Two hours west of Houston, at the convergence of US-90 and TX-95, on the edge of Texas hill country, lies the tiny town of Shiner. One of the most well-known small towns in Texas, Shiner is home to Spoetzl Brewey - the makers of Shiner Bock (among others). Ask any Texan about Shiner and they will know it. In true Oaks fashion, we had wanted to make a visit to the brewery, something that falls right in line with all of our other brewery tours. Our trip to Austin for Memorial Day Weekend, provided the perfect opportunity to finally do it.
Completely cloaked in a layer of white paint with a large green lawn stretched out in front of it, the mission-styled Spoetzl brewery is pretty unassuming. For one of the largest craft beer breweries in the US, it's surprisingly small. I'm not sure what I expected, but I know this wasn't it. We parked the car and unpacked the kids. We headed in to the gift shop to get tickets for the next available tour. Much to our surprise, the tour - and four beers each adult received - were completely free! On tap are their old standbys, but also unique, rotating seasonal brews. We each grabbed a cold Shiner seasonal and headed out to the lawn to await our tour and let Evelyn run around after sitting in the car for 3 hours.
Had we planned better, this would have been the perfect spot for a picnic lunch (well, perhaps if it was slightly cooler). They had corn hole boards, ladder ball racks, and picnic tables for guests to relax at. A couple large, old oak trees provided shade from the blistering Texas sun.
Aaron and I drank our Shiners while we waited for our tour to start. The first stop is just inside the brewery - nothing special, more of a “holding room” where there were also bathrooms and pictures of Spoetzl brewery from years passed and former brew masters. From there, we headed upstairs to the brew house where some of the original copper brew kettles were still in use. Their coppery shininess a stark contrast to the dull machined surface of the newer stainless steel brew kettles behind them. As Texas’ oldest independant brewery, Spoetzl is over 100 years old. They managed to survive the dark period in American history known as prohibition by brewing something called “near beer,” a brewed and fermented drink that was similar to beer, but contained very small amounts of alcohol.
Watching beer being brewed isn't all that exciting. The interesting stuff, well, interesting for two engineers at least, happens in the bottling facility. Standing in a large hallway lined with nearly floor to ceiling windows overlooking the bottling floor where I’m sure the employees felt like fish in a fishbowl, we watched them bottle Shiner in bottles, cans, and kegs. Even Evelyn was mesmerized by all the moving parts and the operations. Having been on our fair share of brewery tours, I'll admit that their bottling facility was impressive and massive.
After visiting the bottle facility, the tour is essentially over. We walked briefly back through the other side of the brewhouse before leaving. At the conclusion of the tour, we used the last of our tokens and let the girls burn off a little more steam before piling back in the car for a few more hours.
Tour Shiner (aka Spoetzl)
Location: Shiner, Texas! Actual address for GPS directions is 603 E Brewery St, Shiner, TX 77984
Tour Times: varies by season, but generally Monday - Saturday 11AM-3PM on the hour. More frequently if they are busy
Food: Not generally, but they have recently started having local food vendors come on Saturdays
Parking: Nearby and free, too
Kid/Pet Friendly: Kid friendly, but no pets
For the most up to date information, visit the Spoetzl Brewery website