Discover the long, peacock- and hobo-heavy history of the beloved Texas brew
After decades of wetting the whistles of all the people in Texas (even the ones who don't own whistles), Shiner, the sudsy pride of the Lone Star, is finally taking things a little more nationwide -- it's just now available in New York and Philadelphia. And while you may think you know some things about the brew, we figured it was wise to offer a crash course on Shiner's lengthy and sometimes insane history, so you can go ahead and mess with Texas. Or just show general interest in it! Or something.
- Shiner is old as really old balls. It was created over 100yrs ago, making it the oldest independent brewery in the Lone Star State. The original brewery was founded in 1909 by a group of Czech and German immigrants who settled in the (then) new city of Shiner, Texas. They were very creative.
- Today, the city of Shiner has a population of only 2070, all of whom are very proud to live in the Eagle Scout capital of Texas.
- The original Shiner Brewing Association recruited the boringly named Kosmos Spoetzl as its first brewmaster. He apprenticed for three years in Germany and worked for eight at the Pyramid Brewery in Cairo, Egypt, before moving to San Antonio in search of somewhere with better climate and less hieroglyphics. He joined Shiner, and, less than a year later, bought the whole damn brewery. He swears he didn't rob any pyramids while in Cairo.
- During Prohibition, Spoetzl made ice and near-beer to survive financially -- his was one of only five Texas breweries to weather the 18th Amendment. Many people claim Kosmos was making real beer for farmers on the sly the whole time. (Here's a bunch of them celebrating the return of legal booze. Can't you just taste the happy?)
- Spoetzl bought some land near the brewery to raise cows and sheep, but he also kept a menagerie -- yes, a menagerie -- of peacocks, deer, and other animals, presumably for his employees who liked drinking too much around wildlife. The animals even ran wild on the brewery grounds from time to time, as you can see in this photo of some out-of-control cattle.
- Spoetzl promoted his beer with the help of the Shiner Hobo Band. The group was formed after WWI and its members dressed in mismatched, patched clothes whenever they performed. Spoetzl would follow the band during local parades, giving out Shiner beer along the way like a very enabling Santa Claus. The band got a keg for each performance. (The partnership continued after Spoetzl's death in 1950; here's the 1957 version of the Shiner Hobo Band.)
- Shiner has lots of ties to the Texas music scene. They hosted a major music festival dubbed "Bocktoberfest" from 1994 to 2006 and have dominated TX concerts since the '70s. That domination started when the then struggling company started up Austin distribution -- initially by loading up some Austin-bound vans with Shiner and literally selling them out of the back to
easily corrupted childrenlocal beer enthusiasts. The brand blew up and became available for $1.50 at the legendary Armadillo World Headquarters, where acts ranging from Willie Nelson to Bruce Springsteen played.
- When Heineken became the official sponsor of the Austin City Limits Music Festival in 2008, shutting Shiner beers out, Shiner's ad agency McGarrah Jessee made koozies that looked like Shiner Bock cans and gave them out to festival-goers to slip over their Heinies. Creative defiance never insulated so well.
- Country singer Jason Aldean had to change the lyric, "Swing by the quick stop, grab a little Shiner Bock," from his song "Take a Little Ride" to "Swing by the quick stop, grab a couple Rocky Tops," once he signed an endorsement deal with Coors. So much for the love train, bro!
- Before Shiner finally came to NYC, Hill Country Barbecue Market owner Marc Glosserman wrote letters to the brewery, accompanied by some lovely smoked brisket, begging them to get a New York distributor. He was getting up to 30 requests a day for the beer from customers (who were presumably also pissed about the shortage of brisket).
- Shiner Bock is to crafters what "Total Eclipse of the Heart" is to karaoke singers. Wanna read by the light of a Bock? There's a lamp. Wanna smell like the stuff? There's a soap. Wanna swing from fixture made of the beer bottles you just housed? There's a chandelier.
- People are also really into baking with Shiner beer. They put it in cupcakes, brownies and bread, which you can make by following the handy above tutorial.
- Shiner has popped up on The X-Files, The Hangover, Breaking Bad, and most recently in The Big Bang Theory. It also got some primo product placement in the season six episode of Weeds, when Zack Morris does filthy things to Mary-Louise Parker. Take that, Red Stripe on Dexter!
- By now, it should be clear that all sorts of people love Shiner, but even animals are susceptible to its powers. Just ask this fox, or these very hammered dogs.