- Mauri Elbel Special to the Austin American-Statesman
Ask Jimmy Mauric his beer of choice and he won’t hesitate on the answer.
“Shiner Premium,” says Mauric, the brewmaster at Shiner beer’s Spoetzl Brewery in Shiner, where he has worked for 35 years. “I used to come to the brewery with my parents and watch them drinking it.”
Shiner Premium was also the very first beer Mauric ever tasted, consumed in the same town where he was born and raised. And while Mauric’s tastes might not have changed much over the years, the brewery where he’s spent his entire career sure has. Today, Spoetzl Brewery (www.shiner.com/brewery) produces 30,000 cases of beer and between 1,000 and 1,200 kegs of beer per day. Those are pretty big numbers considering they are being churned out of the tiny town of Shiner, population 2,069. What’s even more impressive is that Spoetzl Brewery ships more than 6 million cases of Shiner beer across the nation to 44 states, the Cayman Islands and, most recently Monterrey, Mexico.
Founded in 1909, Spoetzl Brewery claims to be the oldest independent brewery in Texas, maintaining operations even during Prohibition, when it kept afloat by making ice and near beer. But the little brewery has held its own in today’s competitive craft beer industry, adapting with the times and tastes of its customers, says Mauric. While you can still get a Shiner Premium, you can also enjoy an array of active beers including the newest member of the family, Shiner White Wing, a Belgian white ale with hints of coriander and orange peel.
When Mauric began his career, he was among 38 people working at the brewery, which produced 30,000 barrels of beer per year. Today, the brewmaster heads up operations alongside 120 full-time employees who still hand-craft each brew — about 500,000 barrels per year.
“We produce a lot of beer, but this is still a small environment where we are doing one brew at a time,” Mauric says.
But there is more to do than just sample the brew in the town that bills itself as “the cleanest little city in Texas.” Take a trip to Shiner, where you will discover a small town big on heritage and history.
Distance from Austin: Drive just over 83 miles southeast along an easy, straight route dotted with open fields, oil rigs and cattle and you will find yourself in Shiner.
Don’t miss: After touring the brewery, tuck into Shiner’s downtown vintage gem, Antiques, Art and Beer (www.antiquesartandbeer.com), where owner Beverly Sanders paved the way for locals and tourists to “come drink and shop” about a decade ago. As one of three bars still operating in Shiner and a local hotspot for live music, private parties and events, you can shop this eclectic spot for everything from antiques and jewelry to locally made goat-milk lotion and soap while choosing from 155 kinds of wine and 189 different beers on offer. Here, we bought a Shiner pint glass for $7.50 and got it filled with a Shiner beer for just $1 more; we also sampled a few varieties of Sanders’ delicious homemade fresh fudge. Howard’s (www.facebook.com/HowardsShinerTX) may appear to be a mere convenience store, but besides gas, fishing bait and ammo, you will also find Shiner memorabilia, a variety of beers on tap and a covered beer garden with live music on most Saturdays. The Saints Cyril & Methodius Catholic Church, listed in the National Register of Historic Places, is another main attraction in Shiner. The nearly century-old landmark draws visitors from around the world with its red brick Romanesque Revival style architecture, majestic murals, magnificent painted interior and stained glass windows imported from Bavaria. The Gaslight Theatre, Shiner’s opera house and social center from 1895-1927, has been restored to its original beauty and now puts on impressive amateur productions several times a year. Other historic sites to check off your list include the 1895 Louis Ehlers Cigar Factory, located across the street from the old City Hall, and the Edwin Wolters Memorial Museum, which tells Shiner’s legacy through interesting historical displays.
Eat here: Grab a sausage kolache for breakfast or a plate of fried chicken for lunch at Friday’s Chicken & Pastry, open seven days a week from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. The casual eatery also bakes its own pies and serves an array of hearty country-style meals and locally famous burgers like the Friday’s Big Daddy and Friday’s Cock n Bull. Werner’s Steakhouse (www.wernerssteakhouse.com) is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week, offering hometown favorites like chicken fried steak, seafood, salads and Italian dishes. It’s Shiner’s only sit-down restaurant serving alcoholic beverages.
Stay here: Old Kasper House Bed & Breakfast (www.oldkasperhouse.com), built in 1906, is located just a stone’s throw from downtown Shiner and features an array of Victorian-inspired rooms, homes and cottages. For a quiet getaway, head to Henkhaus Country Inn (www.henkhauscountryinn.com), a country-style weekend home in a peaceful setting. The Shiner Country Inn (www.shinercountryinn.com), just three blocks from downtown, boasts affordable rates ($54-$62), clean rooms and high-speed Internet. Pick from the Shiner Blonde or Shiner Black private bedroom/bathroom suites at Shiner Hillside Guesthouse (www.shinerhillsideguesthouse.com), a revamped 1892 farmhouse turned bed and breakfast for just $69 per night.
Always free: Take a free tour Monday through Friday at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. accompanied by four complimentary tastings at Spoetzl Brewery. While tours aren’t offered on weekends, you can still sample four free tastings of Shiner, shop for souvenirs in the gift shop and watch a video of the brewery’s history every Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Kids will love: Delight the kids with a sweet treat at Licorice and Lemon Drops (www.licoriceandlemondrops.com), Shiner’s old-fashioned candy shop that boasts more than 300 kinds of nostalgic candies plus a variety of made-from-scratch goodies. It’s the only place in Shiner — and most parts — where you can still buy something for a penny. After the little ones are sugared up, let them run it off at Green-Dickson Municipal Park, a 148-acre facility on the northwest edge of town featuring children’s playgrounds, picnic areas, lighted tennis and volleyball courts, fishing and a baseball/softball complex. Welhausen Park, a smaller, one-square-block park, is in the heart of downtown Shiner boasting a bandstand, historic monuments and a playground.
Famous festivals: Shiner’s most famous festival is its annual Half Moon Holidays, a two-day celebration complete with a parade, band, food vendors and fireworks display taking place on July 4 and 5 this year.
Not-to-miss nearby: On your way to or from Shiner, make a stop in Lockhart, “the barbecue capital of Texas,” where four barbecue establishments including Smitty’s Market and Black’s Barbecue bring roughly 250,000 people a year to eat in the town.
For more information: www.shinertx.com