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‘Prosit’ to Shiner!

 
‘Prosit’ to Shiner!
HARRY & LINDA KAYE PEREZ — The restored opera house is now home to the Shiner Gaslight Dinner Theatre. Get your tickets early for the four productions staged each year.

The town of Shiner, Texas, population just over 2,000, was founded in 1887, and has been surviving since long before any of us were born. The fact that we had never visited was just enough reason for us to plan a trip to this small Texas town.

It was a beautiful warm, blue-sky and billowy-white clouds February day. The 70-mile drive from the La Vernia area, through Gonzales and along S.H. 90A to Shiner, was scenic and quite peaceful. On the way, we saw some Texas Longhorns grazing along the roadway and numerous pump jacks bringing liquid black gold out of the ground. Just outside Shiner, we came upon the Fort Bend County Vaqueros Trail Riders -- a perfect introduction to this quaint little town.

Shiner got its name from Mr. H.B. Shiner, who in 1889, donated 250 acres of land for a train depot for the new San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railroad. In those days, rail service usually meant prosperity for the towns along its route. Shiner quickly grew as a trade center for Czech and German farmers, but one thing was missing -- good beer.

In 1909, a group of these immigrants formed the Brewing Association, but it wasn’t until 1914 that the association found a trained brew master -- Bavarian-born Kosmos Spoetzl, who was living in San Antonio at the time. Armed with his family recipe for a Bavarian beer made with malted barley and hops, and a promise from the Brewery Association of an ownership stake in the brewery, he moved to Shiner and the Spoetzl Brewery was born. Kosmos held the position of brew master for 50 years. Today, it is the oldest independently owned brewery in the state of Texas.

In 1989, Carlos Alvarez, a San Antonio businessman, acquired the brewery. Unlike Kosmos, who wanted to keep the business small and simple and within 70 miles of the brewery, Alvarez increased production, nearly tripling it over the next 10 years, making it a national brand. Shiner Beer is now distributed to 49 states and is the fifth-largest craft brewery and 10th largest overall brewery in the United States.

Since 1917, the flagship beer of Spoetzl Brewery has been Shiner Bock; it accounts for 73 percent of all the beer brewed here. Other beers include Bohemian Black Lager, Prickly Pear, Ruby Redbird, and White Wing. Seasonal brews include Holiday Cheer, Oktoberfest, and Birthday Cheer. And, yes, there is even one named Shiner Kosmos -- of course.

Tours of the brewery are offered Monday through Friday at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. during the winter and 10 a.m., 11 a.m., 1:30 p.m., and 2:30 p.m. in the summer. The tour is free and includes a tasting of different brews offered at Spoetzl Brewery.

On our way into town, we happened onto the Licorice and Lemon Drops Old Fashioned Candy Shop. For anyone with a sweet tooth, this is paradise.

In the old downtown area, there is also a magnificent Opera House. Construction began for this stately building on Sept. 12, 1895; it was completed in December that same year. The first event held there was the Shiner Fireman’s Ball.

Sadly, the Opera House underwent many changes in the past 120 years; at one time, it was converted to an apartment house and a then a warehouse. It has been restored to its former glory and emerged as the Shiner Gaslight Dinner Theatre. This 138-seat theatre, staffed entirely by volunteers, presents four theatrical productions each year.

The lady behind the counter at the candy store advised, “Best to get your tickets the same day they go on sale, or you will be disappointed.” Their spring production is a comedy, “Never Too Late.”

The hardy spirit and tenacity of the people who immigrated to the central Texas is one reason why many towns like Shiner have survived through the years. We are so glad it did.

Harry and Linda Kaye Perez are freelance writers from just down the road from Floresville. Together they share a passion for traveling and writing, and discovering the very best in all corners of the world. Email them at Harry-Linda411@att.net.

Find out more:

•Spoetzl Brewery, 603 East Brewery St., Shiner, 361-594-2079, www.shiner.com

•Licorice and Lemon Drops Old Fashioned Candy Shop, 1509 N. Ave. E, Shiner, 361-594-8481

•Shiner Gaslight Dinner Theatre, 207 E. Seventh St., Shiner, 361-594-2079, www.Shinergaslight.org

 
 
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