Nestled below the triangle of Houston, Austin, and San Antonio is the old Czech-German town of Shiner, home to a beer by the same name crafted at the 101-year-old Spoetzl Brewery. Currently owned by Carlos Alvarez of Gambrinus Brands, the Spoetzl Brewing Co. of Shiner, is the last of the original Texas breweries. Their classic Shiner Bock is a God given blessing.
The original brewery was founded in 1901 amid an Austrian, German, and Czech farming community near the railroad tracks on the banks of Boggy Creek.
The early efforts did not go well and the brewery was leased to Oswald Petzold and German brewing craftsman Kosmas Spoetzl in 1914.
Carrying a family recipe for a Bavarian beer made from pure malt and hops, Spoetzl began to produce beer in wooden kegs and bottles. The following year, Spoetzl purchased the brewery. After 1916 the beer was packaged in glass returnable bottles; aluminum kegs were first used in 1947, nonreturnable bottles came in 1958, party kegs in 1964, and cans in 1970.
During Prohibition, the brewery produced ice and near-beer and, and according to some sources, regular beer as well.
After his wife’s death in 1921, Spoetzl considered returning to Bavaria but was convinced by his daughter to retain the business.
With repeal of Prohibition in 1933, the business resumed, with the introduction of “Texas Export,” a new product later known as “Texas Special” beer. Sales were made within a 100-mile radius. Over the next decade the company added a new bottling room and brew house, and in 1947 Spoetzl constructed the white brick Alamo-style plant still in use to this day.
When Kosmas Spoetzl passed away in 1950, his daughter Cecilie (known as “Miss Celie”) became the only woman to own a brewery in America. Her daughter Rose joined the firm in 1964.
The Spoetzl family control ended with the sale of the brewery in 1966. The “little brewery in Shiner” then changed hands several times. In 1989, Spoetzl Brewing Co. was purchased by the current owners, Carlos Alvarez and the Gambrinus Company, importers of Corona Beer and owners of craft brewer Bridgeport Brewing Co. in Portland, Oregon.
The brewery has been active in the local community throughout its history and sponsors chili cook-offs and other festivals. A state historic marker was placed at the brewery site in 1971, and the company later opened a museum and gift shop there.
Until the late 1970s and early 1980s, the bulk of their sales were confined to the San Antonio-Austin-Houston triangle. Gradually, the sales area grew to cover most of the state of Texas. Today, Shiner is distributed in over 40 states.
In the 1970s and 1980s the brewery’s Shiner Beer and Shiner Bock had less than one percent of the Texas market. In 1983 Spoetzl produced 60,000 barrels of beer; in 1990 only 36,000. Sales improved after Carlos Alvarez of San Antonio acquired the brewery in 1989: Production grew to 100,000 barrels in 1994, and over the next ten years, production nearly tripled.
Upon arriving at the brewery we’ve given four wooden nickels.
The story of the little brewery in Shiner and the wooden nickels continues tomorrow…
Texas Spoken Friendly
Without question, the greatest invention in the history of mankind is beer. Oh, I grant you that the wheel was also a fine invention, but the wheel does not go nearly as well with pizza.