A Koozie in the souvenir shop of the Spoetzl brewery demands: “Eat meat. Drink beer. “That sums up pretty much any good day trip to Shiner, a town about 130 km southeast of Austin, home to around 2,000 souls and the famous brewery that makes the iconic Shiner beers.
There are many options for the meat along the route to Shiner. For lunch, stop in Lockhart for some of the best grilled food in central Texas. There’s Smitty’s Market, where the line starts right next to the open pit and the cue is served on sheets of paper, old-school style, like the best Texas barbecue. (Smitty’s also serves Shiner beers, but the restaurant only accepts cash so come prepared.)
Other famous Lockhart options are Black’s Barbecue and Kruez Market. There is also the City Market (cash only too) and Luling Barbq, literally across the street in Luling Town.
The beer part of this adventure happens most deliciously in Shiner, of course. Czech and German immigrants founded a brewery here in 1909 after discovering artesian water. The Bavarian cosmos Spoetzel bought the company, named it after itself and, as a master brewer, continued to use traditional methods from 1914 to 1950, brewing drops of it here.
This water is the key, says Jimmy Mauric, current master brewer.
“Beer consists of 93 percent water, the local water makes Shiner something special,” he explains. “The water is clean, not chlorinated, and we only use the well water for our beers and seltzer.”
Other ingredients used in the brewery include roasted malted barley, a special blend of hops, and three types of yeast, including two proprietary strains. For its seasonal beers, the brewery sources special ingredients such as peaches and cabbage berries from the region as much as possible.
A tour of the brewery is a must. Tour packages start at $ 15 for guests 21 years of age and older, $ 10 for guests under 21 years of age, and run approximately every hour from 11:00 AM Monday through Saturday and 1:00 PM on Sunday. The last tour takes place daily at 4:00 p.m.
You’ll get a history video, a stop in a kitchen where the guide explains the beer making process, a glimpse of shiny copper fermenters, and a wall of caps from all of the retired employees since the company started recording records. Plus, you’ll get a quick visit to a simulated fermentation tank to see a creative video about this process and the tiny yeast that powers it.
An observation deck overlooks the huge bottling line, where the iconic brown bottles run on moving conveyor belts and pile up like the traffic on I-35. The final stop is a classic honky tonk bar, walls with historical photographs, and a display case with the various seasonal specialty beers the brewery has brought out over the years.
The tour concludes with beer tastings – which by this point you’ll definitely be craving – and visitors can purchase one (or two) of their favorites while taking a break at one of the on-site picnic tables on the expansive lawn outside.
Other must-see local attractions include Howard’s on N. Avenue East 1701, which looks like your typical supermarket on the corner of a gas station in any small town, but actually offers many wonders, including draft beer and a charming beer garden in the Hinterland, which often features live music.
Choose from hundreds of beers at Antiques, Arts and Beer, each served with free peanuts and popcorn. Dating from 1911, the historic building features pewter and barn wood walls, art and antiques, and a pet-friendly covered patio to the rear.
The Catholic Church of Saints Cyril and Methodius in Shiner is worth a photo stop. Inaugurated in 1921 and listed on the National Registry of Historic Places, the red-brick Romanesque church features a dramatic altar backed by a painted mural, statues, and stained-glass windows. Take a look inside and say a prayer of thanks for Shiner beer.