I have been a Shiner Beer fan for 30+ years, back to when I lived in San Antonio and was introduced to Shiner Bock. In addition to living in San Antonio for 10 years, we have visited Texas countless times since we moved to Georgia in 1995, but it was never convenient (or a priority, I guess) to make the pilgrimage to the small town of Shiner.
Well, earlier this week, we finally did! We checked the brewery website for tour times, then Google maps for bus parking, then finally, called to ask if they had parking suggestions. The very helpful lady who answers the phones suggested we park across the street in front of a cement plant and offered a whole lot of other interesting information about the brewery and the small town of Shiner. We planned our overnight stops to ensure we could get to Shiner by 10:30 AM without being stuck in Houston traffic, and off we went.
We arrived at the Spoetzl Brewery with plenty of time to browse the gift shop, watch a brief video of the history of the brewery, and enjoy the large live oaks on the lawn outside.
The brewery began in 1909 on this very spot, started by a group of German immigrants who missed the hearty beers of their homeland. They hired an experienced brewmaster from the old country, Kosmos Spoetzl, and he began with Shiner Premium, a lighter lager. All these years, I did not know that Shiner Bock, though it was the beer that put Shiner on the map, was not the original brew. Interesting story about Bock. The Germans fasted during lent, so they wanted a beer that had a little more heft for that 40 day period. Who needs food when you have Shiner Bock? 😉 So Kosmos created the soon to be famous Bock beer, but only produced it in the spring of each year for lent until the 1970’s when demand dictated that the brewery begin producing it year round. Yay!
Shiner beer and the Spoetzl brewery fell on hard times in the late 1980’s, and fortunately were saved by the Gambrinus Company, the family-owned company based in San Antonio. The employees are proud to proclaim that Spoetzl is the oldest independent brewery in Texas.
Inside the gift shop, you will also find the taps where the staff is happy to provide each 21 and over patron with 4 3-oz samples of their wonderful beer! I asked if we were allowed to bring our beer on the tour and they assured me that it was not only allowed but encouraged, to do so! 🙂
The tour gathered in a hallway and reviewed the brewing process pictured above, and our guide talked about the general timeline of the several additions and many improvements implemented over the 100+ years. Demand for the product is strong, and additional improvements are in the planning stages at the brewery now.
Sorry about the photo quality, but it is tough to get good shots through the thick glass. The above photos show some of the plant’s robots. The two on the left were not in operation at the time of our tour, but the one on the right performed a spectacular ballet of grasping empty kegs from a pallet, flipping them over, loading them on a conveyor belt where they are cleaned, filled, and then returned to the robot, who then places them on another pallet for filled kegs. Fascinating! The guide also pointed out that the robots save the employees the back-breaking parts of the work, and as a bonus, the employees learn to program the robots, thus adding skills to their portfolios. It seems that they don’t do that in order to leave Spoetzl, however. The company’s longest-tenured employee had 64 years, and many families have multiple members working there. The plant runs 24 hours per day, 5 days per week, with Saturday and Sunday reserved for family and faith. The benefits are generous, and the perks include beer! Oh wait, we’re retired, LOL.
The above photos show part of the bottling and canning process. All automated, and incredibly efficient. The plant produces the majority of the beers in bottles, but they are also now producing 12-, 16-, and 24-ounce cans! All their packaging comes to the plant printed and flat, and giant machines form and then load the six-pack and case boxes, with the latter called “mother boxes”. 😉
Larissa explained that though copper fermentation tanks are traditional, the last addition included stainless steel due to its ease of care, relative to copper. Apparently, copper degrades with human touch due to the oils in our skin, making them less durable.
Following the tour, we retired to the picnic tables on the lawn with our beer samples. If you look closely, you can see Koko Moto waiting patiently across the street outside the entrance. 🙂
We really enjoyed our long-delayed visit to the Spoetzl Brewery in the small town of Shiner. It was certainly worth the wait! And the beer still brings back many happy memories of Texas for us both.
Thanks for tagging along with us as we head west. More news on our plans to come!