Sunday, October 2, 2011

Shiner, Texas --- Home of my Favorite Brewery

Roger here.... On most mornings I awaken to someone licking my nose -- not Dianne, Bandido.  This morning was different.  The first thing that roused me from a deep sleep was the Shiner Comanche Marching Band (drum line) as the musicians practiced on the football field right next to the municipal park where we are camped.  Marching band must be first period.

We are parked in Green-Dickson Municipal Park in a spacious  (water/electric) site ($20).  It is a great site, but our arrival was not the best.  We pulled into the wrong entrance of the park because there was no signage.  After a few stops along the roadway, Hector, a park employee, pointed us to the correct area.  (Hector is the kind of friendly Texan that we have come to respect in this state.)  When we found our spot, directly behind the city war memorial, the wind picked up and the sky turned purple.  Rain.  YES!  Oh no, I haven't hooked up the electricity.  Crap.  Oh, well.  Rain.  YES!

In order to pay for the site, we needed to drive a couple of miles into town to pay at the Municipal Building.  Since Bandido is afraid of thunder, he went with us, hopping along on Dianne's lap the entire way.  This blog does not have audio, but suffice it to say, audio feed of the trip would have included several of the following: "Ouch!, sit still!, Bandido SIT DOWN!, ouch, you're hurting me! ouch, ouch, ouch......  When we pulled up to the building, the sky broke loose --- a torrential rain, accompanied by Fourth-of-July type lightning and thunder.  I was soaked when I burst into the municipal offices.   My first sight was of  the employees who were literally laughing and dancing because it was finally raining.  I did not mind being wet, and I enjoyed the Texas hospitality that I was afforded.

OK.  You may be asking....  Why did we travel to a small Texas town in the middle of nowhere, between San Antonio and the gulf coast?  The answer is simple:  Beer.

The Spoetzl Brewery has been brewing Shiner beer since 1909.  The local German and Czech immigrants were anxious to find a German-type beer to remind them of their homeland.  They constructed the first facility and brought Kosmos Spoetzl from Germany to serve as the first brewmaster.  It is still a family operation.  The hops used in the brewing process are still imported from Germany and Czechoslovakia (and the State of Washington). 

I first tasted Shiner Bock when we visited Luckenbach, Texas a few years ago.  It seemed to be the only beer that the concertgoers were drinking.  I liked it, and still do.  (Even I like it, and I'm not really a beer drinker -- D.)  When planning our return to Retama, I discovered that Shiner, with a slight detour, was on the way.  So here we are.  Don't touch the copper cauldrons --- they're hot!

Ann took us on the first tour of the day.  What fun it was to hear about the local history and Kosmos Spoetzl, who must have been quite a character.  The brewery employs 90 workers, including a man (honored in the main hall) who continues to brew beer after 63 years -- a better man than me.  Watching the brewing and bottling process reminded me of our tour of the Tabasco Factory a couple of years ago.  Lots of fun.  (Unfortunately, no cameras allowed inside the brewing facility).

The tour ended at the gift shop, of course.  Not a problem for me.  Every participant was given four tokens, redeemable for sampling four beers.  The gold-medal-winning (out of 99 breweries) seasonal Oktoberfest beer was my favorite.  There were lots of things to buy.  After the hospitality, how could we not buy a few things?

We helped Shiner's bottom line by purchasing a large thermometer for our patio area at Retama, a Shiner ice bucket,  a couple of t-shirts, a visor (for Dianne), a bottle cozy, two Shiner beer glasses, and a decal for the inside of one of our outdoor bays.  (Sounds like a lot, but we knew before we got there that we'd be shopping for some cool Shiner stuff for our patio) -- D.

After I ran out of beer tokens, we headed for the local post office to pick up our mail.  Along the way, Hector (the guy that helped us find our site at the park) recognized us while driving by in his truck and waved.  I am sure that all Texans are not overly friendly, but we seem to encounter those that are everywhere we go.

Lunch time.  We selected the Shiner Restaurant and Tavern.  The inside matched the outside.  The walls were lined with old library shelves displaying Texas artifacts.  The ceiling was tin.  Right after we sat down, Dianne noticed Hector at another table, also having lunch, and he waved to us again.  (We feel like members of the family).  I insisted that Dianne pose between the Indian and the Shiner ice bucket.  Not her idea.  Really, not her idea.  What a good sport.

We both had the Friday lunch special -- chicken fried steak with made-from-scratch gravy and mashed potatoes; we are in Texas, after all.  Definitely not on our diets, but sometimes ya gotta splurge.  A heart attack on a plate, but sooo good.  Tonight, I will only eat veggies.  Really, that is true.  

After dinner, we took a few pictures of the restored downtown area.

I noticed a common theme.  Can you pick it out?

We drove by a beautiful Catholic Church (stained glass windows imported from Bavaria)....

I insisted that Dianne pose again.......

And we headed back to our peaceful spot in the park.


Dianne here:  Stop the presses!   This was the original end of the blog today.  Just had to add a little more:

Should you camp in the municipal park at Shiner, you may not need your alarm clock.  7:00 a.m. Friday morning the marching band practiced (had to be before school, not first period as Roger stated).  We planned our departure for first thing Saturday morning, heading to the gulf coast.  Well, 7:00 a.m. Saturday morning we awakened to the sound of multiple school buses and hundreds of adolescent voices right outside our windows!

We were completely surrounded by the trappings of a multi-school cross country invitational tournament!   And I do mean surrounded -- even our picnic table was piled high with gym bags!  

The runners went on a route around the large field across from our motor home, and back on the road directly in front of our large windows before looping back to the finish line.  It was obvious we were not going to be leaving any time soon!  

One of the best things about retirement is the lack of schedules.   We decided to forget about leaving before the end of the tournament (we couldn't have anyway) and just kick back and enjoy the view.  It brought back memories to Roger of his days as principal of a large junior high school and all the extracurricular events he attended there as principal.  This also seemed to be junior-high-age kids.

The pet photo of the day shows Charlie and Bandido watching the cross country runners pass by our site.  Even they enjoyed the show!

Tomorrow.... on to the Gulf of Mexico (unless we change our minds).

1 comment:

Malone said...

Great blog tonight! we just discovered brewery tours recently and they are so much fun. Also...sigh...chicken fried steak...not on my diet either, but oh so much on the comfort food list. sigh again