Shiner Beer, an iconic brand from the 105-year-old Spoetzl Brewery in Shiner, Texas, will enter Massachusetts this month. Much like the rollout of beers from Pennsylvania’s Yuengling Brewery to the Bay State earlier this year, Shiner’s entry is a big deal. The brand is part of the Gambrinus portfolio of beers, which make up the fourth-largest craft beer company in the country, based on 2013 volume sales. All of the beer is brewed in Shiner, a town with a population of 2,069, according to the 2010 Census.
“They’ve been around 100 years,” says Scott Adams, vice president of sales for Burke Distributing, one of seven distributors carrying the brand in Massachusetts. “With that comes a lot of brand equity. In a crowded market like Boston, that will allow it to cut through the clutter.”
The company’s flagship product, Shiner Bock, makes up about 68 percent of Shiner’s total volume nationally, according to Charlie Paulette, the company’s head of marketing. The lager style has roots in Einbeck, Germany; Shiner’s version weighs in at 4.4 percent alcohol by volume.
An important note before diving into the beer is that, despite coming from a brewery which the Brewers Association considers “craft,” Shiner wants you to know its beers aren’t heavy or overly bitter.
“Most of our beers would be considered ‘session’ beers,” says Paulette. “The term didn’t exist when we were starting out. I think people will appreciate our approachability.”
My bottle of Shiner Bock arrived as a sample ahead of the Massachusetts release. I was told by two people that this beer tastes best super cold. That’s not usually a ringing endorsement. Someone also suggested that I should drink it from the bottle (which has a cool yellow label with a ram on it) but, in keeping with other 99 Bottles reviews, I twist off the cap and pour it into a glass.
The beer appears a chestnut brown but because it’s filtered it’s not hard to see through to the other side. A diaphanous head quickly vanishes to nothing. I pass my nose over the glass and get whiffs of caramel and fruitcake.
The first sip is a mix of toasted grains and cherries. The upfront sweetness doesn’t last long, though, victim of a flimsy mouthfeel. The German hops are hard to find. One of the drawbacks of pouring this beer into a glass is having to look at it five minutes later. After a while it begins to look like flat Coke.
Shiner Beers will be available across the state beginning in late July. Adams says the rollout will be a concentrated one rather than the marketing blitz we saw with Yuengling.
“I don’t know that there is a comparison [between the two],” said Adams. “We aren’t drawing one. This is a brand we’re looking to put in the right accounts before we move to the next one. Yuengling was looking for a significant impact in a short period of time.”
In addition to the Bock, Shiner offers several varieties, including White Wing, a Belgian-style white ale brewed with orange and coriander, and seasonal beers like Ruby Red Bird, made with Texas Ruby Red grapefruit and ginger. Of the three, White Wing was by far my favorite.
Cambridge Brewing anniversary fund-raiser
Cambridge Brewing Co. will hold a special bottle sale this Saturday to celebrate the Kendall Square brewpub’s 25th anniversary and to raise money for the East End House.
In a nod to a beer CBC has made since day one, brewmaster Will Meyers and team created an Imperial Amber Ale. Myers recently brewed batch 1,208 of Cambridge Amber.
“We thought that made it a worthy starting point, and from there we just thought the idea of literally doubling the ingredients in the recipe while making the same volume of beer would be fun,” said Meyers.
The Imperial Amber Ale weighs in at 9 percent ABV. It has a deep mahogany color with a huge, off-white head. I smell cherries, dark chocolate, vanilla, and booze. Those flavors, as well as toffee and figs, repeat themselves in the beer’s taste. Good carbonation makes it light on the tongue despite the sweetness. The brew was aged in oak barrels from Turkey Shore Distillery in Ipswich, then aged in the bottle for three months.
The beer will be sold at the brewery from noon to 2 p.m. on Saturday. Only 50 cases were made, and a bottle retails for $25. All proceeds will benefit the East End House, a Cambridge charity serving low-income families since 1875.