Dazed and confused? Not me. I’m just Lost in the Cheese Aisle.

Friday, April 15, 2011

THE BREWS OF TEXAS ARE UPON YOU

Shiner Beer
Jimbo, he of the House By the Parkway, informs us that Shiner Bock, the semi-official beer of the Helen Blogtoberfest and the Hysterics at Eric’s, is now “situated and celebrated in New Jersee.”

I can’t blame Jim for being excited. I still remember how ecstatic I was when another Texas beverage became available in the Northeast for the first time. The beverage in question was Dr Pepper. I loved the stuff, which tasted like it might have been the bastard child of Coca-Cola and Sunsweet prune juice. Its occasional advertisements in Life magazine would serve only to tantalize and frustrate me, however, for I could only get it when we made our annual pilgrimage to South Florida: It was completely unavailable up North. All that changed in May, 1968 when Dr Pepper went national. Huzzah!

But let’s get back to Shiner Bock, shall we?

Shiner Bock - once a seasonal beer that is now produced year-round - is a fine brew with far more character than popular mass-market beers. But it was not always so.

When I first moved to Texas - this was in 1974, when the last of the dinosaurs were laying themselves down in their carboniferous beds to become future oil deposits - there was a handful of local (i.e., Texas-based) breweries that made products unique to the Lone Star State. There was Lone Star, famous for its long-neck glass bottles. There was Pearl. And there was Shiner, from just down Interstate 10 in Shiner, Texas.

When you went to the ice house for a few beers and a game of dominoes, you drank a Texas beer... if you knew what was good for you. Only problem was, those beers all tasted like piss. Or at least what I imagine piss would taste like. And Shiner, sad to say, was the pissiest of the lot. Yeef!

Why there were no decent beers in Texas back then, who can say? It was surprising, given the large proportion of Texans with German or Czech roots, that the best-known products of the state - beer-wise, anyway - were such crap. Nevertheless, that was the situation on the ground at the time.

But Shiner’s lager, clearly not their strong suit, had a brother - a seasonal bock beer which became very popular in Austin, home to a burgeoning arts and music scene. And meanwhile, Shiner’s Texas competitors were swallowed up by larger national brands. Both Lone Star (which still calls itself “The National Beer of Texas”) and Pearl ended up being owned by Pabst Brewing Company, makers of the infamous Pabst Blue Ribbon. (Shiner was acquired as well, but by Gambrinus, a Texas-based outfit specializing in smaller regional and craft brands.)

There’s good news. Despite the dominance of Anheuser-Busch and Miller (both of which operate huge breweries in numerous locations throughout the state), those regional and craft beers have done quite well in the Land of the Lone Star. Shiner is just one example.

I haven’t had a Lone Star or a Pearl in years, though the names still evoke a certain Texan nostalgia for me. But Shiner Bock actually tastes good, so I when I drink it I can not only enjoy my memories of life in Texas, I can luxuriate in the knowledge that some things do get better with time.

5 comments:

El Capitan said...

I never much cared for Lone Star, but Pearl in the short glass bottles was quite drinkable, and at $12-14 a case back in the day, a much better alternative to Mill's Beast or some other cheap swill. The best part was the little rebus puzzle under the cap. When you could no longer figure them out, it was time to quit drinking!

I was also quite partial to Stroh's, brewed up in Longview.

BTW, you forgot Texas Pride beer!!

Holder said...

Is Schaffer's still around? Man, that stuff was terrible. But I agree with you about Shiner's. It's the beer of choice at Blownstar, too. I think I remember Stroh's, wasn't the name written in cursive, maybe?

Elisson said...

"Schaefer is the one beer to have when you're having more than one!"

Yes, Schaefer is still around. They were bought out by Stroh's, who in turn were bought out by - you guessed it - Pabst Brewing Company, which seems to have snapped up many famous second-rate brands.

New York had two well-known (but lousy) beers: Schaefer and Rheingold. I remember them fondly... but then again, I never actually drank much of either.

Andy said...

Nothing worse than Dixie Beer, may it rest in peace. Perhaps a luke warm Dixie. Or a luke warm Dixie with a side of pickled quail eggs or pig lips.

Dixie put the B in bad beer.

Elisson said...

@Andy - Dixie Beer was pretty heinous, as I recall... and yet, when it came to pure suckatrociousness, nothing beat the old Shiner lager. Not even Iron City (Pittsburgh's crappiest beer) could compete.

I remember an old Stephen King short story in which a guy drank a bad can of beer and turned into some sort of monstrous fungus. Shiner lager was that beer.