Spoetzl Brewery

By: Diana J. Kleiner

Type: General Entry

Published: July 1, 1995

Updated: April 30, 2016

The Spoetzl Brewery, also known as the Shiner Brewing Association, headquartered in Shiner, Texas, produces beer characterized by its carmelized quality. Private label brews produced by Spoetzl include Texas Tap, Gilley's, and Rio Grande, while its original product, Texas Export, later became Shiner Texas Special Beer, or Shiner Beer. In 1986, before the rise of new microbreweries, the firm was the state's last independently owned commercial brewing establishment. The original tin brewery was founded in the center of an Austrian, German, and Czech farming community near the railroad tracks on the banks of Boggy Creek. A group of Shiner businessmen interested in appealing to new Bohemian settlers established the original stock company, known as the Shiner Brewing Association in 1909, with Herman Weiss of Galveston as first brewmaster. The local product replaced beer formerly shipped in by rail from San Antonio and Houston. The first keg beer spoiled because of improper fermentation and refrigeration, however, and the founders offered the plant for lease in 1914.

Kosmos Spoetzl, a German immigrant brewmaster, learned of the Shiner operation and coleased the facility with Oswald Petzold with an option to buy in 1915. Spoetzl had attended brewmaster's school and apprenticed for three years in Germany and worked for eight years at the Pyramid Brewery in Cairo, Egypt, before moving to San Antonio in search of a better climate for his health. He came, carrying the recipe for a Bavarian beer made by his family from pure malt and hops. Within a year Spoetzl bought the brewery, which he renamed the "Home Brewery," and began to produce beer in wooden kegs and bottles. After 1916 the beer was packaged in glass returnable bottles; aluminum kegs were first used in 1947, nonreturnable bottles came in 1958, party kegs in 1964, and cans in 1970. When Prohibition was declared in 1918, Spoetzl produced near beer, ice, and, according to some sources, regular beer as well. During this period, he sustained the brewery by doing construction work in Florida with crews and trucks brought from Texas. After his wife's death in 1921, Spoetzl considered returning to Bavaria but was convinced by his daughter to retain the business. "Miss Celie," as Cecilie was called, served as business manager of the firm, and her daughter Rose joined the firm in 1964. August Haslbeck, who served as brewmaster, was the son of a noted Bavarian maltmaster and Spoetzl's nephew. He later returned to Germany to complete an apprenticeship and receive a brewmaster's degree. With repeal of Prohibition in 1933, the business resumed, with the introduction of "Texas Export," a new product later known as "Texas Special" beer. Sales were made within a 100-mile radius. Over the next decade the company added a new bottling room and brew house, and in 1947 Spoetzl constructed the white brick Alamo-style plant still in use today. Across from the brewery, Spoetzl kept a menagerie of peacocks, deer, and other animals. Spoetzl is remembered for driving through the countryside, offering farmers cold beer, soda, or silver coins, and marketing his beer with the help of a hobo band, which continued to represent the company after his death. At his death in 1950 Spoetzl was succeeded by his daughter Cecilie, who became the only female brewery owner in the nation. Calendars, posters, celluloid signs, and glass pieces, including tap knobs and glasses, had been used for advertising in the 1940s, but Cecelie used polka bands, parades, and local radio stations to acquaint the public with the product. In the 1960s and 1970s the firm also produced clocks and lighted signs.

Control of the business by Spoetzl's family ended in 1966, when brewmaster William Bigler of San Antonio bought the firm. Bigler attended Chicago's Wahl-Henius Institute and worked at the Metz Brewing Company before attending brewers' school and served as brewmaster at San Antonio's Lone Star Brewing Company and at Regal Pale Brewing Company in San Francisco from 1940 to 1959. Chester Terpinski of Findlay, Ohio, and a group of stockholders purchased the firm in 1968, and four native Texans from Houston acquired it in 1984. Jules Silvers, one of the owners at that time, traveled the area in a motor home decorated with company logos, calling on distributors, participating in parades, and entertaining customers along the way. By then the firm produced up to 60,000 barrels annually and distributed its beer through twenty-eight distributors. In 1987 Shiner produced Devil Beer, for fans of the Arizona Sun Devils, and licensed the Boulder Brewery of Colorado to produce Boulder Sport. The brewery has been active in the local community throughout its history and sponsors chili cook-offs and other festivals. A state historic marker was placed at the brewery site in 1971, and the company later opened a museum and gift shop there.

Marker Files, Texas Historical Commission, Austin.

  • Peoples
  • Germans
  • Business

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Diana J. Kleiner, “Spoetzl Brewery,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed July 05, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/spoetzl-brewery.

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July 1, 1995
April 30, 2016