The odometer is already way past 1,200 miles, we only have three games under our belt, and Josh’s arms are brightly-burnt like the red on the ubiquitously-flown Texas state flag but the Beer & Baseball trip thus far has been pretty smooth.
The San Antonio Missions game inexplicably began at 11AM and was sweltering (hence the roasted arms) but allowed us plenty of time to see the Alamo and River Walk. The next day, we snuck into Mexico for a second, saw the assault rifles, were harassed by sketchy taxi drivers and walked directly back into the US. That evening we saw the Edinburg Roadrunners and yesterday we caught a Frisco RoughRiders game at a ballpark just north of Dallas that looked, oddly, like a Cape Cod seaside village.
But let’s get to the beer. In San Antonio we visited the Blue Star Brewing Company. It’s just south of downtown on the river in an arts complex converted, it appears, from old warehouses. The food was delicious – Josh particularly enjoyed his brisket tacos with smoky BBQ sauce – as was the beer.
We tried their most popular brew, the “Texican,” a Mexican-style lager that was crisp, cold and clean, the perfect antidote to the heat advisory. I thought it particularly unique that that a lager of that type was being produced at a microbrewery. We asked our server about the Sour Amber on the menu but she scrunched her nose and cautioned us against it. She brought us a taster and we instantly understood. We settled for the Amber that was equally light and refreshing but unremarkable.
The next day we made the 95-mile journey west from San Antonio to Shiner to visit the Spoetzl Brewery. The city is just as quaint as you would expect when the directions to the brewery instruct you to turn left at the only stoplight in town. The tour was short and I wasn’t allowed to take pictures but the guide did give us an interesting history of the brewery.
German immigrant Kosmos Spoetzl started the brewery in 1909, choosing Shiner because of the area’s artesian wells and nearby rail lines. Up until it changed hands in 1989, the brewery served only a 75-mile radius. The shiny copper tanks and modern production facilities were added in the 90s to the tiny, original brick structure that looks vaguely like the Alamo. It now hosts the visitor center.
We spent at least 20 minutes at the observation platform that overlooks the bottling line since it was the only stop on the tour. We were perched directly over the crowning machine that popped bottle caps onto each bottle. When the line bogged down, a worker would sprint through the obstacle course of machinery, ducking and weaving to clear the jam from the line. At one point, the crowning machine went down, causing beers to enter the line without caps. Water got into the bottles so we had to watch an unspeakable tragedy unfold as one of the workers trashed about a case worth of beer, unceremoniously dumping them into a hopper.
Back at the visitor center, we got to sample the beers. We tried the Ruby Redbird Summer Seasonal first as we watched a short promo video playing in a side room. It was tart, a little sour but citrusy. Not really my style of beer but I could appreciate it. Next I had the Bohemian Black Lager, which the grizzled regular at the bar (can there be regulars at a brewery tour bar?) warned me was strong. He must have taken me for a soft city-boy ‘cause the beer was definitely not too dark for me. It had a strong flavor with a definite coffee edge but was much easier on the palate than a stout. We finished with the Blonde, but as Josh pointed out, it was the most pedestrian of the three.
Ok, back on the road! Passing through Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Tennessee and on to more beer and baseball!
– Brett P.