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Something's Brewing in Shiner

'In

Something's Brewin' in Shiner, Shiner Mayor Laura Watzlavick (left) and City Secretary Norma Goetz discuss the history of the Spoetzel Brewery–and their love of Shiner beer.'

It's been a year now since Shiner's century-old Spoetzel Brewery unveiled its new light beer–Shiner Light–to the town's discriminating and beer-besotted citizens. Shrouded in secrecy right up to its debut at last July's New Brew Fest, the brewery's new beer was the subject of much conjecture and anticipation.

Austin filmmakers Mike Woolf and Andrew Yates, whose 2003 documentary, Growin' a Beard, chronicled the annual Donegal beard-growing contest in Shamrock, descended upon this small Czech-German town in the week before Shiner Light's debut. The result, a half-hour film called Something's Brewin' in Shiner ($17.99 from www.somethingsbrewin.com), takes an affectionate and often hilarious look at this eccentric small town and the many characters that make it that way.

"Starring the citizens of Shiner," read the opening credits, and it's true: Meet Mayor Laura Watzlavick, who discusses Spoetzel Brewery history and says she craves a Shiner "right now." Tune in to the Bobby Pavliska Polka Show on KYKM (92.5 FM), where the host ponders the latest rumor coming from the brewery. Meet brewmaster John Hybner, who says, "It's a tough job, but someone has to do it." Hang out at Howard's Diamond Shamrock, where a pint sells for $1.50, and you're sure to find dominoes clacking. And spend some time with Shiner's venerable Old Geezers, a group of beer-drinking men whose Web site, www.shineroldgeezers.com, provides the ultimate guide to beer halls in Lavaca, DeWitt, and Fayette counties.

And if the film makes you want to visit the brewery, well, what's stopping you? Shiner's Spoetzel Brewery, which made its first beer in 1909, welcomes visitors for free tours Monday through Friday at 10, 11, 1:30, and 2:30 (at 11 and 1:30 from Labor Day to Memorial Day). On the hourlong tour, you'll visit the brew house, with its gleaming copper kettles; the lab, where such scientific activities as yeast propagation take place; storage and fermentation areas; the bottle shop and warehouse, where more than 130,000 bottles rattle down the line daily; and finally, the renowned Hospitality Room, where samples await. Call 361/594-3383; www.shiner.com.

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From the July 2003 issue.

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