Greetings, everyone, and thanks for visiting! When last we met, I was on my way out of La Grange, heading out on State Highway 77, which under normal circumstances is a straight shot pretty much all the way to Corpus Christi. If you are a regular reader of this blog, you will also know that nothing in my life ever seems to end up being a straight shot. It's usually more along the lines of off the wall and into a corner pocket. This trip was no exception. As I headed south on 77, I came across a lot of traffic. I found this unusual for two reasons: one, it's La Grange, and I seriously doubt those folks have a rush hour to speak of, and two, there was no traffic coming in the opposite direction. I looked further up the road, and would you believe it, there was a rock slide and a jack-knifed 18-wheeler blocking traffic in both directions. I decided that this was a sign for me to find another way.
Somehow I made it to Interstate 10 and drove along, pondering what to do, since my GPS was staging a mutiny and had about a fifteen minute lag time. (Yeah, thanks, Google.) I decided to just head south and see what happened. I mean, I was destined to hit the gulf eventually, right?! Or Mexico? Anyway, south I headed out into the great wilderness of south central Texas. I have to say, it was a lot prettier out there than I anticipated. I drove through some teeny tiny towns, then further and further out into the boonies until.... dun dun DUNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN! I spotted a sign that said "SHINER 39 MILES". For all you beer fans out there, this is a GOOD THING. I decided to make my way to Shiner, Texas and get my bearings, and possibly check out the brewery of my all-time favorite adult beverage.
I have to say, 39 miles is a lot further out in the country than it is in Dallas. My inner monologue started wondering if I'd ever get there, and even the Billy Joel channel on satellite radio was starting to wear on my nerves. Just as I was starting to give up hope, there it was like a beacon in the night: the little old town of Shiner, Texas. Be it known, gentle readers, that my mutinous GPS was of little to no help in finding my way around town. You would think it would be easy to find a brewery in a small area, but you would be wrong, especially if you are directionally challenged like I tend to be. I eventually made my way to the Spoetzl Brewery and gratefully parked my dusty vehicle to behold the entrance in all its glory:
Ah, yes! The Spoetzl Brewery! Home to Shiner Bock and other tasty brews. I meandered on inside, not really knowing what else to do. As luck would have it, there was a brewery tour starting in a few minutes, so I just hung out and waited for it start. In the mean time, I tried some Shiner Strawberry Blonde, which was super tasty. Below are some pictures from the tour of all the modern equipment from the brewery and bottling operation. Enjoy!
Fun facts about the Spoetzl Brewery and Shiner beer:
1) The brewery has been family owned and operated since 1909, although it changed hands from the Spoetzl family to the Alvarado family. Mr. Alvarado still adheres to the family traditions that have been around since the turn of the twentieth century.
2) The employees at the brewery get very good health benefits. The tour guide said she only had to pay $60 a month for her's and her family's, and that Mr. Alvarado paid for the rest.
3) The employees work twelve hour shifts, some in the morning and some at night. The brewery is closed Saturday and Sunday so they can spend time with their families. AS IT SHOULD BE!!!
4) Once a month, the employees get two cases of beer for free.
5) The facility was expanded in 2016, which is what those steel wort kettles you see in the last two pictures are from.
6) They're going to start putting Shiner Bock in 24 oz cans soon. Wild!
7) I was the first person to get the first run of Shiner Strawberry Blonde. They had just tapped the first keg that morning. I call that WINNING!
8) Pretty much everything is automated at the brewery, but they retrained the employees to program the big robots so they'd still have jobs.
9) Shiner beer is available in the lower 48 states, Alaska, and some parts of Mexico. They don't have Shiner in Hawaii yet, but they're working on it.
10) Until Mr. Alvarado took over the brewery in the late 1990s, Shiner beer was only available within a seventy mile radius of Shiner, Texas. Three cheers for expansion!
After the brewery tour, I did a little souvenir shopping, had another small glass of Strawberry Blonde, then gave my two remaining beer tokens back to the lady behind the counter, because I had to drive. For those of you who are concerned, yes, I went and took a short nap, then had some carbs and some water. Gotta drink responsibly, people.
In the next installment, I finally make it to Corpus Christi, then on to Port Aransas to fulfill my mission to find out how those good folks are progressing since Hurricane Harvey. Stay tuned!