Prosit! My Shiner Tour
I toured the Spoetzl Brewery, where they make Shiner beer, the day after a funeral for Jeanette “Red Bird” Boedeker. Red Bird had worked for the brewery for 20 years, and as tour guide Anne Raabe told us, the company used her nickname on the label of Shiner’s Ruby Red Bird specialty beer. That “flavor,” made with Texas Ruby Red grapefruit, is one of over a dozen the brewery offers today.
That’s quite an expansion from the brewery’s first production in 1909, which was aimed at satisfying German and Czech immigrants’ thirst for the beer they remembered from home. Kosmos Spoetzl, a native of Bavaria, was recruited to be brewmaster and ultimately purchased the brewery. He renamed the brewery after himself in 1915, but kept the Shiner beer name; he was brewmaster for nearly 50 years. The brewery is the oldest independent brewery in Texas and one of the oldest in the United States. Spoetzl kept the brewery afloat during Prohibition by selling ice and making near beer.
Kosmos’s descendents sold the brewery, and ultimately the Gambrinus Company, another family-owned company, purchased it in 1989. Today, the brewery—with its 125 employees—ships eight million cases of beer to every state except Hawaii. While Shiner Bock is Texas’s number one craft beer, and number four in the U.S., Shiner Light Blonde is the local favorite. What was once Shiner Blonde is now called Shiner Premium, the beer’s original name. And for weight watchers, hundreds of cases of Shiner Light Blonde were rolling off the production line during my visit.
The brewery offers free tours on weekdays. No reservation are needed, although if you have a big group, they would appreciate a heads up. My tour group included people from Denmark, Connecticut, Oregon and locals from Shiner and nearby La Grange. Raabe, who has worked for the company for 17 years, guided us through the production process stopping to tell us about Red Bird and other long-time employees; offer a brief history of Kaspar Wire Works, another 100-year-old business in Shiner; and recognize fellow tour participants who had served in the military. Among other charities, Shiner supports the Boot Campaign. (See Shooting the Bull with Jimmy Mauric, the current Shiner brewmaster.)
Raabe and other Shiner employees conduct free tours for about 90,000 people annually. Each tour participant is offered wooden tokens to exchange for a taste. I chose Shiner Light Blonde (of course), Strawberry Blonde, Cream Ale and Kosmos Reserve. I also got a tiny taste of the soon to be out of production Cold Brew Coffee Ale made with Austin’s Chameleon Coffee. I liked them all, but Cream Ale and the Coffee Ale were my favorites.
Shiner Bock has been brewed since 1913; however, it was not until 1973 that it was produced year round.
Shiner Premium is the direct descendant of Spoetzl’s earliest brew and has been called Shiner Special, Shiner Texas Special and Shiner Blonde. It was reintroduced in March 2013.
The brewhouse has copper and stainless steel vessels for beginning the brewing phase.
The strawberries in Strawberry Blonde come from Poteet, Texas.
Eleven truckloads of spent grains go out daily to a local rancher for cattle feed.
Shiner has celebrated its birthday for four months in 2017.
By the Numbers:
1,200 bottles filled per minute 1 keg* filled every 45 seconds 1,500 kegs* produced per day
8 million cases produced per year *Pony kegs have gone the way of the Pony Express; they’re now called cylinder kegs.
Green Beer: Almost 98 percent of waste is recycled.
From I-10, take Highway 95 south at Flatonia. Continue through Moulton to Shiner. The brewery is on the main road.
603 East Brewery Street.
Shiner, Texas 77984 361-594-3852
Shiner is in Lavaca County—part of the Roundtopolis®.
article and photos by Katie Dickie Stavinoha