Thursday, May 30, 2013

Shiner finally comes to Philly!

Shiner Bock is kind of a legend. In Texas, years before Stone and Dogfish Head and so many other major craft brands were household names, Shiner was King Shit. If you live in or near Pennsylvania, you know how Yuengling is a mainstay to such an extent that you need not even order it by name. "Lager" will do. And it's EVERYWHERE.

Shiner Bock is like that in much of Texas. You can't escape it. I remember visiting Austin in the early 1990s, and even then Shiner painted the landscape. In many circles, it's just what you drank. At the time, it was one of the brews that made me realize beer could taste good. Along with brews by Samuel Adams, Brooklyn, and Sierra Nevada, it was an eye-opener. Drinking a Shiner rather than some can of cold, yellow, tasteless beer wasn’t just a matter of drinking a beer, it was making a statement.

Fast forward to today. Shiner is no longer just a regional thing, widely known in Texas and surrounding states but known only by reputation outside its region. They’ve spread to 43 states, making them one of the most widely distributed craft beers in the nation. Shiner arrived in New Jersey about two years ago, and now, just in time for Philly Beer Week, it has landed in Philadelphia.

That's kind of a Big Deal.

See, Philly is one of the top beer cities in America. Few places have a better selection of great beer bars, local breweries, and strong beer culture. So a legend like Shiner arriving there, that's no small thing. I suppose you could think, "Who cares?" After all, Philly has TONS of amazing beer. The question would be valid. You can drink a different beer every day of the year in Philadelphia and it would take a long, long time to run out of good things to drink.

But if you care about how craft beer got to where it is today, you should care about Shiner, even if only to appreciate the roots of the embarrassment of riches craft beer fans enjoy today. Originating from the Spoetzl Brewery in Shiner, Texas, they were founded way back in 1909, but barely managed to scrape 1 percent of beer consumption in Texas in the decades since. Things began to pick up in the 1980s and 1990s, and exploded in the 2000s. Now, they are the 4th largest craft brewery in the nation.

Shiner brews a number of beers, but their flagship is Shiner Bock, a deep brown lager with notes of nuttiness and molasses, yet with the easy drinking of a pale lager. It is unusual for a bock beer to be an American brewery’s flagship – bock is a traditional German style that tends to be dark and strong – but Shiner Bock has proven to be popular. Perhaps it’s because it does so well in merging flavor with accessibility. This isn’t some mind-blowing brew that will change the way you think about beer, it’s just a beer that tastes nice and goes down just as nice. No wonder Texans gobble it up.

Others include Wild Hare Pale Ale, which is a fairly traditional pale ale that leans more towards English traditions than American – the hopping is nice but not aggressive – Bohemian Black Lager, a smooth lager with roasted tones that make it nice to have with red meat, and Hefeweizen, their take on a traditional German wheat beer.

These days, Shiner probably won’t be life-changing for many craft beer drinkers. Their beers are just too approachable, too traditional, and too accessible for those who want the envelope pushed ever further afield. But that’s also what makes them such an attractive brewery. It’s the kind of beer you have when you don’t want to wrestle with notes of sugar-dappled plums and lemon grass roasted with chipotle and French oak barrels. It’s the kind of beer you have when you want a beer.

One would think Philadelphia would welcome that.

Shiner Bock is now spreading across Philly just in time for Philly Beer Week.

FULL DISCLOSURE: Reps from Shiner sent me a few bottles of their beer. I drank them.

1 comment:

  1. this was one of my first beer is that showed me that beer could actually taste good.