The folks at the Spoetzl Brewery in Shiner, Texas send beers my way from time to time, and honestly, many of their gentle offerings are lost on my gonzo craft beer sensibilities.
But I’m glad they kept the brews migrating north, because every once in a while a gentle beer is just what it takes to open my mind to the possibilities of what beer can be, and the taste of Shiner Premium – the new “old” name for what was most recently called Shiner Blonde – has done just that.
This 4.4 percent ABV Bohemian-style lager is not a complicated brew. It’s a light pop of peppery hops, followed by a little nugget of toasted caramel, followed by a fairly dry and un-dramatic hop finish. The flavor is over almost before it begins, and the only thing I remembered was that little toffee hit in the middle.
A BJCP guru (or tons of folks over at BeerAdvocate where it scores a middling 69) will certainly be able to pick it apart, but here’s the thing – I like it. I like it a lot. I found it to be quite pleasant, and sometimes that’s enough.
It got me to thinking what it might be like if Budweiser made a lager that hadn’t spent decades being whittled down by bean counters and pumped full of adjuncts by brewmasters who value consistency over all else.
Unlike Budweiser, Shiner Premium has flaws, but the way I see it, an agreeable flaw is the same thing as character. And I think that’s what sets this beer apart from Budweiser – it tastes like it was made by people, not by machines.
While that’s a romantic notion (and probably inaccurate – Spoetzl isn’t exactly brewing on a thirty barrel system), it paints a nice picture in my head as I drink the beer.
Anyway, sipping on a Shiner Premium has sent my mind to wondering what might have happened if the American brewing industry hadn’t been so eager to turn their products into commodities so many years ago. What if they stuck to the principles and recipes of their original formulas? What if a young Adolphus Busch, fresh from the Civil War and with his inheritance burning a hole in his pocket, set out to make a great beer, and not a “national beer”?
I guess we’ll never know, and just like I look back on my life and think “what if,” I quickly shake those thoughts off because I consider myself to be very lucky to have such a wonderful life today. Any little changes might disrupt the whole thing, and I don’t want Don disappearing if I don’t make my parents kiss at the Enchantment Under the Sea dance!
For better or worse, the dark days of the American beer industry were the crucible for the craft beer boom we’re all enjoying today. I wouldn’t change a thing if it meant that there’d be no willing audience for Sam Calagione’s crazy beers or no Stone’s Enjoy By IPAs, or even no Shiner Premium, a beer that may have survived because folks were looking for something more “real” than the false King.
I guess what I’m saying is thank you for sucking, Budweiser. We couldn’t have done it without you.