and beer. So, if you're not the biggest beer fan, this style is for you.
"You get a lot of crossover appeal – people who would never drink beer normally, it's a good thing for them to try," Marti told GoMN, noting at The Starkeller they're hoping to educate more people about sour beers.
I sat down with Marti back in June to ask him a flight of questions.
What is your biggest pet peeve of others in the brewing industry?
"Things that we can print?" Marti said with a laugh, adding: "Snobbery – there's no need to be snobbish. Beer is something that's a social element, it's meant to be enjoyed. And yes, there's room for analyzing and critiquing beers, but I think when you criticize people for their own drinking choices and kind of have this attitude about it, that's going to turn people off from brewing and from beer in general. I think that's something that bothers everybody."
What's something people would be surprised to learn about Minnesota's oldest brewing family?
"Well, I think the fact that we're making mixed-culture sour beers is going to be a shock to a lot of people," Marti said. "We're the second-oldest family owned brewery in the country – a lot of the older breweries, people's perception is kind of old and stodgy and not trying new things and that's not the case with us. We're constantly coming out with new beers and focusing on quality improvements throughout the whole brewery. The fact that we've built a second brewery solely dedicated to mixed-culture sours is something that's going to be pretty surprising to a lot of people."
What beer do you have in your fridge right now?
"I've been on the road for the past 2 weeks. I don't even know what's still in there – it's usually other peoples' beer. It's kind of how it works ... just with friends, you kind of trade beers and stuff," Marti said.
"I always like to have some sours, especially in the summertime now. I also love hefeweizens, so I do know that I have – I traded with a brewery from St. Louis at the Homebrewers Conference, so I know two or three cans of their hefeweizen – Urban Chestnut Hefeweizen. That's wonderful," he added.
In about 10-ish words, what would you tell someone to get them to come into the taproom?
"If you're looking for a unique experience, this is definitely the place to come," Marti said.