Photos: A look inside The Starkeller – Schell's sour beer brewery

The Starkeller is like a rural speakeasy.
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The Starkeller – August Schell's brewery for its sour beer program – is filled with history. 

The brewery opened in New Ulm, across town from the historic Schell's brewery, back in March. It was formed around Schell's brewmaster Jace Marti's Noble Star series of Berliner Weiss sour beers.

Here's a look inside: 

And you can thank some old, wooden tanks for the delicious Noble Star beers.

Schell's commissioned the 10 cypress tanks back in 1936 and used them for nearly 60 years before putting them in storage, with the thought they'd never be used again.

"They were obsolete pieces of brewing equipment. It was old technology, but for whatever reason we kept them," Marti told GoMN. He noted that other breweries at the time cut up the wooden tanks and sold them as firewood, or people cut them in half and used them as hot tubs.

Ahead of the Schell's 150th anniversary in 2010, the brewery thought it'd be fun to make a beer using the tanks. They were in pretty rough shape though, and they couldn't get them repaired in time.

So they rethought things a bit and decided the tanks would be great to make sour beers in, Marti explained. They restored one of the tanks and started Noble Star series, and after seeing some success they began restoring the rest and decided to open The Starkeller.

The big thing with sour beers is they use a different process – including wild yeasts – that can contaminate regular beers, so it was important for Schell's to have two separate production areas for its sour beers and lagers, Marti said.

Sour beers have become less rare among Minnesota craft breweries recently, even though they're not cheap or easy to make.

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