If you enjoy a cold beer on a hot day and you happen to be in or traveling near Shiner, Texas, you are in luck.
The K. Spoetzl Brewery is the oldest independent brewery in Texas. The story of how it came into existence is both interesting and educational. It is the heart of Shiner, Texas and is located between Houston and San Antonio. Shiner, dubbed the “Cleanest Little City in Texas,” is all of 2.4 square miles. If not for the brewery, Shiner would not have survived as more than a ghost town.
Shiner, Texas was settled by 300 original families of German and Czech decent. They were immigrants who migrated there securing land through a Spanish land grant. During that period of history the borders between Mexico and Texas were disputed over for many years. By the time they settled there the land was in the hands of Texas. The original immigrants were thirsting for home. They missed the sights and tastes of home including the Bavarian beer they were used to drinking in the old country.
Their desire was to bring a little of the old country’s taste to the new world they settled in. The Shiner Brewing Association was created in 1909 and the “Little Brewery” was brought into existence for that very purpose. The first style of beer they made was called Shiner Premium. In 1913 they introduced their first seasonal beer called Shiner Bock.
In 1914 Kosmos Spoetzl, who was born, raised and trained as a brew master in Bavaria was recruited to become their first brew master. Kosmos brought his own old world recipes and his experience with him. After obtaining a partnership with Oswald Petzoid, he made a deal to lease the brewery building and equipment for one year with the option to buy the property. In 1915 he upgraded the equipment and exercised his option to buy the building. He started the process to brew his own original recipe. In 1916 he started using returnable glass bottles to bring his beer to market. He did well until 1929 when the 18th Amendment was passed that made it illegal to make alcoholic beverages in the United States and brought his work to a standstill.
With prohibition in force the “Little Brewery” was forced to change their product line to birch beer and ice, to survive at all. Although, it was rumored that he continued to produce the beer but only sold it to the local farmers. Only five Texas breweries survived by the time prohibition ended in 1933. Acting as salesman as well as brew master Spoetzl expanded his shipping territory to include the shipyards of Houston and received much needed revenue to rebuild the business.
In 1947, the brewery acquired additional land adjacent to the plant to make better use of the byproducts of the brewing industry. They started raising cattle and sheep as well as other animals, feeding the used grain to the animals to increase the brewery’s bottom line.
In 1950, Kosmos passed on leaving the brewery to his daughter, Miss Celle. She renamed the brewery after his death in his honor the “K. Spoetzl Brewery.” Things went well in the years that followed and in 1958 they upgraded to disposable bottles in place of the returnable ones they started with 42 years earlier.
In 1964 Miss Celle’s daughter, Rose, was introduced into the company. With the business growing Miss Celle could no longer continue meet the brew master obligations and the run the business so she hired John Hybner who became the longest serving brew master the company ever had from 1966-2005. The street the brewery is located on, the John Hybner Way, is named in his honor.
In 2001 the Pearl Brewery in San Antonio closed leaving the Spoetzl Brewery the last independent brewery in the state. The same year the brewery opened the Hospitality Room and changed the name of the popular beer, Shiner Honey Wheat to Hefeweizen.
In 2005 the countdown to the brewery’s 100th Anniversary was started with the introduction of the first commemorative brew, the Shiner 96 Marzen-Style Ale. In 2006 the countdown continued with the introduction of the Shiner 97 Bohemian Black Lager. In 2007 they introduced the Shiner 98 Bavarian-Style Amber and in 2008 it was a Shiner 99 Munich-Style Helles Lager with the final limited edition brew being the Shiner 100th Anniversary Edition.
All these years it was creating a great “Old Country Taste” but it was never compared to a genuine “Old Country” beer. Celebrating its 101 years of brewing excellence the K. Spoetzl Brewery and the legendary Shiner family of beers was awarded the gold medal for the Shiner Oktoberfest beer and the silver medal for the Shiner Czech Pilsner beer at the European Beer Star Awards in Nuremberg, Germany, validating the claim of the “Old Country Taste.”
The K. Spoetzl Brewery has grown to be the fourth largest craft brewery in the country and it’s still handcrafted by only 66 employees near the spot where it all started in 1909.
If you enjoy beer and the historical significance of this brewery, the town of Shiner which is a gold mine of history in itself, you will probably enjoy this area. Even though I don’t like the taste of beer I still found the process of making it interesting and worth the stop. Saints Cyril and Methodius Catholic Church is one of the Painted Churches of Texas and is located in the town of Shiner as well which makes it a two for one stop in the historical sites of Texas.
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