Over the last couple years, New York has grown into a rather respectable BBQ town. From Fette Sau to Mighty Quinn’s, BrisketTown and John Brown Smokehouse, there’s a serious commitment to ‘cue. Despite the surplus of carnivorous pleasures, there’s been a notable absence from New York’s BBQ scene: Shiner Bock.
The beer’s origins date back to the 19th century, when German and Czech immigrants came to the Hill Country of central Texas and settled in tiny towns such Shiner. They brought the knowledge to crank sausages and smoke meat—the backbone of the state’s BBQ culture—as well as a love of lagers. To quench that thirst, a group of amateur brewers formed the Shiner Brewing Association in 1909, later tapping a former German solider named Kosmos Spoetzl as their first brewmaster.
In time, the flagship was the rich, smooth and eminently drinkable Shiner Bock. At just 4.4% ABV, it was the sort of beer that could slake your thirst on a sweltering summer afternoon, then continue to drink until last call. Shiner Bock and Texas became forever linked, the longneck you’d reach for while gnawing on brisket, watching football or catching a concert.
Sure, Shiner Bock endured some rocky stretches (Prohibition, the 197os when tastes started shifting to light lagers), but the beer survived to become Texas’ liquid emissary. Today you’ll find Shiner Bock in more than 40 states including, at long last, New York.
“There’s a lot of pent-up demand for Shiner beer,” says Charlie Paulette, the chief sales and marketing officer for Gambrinus Company, which also owns Trumer Pils and BridgePort. (There are no imminent plans to bring those brands to NYC, but it’s a possibility in the future.) “In New York, we have a nice built-in audience of people from Texas or who have been through Texas.”
Of course, that’s always been the case. New York is a town of transplants and transients, all of whom long for a nostalgic taste of their respective hometowns. A key reason that Shiner has taken so long to reach NYC is simple: capacity. If you’re going to enter the Big Apple market, you better have enough beer.
“New York is a very intimidating place for any brand,” Paulette says. “For us, it was a matter of getting ready.” A few years back, Spoetzl embarked on a big expansion, building a brewery dedicated to producing ales. This has enabled Spoetzl to expand the Shiner brand, including Hefeweizen, Wild Hare Pale Ale, Bohemian Black Lager and Ruby Redbird, which is made with grapefruit and ginger.
“We’re about more than just Shiner Bock,” Paulette says. “Our portfolio is so much more diverse than it was 10 years ago.” Of course, you can find Shiner at BBQ halls such as Hill Country, but it’s also pouring at Manchester Pub, 7B, Sunswick 35/35, Good Beer and Minetta Tavern. In time, I’m sure you’ll take a shine to these Texan beers.