|Spoetzl's first ale; what an imagination on these brewers.|
The truth is, nobody in Texas gave a squirt of piss about drinking Lone Star up until a few years ago, when it arrived with vintage packaging and a subscription to Blender. Shiner was our home state brew, and we drank it with hunger.
Well, as Shiner Bock devolved into second rate beer -- or at least our palate evolved towards something beyond a 7th graders, we looked outward to other flavors from around the states. Hell, I see more Miller Lites being swallowed downtown lately than Shiner. So, what Shiner did was re-imagine something beyond their staple -- landmark as it was -- and try to lure us all back with their anniversary series. Since 2005, Shiner has released a series of special brews that pay homage to their Czech/German roots that is so prevalent in Central Texas. The list looks like this:
Shiner 96 - Marzen Octoberfest
Shiner 97 - Bohemian Black Lager
Shiner 98 - Bavarian Style Amber
Shiner 99 - Munich Style Helles Lager
Shiner 100 - Commemorator Starkbier
Shiner 101 - Czech Style Pilsner
Shiner 102 - American Style Double Wheat Ale
At initial viewing, that looks like an awesome and impressive list -- except that Shiner doesn't exactly brew with inspiration. Most of these were just macro-brewed sorta "suggestions" of their styles. While I appreciate the portal they tried to beam up through into the modern era of brewing, many of them just fell very flat. [Note: Shiner 97 and Shiner 99 were spectacular and fantastic -- and they made the Bohemian Black Lager a permanent brew on their rotation. The Shiner 99 recipe, unfortunately, fell into the gimmick that was called Shiner Smokehaus -- a nice brew to try, but terrible for sustained drinking].
I am delighted to report that Shiner 103, the Wild Hare Pale Ale, might have put Spoetzl back in black. I can now scratch them off my "People to Kill" list and apply my lipstick with blessed relief.
Shiner Wild Hare Pale Ale is just the kind of inspired brewing that they've been missing for too many years. Its Texas hoppy, and by that, its not a mouthful of California-style hopped pales like Sierra Nevada. Its fruity enough to tame the hopmonster -- something like squishy peaches (a flavor they favor WAAAY too much in their seasonals -- but tread lightly here) and a touch of spice. Again, its balanced. Its neither too hopped, too fruity, or too spicy. Just a pretty damn good effort from a brewer who temporarily lost sight of its target market. Traditionalists.