Few in Texas are strangers to the magic alchemy of malt and hops—or even its most celebrated local manifestation, Shiner Bock beer. It’s served up in saloons, restaurants, cafes, and honkytonks across the Lone Star State, indeed, even in a few of our own STAG stores. But while certainly delicious and ubiquitous, the beer is much more than just another tasty craft brew. It’s a living piece of Texas history, and one of the few survivors still left in America from the golden age of brewing that occurred before Prohibition.
The Spoetzl Brewery, which produces Shiner Bock, was founded in 1909 as the Shiner Brewing Association. At the time, Texas was home to a large community of German and Bohemian immigrants who had started settling in the region in the aftermath of the 1848 revolutions that rocked central Europe. They brought more to America than frankfurters and sauerkraut—they carried over an ancestral knowledge of lager brewing as well, and they founded breweries wherever they landed. The Spoetzl Brewery was one of thirteen that existed in Texas prior to the onset of Prohibition, and one of only several that actually managed to survive it.
What makes the Shiner Bock beer that the brewery still produces so unique, however, is the fact that it actually is a bock-style lager. After the dry years of the 1920s, the handful of American breweries that remained in operation generally resigned themselves to selling a lighter, more watery style of pilsner beer. It was both cheaper to make and easier to market. The Spoetzl Brewery was an exception, though, and they continued to offer a darker, richer, and older style of German bock beer—first on a seasonal basis, and later, year-round.
And the rest, as they say, is history. So next time you’re at a STAG store in Austin or Dallas, crack open a nice, cold Shiner Bock, and taste what American beer was like back in your great-grandfather’s day. We’ll be sure to keep ‘em on ice for you.