The Free Press, Mankato, MN

November 3, 2012

New Ulm taking on play about beer

By Brian Ojanpa
Free Press Staff Writer

NEW ULM — That beer-centric New Ulm would feature a play about beer, complete with audience beer-drinking and beer-hall songs, should come as a surprise to no one.

Except maybe Paul Warshauer.

“The surprise is that no one’s done it before,” said the New Ulm Actors Community Theatre member who penned the dinner theater production.

It’s called the “History of Beer, Part I” — Warshauer’s already promising there will be a Part II — and he said it’s going to be a three-act trip down beer-memory lane that will include shout-outs to ... ancient Sumerians?

“They invented the straw,” Warshauer said.

In the Sumerian brewing process, the “good stuff” ended up settled beneath a layer of fermentation leavings. An enterprising Sumerian stuck a hollow whatever through this nastiness to reach the vein of amber gold.

It wasn’t strip-mining; it was sip-mining.

Warshauer said his beer-history playwright muse manifested itself when he moved to New Ulm a year ago and recognized the hugely obvious.

“I realized that beer and Schell’s are pretty big here.”

Schell’s, of course, being the historic New Ulm brewery whose products will be part of the play, will work this way:

Between each act Nov. 10 audience members in the Turner Hall Rathskeller will be served a meal course paired with a selected brew. What goes well with beer-battered chicken? Schell’s Oktoberfest, apparently.

Warshauer has a role in the seven-actor production.

“I play Caveman No. 2. He’s very similar to Barney Rubble.”

Warshauer said lore has it that beer was discovered by one of these knuckle-draggers who, for whatever reason, scooped up the liquid ooze from a pile of rotting barley and gulped it down.

The play will end with the audience joining in for a call-and-response German drinking song.

“By that time they should all be loosened up pretty good,” Warshauer said.