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Daytripper with Chet Garner: Shiner

No Finer Day in Shiner
Written by Chet Garner.

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In Texas, the mere mention of the word “Shiner” immediately brings to mind thoughts of a cold longneck and the distinctive brew within. However, before the beer, there was the town, which I set out to explore, beyond the bottle.

 

10:00 a.m.  Not surprisingly, the best way to learn the history of Shiner is to learn the history of Shiner Beer, as the two have been intertwined for more than a hundred years. So, I headed for the Spoetzl Brewery and joined the day’s first tour. Shiner beer started in 1909 when the town’s thirsty Ger-man and Czech immigrants decided to start a brewery to make the traditional Bavarian brews of their homelands. In 1914, legendary brewmaster Kosmos Spoetzl took over and the rest is history. The Spoetzl Brewery is now the oldest independent brewery in Texas and still brews every drop of Shiner Beer from its “little brewery” in Shiner. The tour gave me a firsthand look into the brewing process and, of course, a firsthand sampling of the final product, from the flagship Shiner Bock to the 102 Double Wheat. The tour is the best way to sample the spectrum of Shiner, and it whet my curiosity as to what else the town had to offer.

12:00 p.m.  Thirsty no more, but definitely hungry, I went to Friday’s Fried Chicken, a local spot that’s part fried-chicken-joint and part Czech bakery. My two-piece golden-fried-chicken plate with cole slaw and French fries hit the spot. Then I finished my lunch with a warm, homemade apple kolache.

1:15 p.m.  I explored the streets of Shiner’s historic district, which offers a cluster of restaurants and shops selling antiques and a range of Shiner knickknacks. I stepped into Antiques, Art and Beer—which carries everything the name implies, including ice-cold Shiner Beer—and sipped a pint as I wandered the aisles.

3:00 p.m.  Back on the street, a small building labeled “Louis Ehlers Cigar Factory” caught my eye. Inside I found an interesting museum telling the story of this yellow house, one of the city’s most beloved establishments, where workers produced hand-rolled cigars for the townsfolk. Next door stood the relocated Green Cabin, birthplace of William Green, one of Shiner’s early prominent businessmen.

4:00 p.m.  I hopped back in my truck and drove past Shiner’s blocks of historic homes toward a mag-nificent steeple on the horizon. Within minutes, I was standing in front of the extraordinary Saints Cyril and Methodius Catholic Church. Finished in 1921, the church, with its Romanesque Revival exterior, painted murals, and stained glass imported from Germany, trans-ported me to Old World Europe without having to leave small-town Texas. Unexpected finds like this are what day-trippin’ is all about.

5:00 p.m.  With time to kill before dinner, I followed several locals’ advice and visited Howard’s conve-nience store. While gas stations aren’t usually tourist attractions, Howard’s is the exception. Beyond the pumps, sodas, and beef jerky lies a hidden beer garden and a selection of five Shiner beers on tap. Throw in hand-dipped Blue Bell and you have Shiner-style happy hour.

6:30 p.m.  Time for the main course at the Shiner Restaurant & Bar, which occupies the Green Building, built in 1911. At various times the building housed a hospital, drugstore, and saloon. The ornate tin ceiling, old photos, and collection of Bowie knives on display made a great backdrop for dining on what the restaurant calls the “WGS,” short for “World’s Greatest Sandwich.” After trying the club-style double-decker sandwich with a chicken-fried steak hidden between the layers, I might just agree on its name.

While Shiner Beer put Shiner on the map, it isn’t the only thing keeping it there. And a day trip to Shiner goes down as smooth as its namesake beverage. As they say when toasting in Shiner, “Prosit!” So, whether you follow my footsteps or forge your own path, I hope to see you on the road.

From the September 2011 issue.

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