Musings on Shiner Bock, Lone Star, and The Hot Texas Sun

Christian Tappe, July 01, 2013

It’s hot in Texas. You knew this. But did you know it’s hot in Texas in April? It is!

I went to Texas at the end of April to visit my in-laws, and it was hot.

Now, my in-laws live in a place called Hallettsville. Actually, they live about fifteen miles outside of Hallettsville. Which is to say, they live nowhere. They’re smack in the middle of a cluster of impossibly small towns which, together, are smack in the center of Austin, San Antonio, and Houston.

In fairness, in the broad spectrum of Texan “nowhere,” this is downright metropolitan. It’s not West Texas. You will see other humans. But in terms of “nowhere” as the rest of the country understands it, yes, they live in the middle of nowhere.

I’ve found that despite being somewhat few and far between, these are good people. They’re mostly kind and helpful, if a bit rough around the edges. I like them.

Except, Sweet Sombrero of Sam Houston, they drink some terrible beer. If you go to some sort of gathering and they have Budweiser, thank your lucky Lone Star, because the other option is usually, um, Lone Star, or Lone Star Light. These are truly awful beers.

Lone Star is made in Texas, obviously, but owned by Pabst. It has a robust BAR of 0.17, and Lone Star Light is a sort of impressive -0.9. It’s the Jeff Francoeur of beers! Lone Star Bock (Never, ever try this. Trust me.) has an other-wordly BAR of -3.08. It’s bad.

There is, however, an alternative: Spoetzel Brewery, in Shiner, TX, another impossibly small town in the vicinity. Spoetzel is home to Shiner Bock.

Shiner Bock has a BAR of 2.6, and wOBAR of 0.26. In that sense, it’s not fantastic, but it’s solid. And if your other options are Lone Star, Lone Star Light, or—God forbid—Lone Star Bock, then Shiner Bock is pretty much the best beer on earth.

On a hot April day, we went to check out Spoetzel. The brewery is cool, and it’s basically half the town of Shiner. They make mostly Shiner Bock, but others, too: they had Wild Hare Pale Ale, Ruby Redbird, Shiner Blonde, and Shiner Black Lager on tap in the tasting room. I focused on the Wild Hare Pale Ale and the Ruby Redbird.

Wild Hare is a very good beer in my estimation, completely outstripping the Bock in pretty much every way. You taste the malt and there is a slight kick of hops at the end. I’m a guy who likes his hops (I’ll take seconds, please and thank you), but I really do enjoy a good malty beer on occasion. And Wild Hare fits the bill. (Wild Hare, by the way, has a negative BAR. I dispute this. You hear that, fancy-pants mathematicians on the other side of this site? I DISPUTE THIS.)

The Ruby Redbird is…interesting. It’s got grapefruit in it. With some ginger and too much carbonation. It’s not bad, though, at least it wasn’t bad at the brewery.

There were park effects in abundance on my trip to the brewery: I was at the source, drinking the beer fresh. The beer was not Lone Star or any of its amazingly inferior brothers. It was also hot.

 I’m really not sure how good—or bad—any of these beers are because it was hot, and the beer was cold (I suspect, by the way, that this is a large part of the rationale behind drinking Lone Star Light). Also, the Shiner beers are beers that people cared about making and tried to make taste good, or be interesting, or whatever. And for that reason, maybe I just want them to be good. I also want the good people of middle-of-nowhere east Texas to not drink Lone Star.

They have a craft brewery right there. But, alas, they hate Shiner.

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A few years ago, on my first trip to Texas, at a ramshackle general store/honky tonk, a man took the time to stop guzzling his Lone Star Bock (reminder, its BAR is NEGATIVE THREE), look disparagingly at my Shiner Bock, and chastise me: “Why you drinkin’ that piss-water?”

I was stupefied; stunned by the blunt irony of it all. I stammered a bit, and then went silent. He laughed at me -- a city kid drinking his fancy piss-water -- and moseyed off.

But that guy should know that Spoetzel Brewery is trying to do something good down there. And he should know that he can get some free beer at the tasting room so he doesn’t have to drink Lone Star Bock.

Please, guy, don’t drink Lone Star Bock.

Shiner Bock

Appearance: 2.5--Light brown. If you look away for a second, you'll miss the head.

Smell: 2.5--Slight malty smell, emphasis on "slight".

Taste: 3.0--Malty and sweet. Can be a bit watery.

Feel: 2.5--Light. Drinkable. Won't knock your socks off.

Overall: 2.75--Not great. Not bad. Very drinkable and pleasant if you're looking to sit around and have a couple beers.