Shiner Bock

Review Date 1/11/2002   By John Staradumsky

Did you know there’s a little bit of Germany tucked deep in the heart of Texas? There is, in the form of the Spoetzl Brewery in Shiner, Texas. Spoetzl has been around for quite some time, having been founded in 1909 not only by Germans but also by Czech immigrants as the Shiner Brewing Association.

In 1915 the latter became the Spoetzl brewery when German immigrant and legendary brewmaster Kosmos Spoetzl purchased the brewery. Kosmos, born and educated in the brewing arts in Bavaria, had plenty of brewing experience and brought with him recipes that Spoetzl claims it still uses to this day. I suspect some tweaking may have occurred over the years. Shiner bock is not a classic German bock, although it is a good beer in and of itself.

Shiner has been something of a cult beer and has enjoyed a loyal following for many years, even before the dawn of the craft beer movement. The brewery survived prohibition and the advent of the American megabrewers to become a regional brewer, or a medium-sized brewing company. It’s distribution runs through the south from coast to coast, spanning twenty-one states in all.

Spoetzl claims it sells about 8,000 cases and 500 kegs a day (8000 cases x 365 days x 24 bottles per case x 12 ounces per bottle=840,960,000 ounces divided by 128 ounces per gallon=6,570,000 gallons divided by 31.5 gallons per barrel=208, 571 barrels). Then if you multiply the kegs by .5 (a full keg is a half barrel) and by 365 days you get another 91,250 barrels. Of course, some of those kegs are probably quarter barrel ponies too, but that still puts the brewery’s annual production in the neighborhood of almost 300,000 barrels, which isn’t bad at all. This is just an estimate, of course.

Shiner’s award-winning bock (it won a bronze at the 2001 Great American Beer Festival in Denver in the American Dark lager category) is not the only beer it brews. Shiner also produces a Hefeweizen, a blonde, a winter ale, and a Summer Stock Kolsch. Of course, you’ll want to be careful when ordering this brew. If you happen to walk into the wrong bar and ask for a Shiner, you may wind up with a black eye instead of a beer (shiner being a common euphemism for the latter).

Shiner Bock is lagered for 20 days, though the company claims they age their beer for 30 days (they include the fermentation time). I wouldn’t agree with this interpretation myself. Fermentation is not aging. Still, twenty days is a reasonable time and in this case produces a fairly clean brew. It makes a great brew to serve to your non-craft brew drinking friends. Shiner Bock can serve as a great "bridge" beer to introduce them to more flavorful brew, yet at the same time won't scare them away.

Shiner Bock pours to a deep caramel amber color with a thick foamy head formation and a slightly sweet malty nose. The palate is rich upon the tongue and very slightly caramelly, with a sort of pasty grain flavor and a light but chewy underlying maltiness. The finish is slightly sweet.

All in all, this is a rather good beer. The alcohol content is not consistent with the style, since Shiner Bock has an alcohol content of 3.46% by weight, or about 4% by volume. This is lower than the average beer. In some states (Colorado, Utah, and Oklahoma), the strength of beer sold in supermarkets and convenience stores is limited to 3.2% by volume, the infamous “3.2” beer. A few years ago the brewery began producing a slightly weaker Shiner Bock for distribution in those states to comply with the law.

Shiner is not as malty as I would like a bock to be. Of course, I suspect that if it were it would not enjoy the degree of popularity that it does. Despite being slightly off-style, this is still an excellent brew to serve with German fare. I would recommend it with a stuffed rouladen or a schnitzel with spatzels. Tonight I used it as an ingredient in a pork and sauerkraut dish to great effect. It served magnificently as an accompanying beer.

And remember, try a new beer today, and drink outside the box.

*Pricing data accurate at time of review or latest update. For reference only, based on actual price paid by reviewer.