A koozie in the Spoetzl Brewery gift shop demands, “Eat meat. Drink beer. “That pretty much sums up any nice trip to Shiner, a city about 80 miles southeast of Austin that’s home to roughly 2,000 souls and the famous brewery that produces the iconic Shiner beers.
For meat, options abound along the route to Shiner. For lunch, consider stopping at Lockhart for some of the best barbecue in Central Texas. There’s Smitty’s Market, where the line starts right next to the open pit and the ‘taco is served on sheets of paper, old-school style, like the best barbecue in Texas. (Smitty’s also serves Shiner beer, but the restaurant only accepts cash, so come prepared.)
Other celebrated Lockhart options include Black’s Barbecue and Kruez Market. There is also City Market (cash only here) and Luling Barbq, literally face to face in the city of Luling.
The brewing part of this adventure naturally occurs most deliciously at Shiner. Czech and German immigrants founded a brewery here in 1909 after discovering artesian water. Bavarian Kosmos Spoetzel bought the operation, named it himself, and continued to use traditional methods as his brewmaster from 1914 to 1950. Today, Spoetzel is one of the largest independent craft breweries in the country, selling beers in all 50 states and in Mexico, every drop of it made here.
That water is key, says Jimmy Mauric, current brewmaster.
“Beer is 93 percent water, so local water makes Shiner special,” he explains. “The water is pristine, not chlorinated, and we use the well water only for our beers and soft drinks.”
Other ingredients used in the brewery include roasted barley malt grain, a special blend of hops, and three types of yeast, including two proprietary strains. For its seasonal beers, the brewery sources specialty ingredients, such as peaches and blackberries, as much as possible locally.
A tour of the brewery is a must. Tour packages start at $ 15 for guests 21 and over, $ 10 for guests under 21, and run approximately every hour, from 11 am Monday through Saturday and 1 pm on Sundays. The last tour is at 4pm every day.
You’ll see a history video, a stop at a kitchen where the guide explains the brewing process, a look at shiny copper fermenters, and a wall of caps of all retired employees since the company began registering. Plus, you’ll get a short visit to a simulated fermentation tank to watch a creative video on that process and the little yeast that powers it.
An overlook overlooks the massive bottling line where iconic brown bottles ride on moving conveyor belts, piling up like traffic on I-35. The last stop is a classic honky-tonk bar, walls covered in historic photographs and a display case of the different seasonal specialty beers that the brewery has released over the years.
The tour ends with beer tastings, which you will definitely be craving right now, and visitors can purchase a pint (or two) of their favorites while enjoying respite at one of the picnic tables on the extensive lawn outside.
Other local must-see stops include Howard’s, at 1701 N. Avenue East, which looks like your typical gas station convenience store in every small town, but actually offers plenty of wonders, including draft beers and a charming beer garden on the street. backside that often features live music.
Choose from several hundred beers at Antiques, Arts and Beer, each served with complimentary peanuts and popcorn. The historic 1911 building features tin and barn wood walls, art and antiques, and, to the rear, a covered pet-friendly deck.
It’s worth a photo stop at Shiner’s Saints Cyril and Methodius Catholic Church. The Romanesque Renaissance-style red brick church, dedicated in 1921 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, features a spectacular altar backed by a painted mural, statues, and stained glass. Take a look inside and feel free to offer a prayer of thanks for Shiner beer.