A draft of beer history

Dave Wendl was one of a handful of vendors at Schell’s Brewery Sunday selling beer-related memorabilia (or breweriana) during Springding.

NEW ULM — A draft of beer history on display at Schell’s Sunday.

The annual Springding brewery collectibles show hosted by The Schell’s Border Batch drew a handful of collectors to Schell’s Brewery Sunday to trade, sell and buy “breweriana.”

“Our mission statement is preserving brewing history,” Tom Terwilliger, the former long-term president of the group, said. “The goal is to put on events like this, which allow people to come together: buy, sell and trade breweriana — thus helping to preserve it.”

Springding can be thought of as a kind of swap meet, only it has brewery-related materials like cans, glasses, beer taps, advertisements and signs.

Most collectors tend to focus on a niche of items. Some collect can openers, others signs, and still others focus on brands.

Hamm’s is a popular brand due to the bear on its advertising and a nationwide reach. Schell’s is popular in the region but more scarce beyond that, Terwilliger said.

Breweriana collecting goes back to the 1930s with beer cans. Can collecting was biggest in the 1970s. Some breweries like Schell’s would put out a variety of cans to capitalize on the trend.

Differences in labels and brands and the shape of the can were points of interest for collectors to trade.

“In fact, at one time there was no money allowed when it was mostly beer cans,” Terwilliger said. “It was ‘this can is worth five of those,’ you know. Then eventually money crept into it, and then eventually beer signs started coming into it.”

Some older-style cans were cone-tops and crowntainers, which tapered near the top to a bottle cap.

“They invented these cone-tops and the crowntainers so you could run them through your current bottling line,” Terwilliger said.

Using the same bottling line saved money for many smaller brewers who did not have to purchase a new canning system or expand their existing footprint.

The style eventually fell out of favor because they could not stack as well in consumers’ fridges as flat-top cans that are more recognizable today.

The Schell’s Border Batch, a chapter of the Brewery Collectibles Club of America (BCCA), started in 1979 to fill a gap in southern Minnesota between collector clubs in the Twin Cities and ones in Iowa.

Springding Kicked off only a year or two after the chapter opened. While not the biggest, Springding is a fun show for Terwilliger because it takes place in a historic brewery.

Signs were a big item Terwilliger hit on. Everything from early 20th century cardboard to neon and other lighted signs are collected.

“Ted Marti once said ‘we are just guardians of the brewery, it is our turn to watch it,'” Terwilliger said. “That is kind of the same way with beer signs. We do not live forever but we try to get them cleaned up or restored.”

It is an irregular event, though common enough, for a person with a beer sign in their basement to show up at Springding and sell it to a serious collector.

Schell’s Border Batch puts on a few events each year, including Stubiefest in the fall and a Christmas party.

More information on the chapter can be found at their website borderbatch.com or at the BCCA’s website bcca.com.

Connor Cummiskey can be emailed at ccummiskey@nujournal.com.