In 1909 German immigrant Kosmos Spoetzl was hired by a small brewery in Shiner, TX to be head brewer. Five years later, Spoetzl bought the brewery and renamed it Spoetzl Brewing. The brewery survived Prohibition, lack of capital and the bad beer years of the late 1970s and early 1980s to become Texas’s only surviving regional brewery. To commemorate its centennial, Spoetzl has come out with this handsome volume.
Shine On is a very well designed, but ineptly written book. This coffee table-sized book has many interesting photos, and breweriana lovers will find much to like here. I particularly liked one page with 90 small photos of Shiner customers, showing the many ways and places they have enjoyed Shiner Bock.
However, the book’s author, Mike Renfro, is a writer whose arch folksy prose becomes extremely irritating. Renfro doesn’t provide his readers with essential facts, such as whether or not Kosmos Spoetzl was jailed for violating Prohibition. He does, however, feel compelled to tell us far too much about himself, such as the time in 1971 when his fifth-grade class took a field trip to Austin and he saw actual hippies roaming the streets.
Hippies, however, saved Spoetzl Brewing. Renfro shows that the cost-conscious counterculturalists who heard concerts at the Armadillo World Headquarters, Antone’s, and Threadgill’s in the 1970s liked Shiner with their music because Shiner was cheap and local. Spoetzl’s energetic Austin distributors kept the brewery afloat until 1989, when Gambrinus Importers acquired Spoetzl. Gambrinus’s capital infusions allowed Spoetzl to modernize its aging plant and allow the brewery to grow into a regional powerhouse.
Shine On is a pleasure to look at—and a chore to read.