Shiner brewery making special Oktoberfest beer with a whiskey twist

The producers of Shiner have been making waves this year in a bid to remain Texas’ most beloved beer brand, but the biggest one will roll in next month, just in time for Oktoberfest celebrations.

Spoetzl Brewery is returning to its small-batch roots with the limited release of Spoetzl Märzen, a German-style lager with a special, oaky twist — the beer was aged in barrels that formerly housed Balcones Distilling’s single-malt whiskey. It marks just the second time the 109-year-old brewery has collaborated on a beer with another booze business, as well as the second time Shiner beer has come in bomber-size bottles. Spoetzl Märzen will release in 750 ml bottles Oct. 1.

Though also a lager, it’s a far cry from the ubiquitous Shiner Bock that Texans can find in just about any bar and liquor store across the state. And it’s meant to be that way, as part of Spoetzl Brewery’s new small-batch program.

The program is “a new, exciting project that pays tribute to our founding father Kosmo Spoetzl,” Tom Fiorenzi, director of brewing at Spoetzl, wrote in an email. “Using the brewery’s original, handcrafted methods to brew our award-winning beer, the program has been lots of fun and a great way to get back to our small-batch brewing roots.”

The decision to collaborate with Balcones Distilling, which makes eclectic expressions of Texas whiskey in Waco, was an easy one for the brewery.

“Barrel-aging is wildly popular (in beverages) from beer to coffee, not to mention the original way to make a märzen-style lager,” Fiorenzi said in a news release. “For this reason, it was great to work with our friends over at Balcones Distilling, the most awarded Texas whiskey, as the tannins from whiskey-soaked barrels naturally increase the clarity of the beer while also imparting a unique roundness and incredible color to the beer.”

Under the Shiner label, Spoetzl releases an award-winning märzen, also called an Oktoberfest beer, every fall. Featuring German-grown Hallertau hops, the beer is a faithful homage to the traditionally Bavarian style that originated, dark and malty, as an autumnal brew that had spent the summer months lagering in cool caves and cellars. The märzens of today are typically lighter in color, medium-bodied and contain a heavy, characteristic malt spice.

RELATED: Spoetzl Brewery, maker of Shiner beer, is now open on Saturdays

Shiner’s new version of the märzen, produced with the brewery’s semi-new small-batch system, isn’t just barrel-aged — it’s also made from a slightly different recipe than the seasonal Oktoberfest brew.

“This one is a märzen on steroids: higher alcohol level, different grain bill,” Spoetzl brewmaster Jimmy Mauric said.

Yes, a much higher alcohol content — Shiner’s Oktoberfest clocks in at 5.7 percent ABV, whereas the Spoetzl Märzen is a robust 11 percent ABV. A copper-orange color, Spoetzl Märzen is also vibrant, well-balanced and full-bodied, with notes of caramel and oak from the barrels and a lingering finish, according to the news release.

Shiner beers like the Bock, the grapefruit-forward Ruby Redbird and the Christmas staple Holiday Cheer have made an indelible mark in Texas in their 12 oz. bottles, but Spoetzl has made strides of late to stay front of mind for fickle, trend-obsessed craft beer drinkers. The Wicked Juicy IPA debuted in cans last month, on the heels of limited-edition releases like the Dewberry Tart Ale.

With the barrel-aged märzen in particular, “the goal is to be innovative and try different things, and you can do it in small-batch samples and have more tender loving care with it, just to see the interesting flavors that these barrels can have when mixing with the beers. It’s going to be really something to taste the big array of flavors,” Mauric said.

MORE: Your guide to Central Texas breweries, distilleries and cideries

And, according to Balcones Distilling’s head distiller Jared Himstedt, the Spoetzl Märzen won’t be the last time the two boozy Texas icons collaborate: “We look forward to continued collaboration with them in the future,” he said in the release.

Starting Oct. 1, Spoetzl Märzen will be sold at specialty retailers across Texas for a suggested price of $14.99. It’ll also be poured at “cultural and epicurean events throughout the state” during its limited time on the market — and we’re thinking that phrasing in the news release means you just might see it at Oktoberfest events, where it will no doubt pair best with bratwurst and polka music.

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