NEW ULM - What Doug Hoverson doesn't know about beer brewing, particularly in Minnesota, really isn't worth knowing.
The St. Thomas Academy teacher and coach who is also a certified beer judge has turned chronicling beer and brewery history into a passion.
For someone who lives and works in the Twin Cities, Hoverson knows a whole lot about New Ulm's brewery history, and he held the attention of the Junior Pioneers crowd at Turner Hall Saturday night for an hour while he talked about breweries that had come and gone or were still around after nearly 150 years like the August Schell's brewery here in town.
Staff photo by Ron Larsen
Doug Hoverson talks about the history of beer in Minnesota at the Junior Pioneers Winter Social at Turner Hall on Saturday.
He's author of "Land of Amber Waters the History of Brewing in Minnesota," his first, 340-page effort in chronicling state brewery history. It's gone over so well he is now planning to write a similar book about Wisconsin's brewery history. With that kind of niche, the sky would seem to be the limit for that kind of book because beer is being made and consumed all over the United States and basically throughout the whole world.
"I'm lucky. I have no rejections [in getting his books published]," he said.
So, what did the Junior Pioneers group learn?
Well, they learned he is quick with a quip.
He started his program with: "My name is Doug, and I'm selling books to put my daughter through college."
They also learned that through the years in Minnesota, since before it became a state, beer brewing has been a part of the social fabric of what became Minnesota.
Probably because many settlers in what became Minnesota came from Germany and other areas of western Europe where beer making already had woven itself into the social fabric, they found that what became Minnesota was hospitable to the growing of hops which were needed for the beer making, Hoverson explained.
"Minnesota turned out to be a great place to brew beer. That's because Minnesota does have great brewing waters. The other thing [which promoted beer making] was barley," he said.
"Many of the early brewers processed their own barley, called malting. We owe a lot to those that discovered the malting process. Also, [these settlers] experimented with hops that were found in Germany. Minnesota once was a good hops growing [state[, but disease has cut into that.," he continued.
"The fourth ingredient of beer is the least understood, that's yeast. More pure yeast strains were found that promoted beer making. There were two different types of yeast - the ale yeast and the lager which is found in Germany," he noted.
"Minnesota's breweries spread west very quickly once they got started, and one of the problems in researching breweries was that they predated newspapers."
However, he did find that "at least 30 were open by the time Minnesota became a state in 1858." And, he spent a significant portion of his time telling about New Ulm's breweries. He also had photos of the style of bottles beer was bottled in back in the 1800s.
All in all, Hoverson believes there have been about 290 breweries in Minnesota since way back when, but only five breweries remain. Of course, a number of them were victims of Prohibition, Hoverson said.
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