It’s been more than 20 years since I lived in Texas, and even though I wasn’t born there 1 I’ll always consider myself a Texan. Draw a line from Amarillo down to McAllen on the border, and there aren’t too many places east of it I haven’t been.
I’ve now lived in the Cincinnati area longer than I have anywhere else in my life, but during baseball season I still check to see what my Astros are doing before I think to check on the Reds. I’ll never understand Mexican restaurants that don’t make their own tortillas or really accept that this area’s incredibly delicious Greek-meat-sauce-served-over-spaghetti-and-smothered-in-mild-cheddar-cheese is really chili.
Intellectually, of course, I know that Cincinnati-style chili is every bit as much chili as that made by the Chili Queens of San Antonio in the last century. It’s different, to be sure, but it’s the same in every way that matters: it’s warm and spicy and filling and it tastes like home.
All this came to mind for me as I read this article about the 100th anniversary of the Spoetzl Brewery in Shiner, Texas.
By all accounts, Shiner beer shouldn’t have made it this long. The Spoetzl Brewery ferments its brew in a one-stoplight town that’s not on the way to anywhere, and much larger regional brewers long ago succumbed to consolidation and the muscle of national brewers.
For years, Spoetzl limped along with cast-off parts from other breweries and lingered on the brink of shutting down. But today, at 100 years of age, Shiner beers are more popular than ever, and it is the oldest and largest craft brewer in a state where people cling fiercely to their beer and to all things Texan.
The whole article is worth the read, but this is the line that jumped out and got me thinking:
The brewery now produces 400,000 barrels a year, 10 times what it did 20 years ago, and distributes to 39 states, selling particularly well with ex-Texans and Texas-themed restaurants, company officials say.
I’ll quibble with the notion of an “ex-Texan”2, but the basic point is sound. I love it when I walk into a place and find Shiner Bock. I’m even happier when I find the Blonde3 and some of the other varieties. It takes me back to my college days, running the back roads of the East Texas Piney Woods and making pilgrimages to the San Antonio Riverwalk.
Oh, the memories, oh, the fun. Oh, the statute of limitations4.
Anyway, I think this connection I have with Shiner really helps me appreciate the connection native Cincinnatians have with the brands of the past and more fully appreciate all the efforts Christian Moerlein owner Greg Hardman is making in bringing them back. I didn’t grow up drinking Hudy or Burger, but I think I understand what it means for them to exist. And for them to survive. Do I wish they were brewed in Cincinnati again? Sure, who doesn’t? But the best way to guarantee that never happens is to let them be forgotten.
And I’m excited to see what’s coming.
It’s probably bad form to quote yourself, but six months ago when Carla and I made our first post, we said this about why we were doing this:
What’s better beer? It’s not just the beer you like, it’s the beer you love. It’s the beer you’ll search for far and wide, the one you’ll drive long distances to sample and buy, the one you’ll hoard for yourself or grudgingly share, but only with friends who get it.
That’s what this site is about. It’s about the beer, the places that make the beer, the places that sell the beer, and the places that serve the beer. Most importantly, it’s about the people. The people who make the beer, and the people who love the beer.
I probably should have included memories in there as well, but maybe that comes with the territory.
It’s been our privilege to bring you this blog over the past six months, and we look forward to many more, documenting the memories as they happen.
Here at home.
1Hello, Kansas City!
2I’ve never met an ex-Cincinnatian, either, just folks who don’t live here anymore.
3I may be wrong about this, but what’s called “Blonde” now was just plain Shiner Beer when I was growing up.
4Ummm…no reason…why do you ask?