Not coincidentally, we had some in the fridge when I read the news, so I grabbed a cold one and headed out to the front porch to celebrate. We may live in Colorado now and enjoy several favorite brews from our new home state — looking at you, Laughing Lab, 90 Shilling, and 1554 — I still enjoy having a Shiner Bock.
It was relatively rare in my early beer-drinking days in the 70s. My dear, dead friend, Duane, had a passionate interest in Shiner Bock before it was widely available, and would range far and wide to find a case of the stuff and then carefully hoard it. I remember reading an article about how Austin’s love for Shiner Bock saved the struggling Spoetzel Brewery with their best sales ever, starting in the late 70s and early 80s. Suddenly, it seemed, it was everywhere. Certainly, it was my choice for any backyard beer bash calling for a keg.
Sipping that Bock on the front porch recently, I thought back to my road trip to Shiner with my old buddy, Greg Prostko, in the early 80s. Like too many of my friends, Greg died many years ago, but not before we shared the Creedmoor house and a few shenanigans there and later.
This particular little road trip began with him calling me to play hooky with him that day. I mean, he was playing hooky. I was working night shift, so he would call me up to enlist me in some of his daytime misadventures since I lived just down the street. “Hey, let’s go down to Shiner and tour the brewery. Grab some free beers after.”
The thing about these invitations to ride shotgun as he played hooky was: a) I was generally sleepy the entire time I worked night shift, so easily persuaded as long as it involved minimal effort on my part; and b) I rarely had any reason not to join in the fun. Drive a couple of hours to visit a brewery? Sure, why not?
The drive down to Shiner from Austin took about 90 minutes, a pleasant drive with little traffic before we reached Shiner. We located the brewery within a few minutes, an older set of buildings with a large dirt parking area. We spotted the office and headed in there, surprising the guy sitting on a stool behind a counter. Greg asked about a tour. The guy looked somewhere between surprised and appalled.
“A tour? Why would you want a tour? You don’t want to see how the beer is made — you want to drink it! That’s over in the Tasting Room!”
Without further ado, we headed over to the Tasting Room where there are no seats or stools but plenty of standing room. They also didn’t serve Bock there back then, just Shiner Premium Lager, now know as “Shiner Blonde.” But there were a few old locals who would apparently drop by pretty much every afternoon for a beer or two (or three), and we had fun talking a bit with them. They were amused we’d driven down from Austin just to have a few beers.
Soon enough, we knew we needed to head back to Austin. Return trips are always so much fun and can seem twice as long sometimes. This was one of those times. By now, we were getting hungry and in need of some type of food to act as ballast to all the beer in our bellies. Good thing we would be driving right through Lockhart on the way home. We made a plan to stop in to the Kreuz Meat Market and grab some of the best barbecue on the planet before finishing the drive home.
Only they were closed when we pulled up. It was 6:15 minutes and they closed at 6, and the door was shut and locked. We didn’t really care. We were hungry. We started banging on the door. It took a couple of minutes of non-stop pounding (we took turns) to get someone to come to the door. Finally, a guy stuck his head out just enough to say, “We’re closed!”
But Greg could be persuasive enough to bend the rules sometimes and get away with it, so he starts begging the fellow to sell us anything to eat. The guy finally agreed to sell us a pound of sliced brisket with some bread, “TO GO!” I don’t even remember eating it except it tasted damned good and got us the rest of the drive home.
All in all, that road trip to Shiner was a pleasant and rather uneventful excursion with Greg. You gotta understand: it didn’t always work out that way around Greg. I’ll tell you later how helping him play hooky another time got me to the emergency room.
And then there’s the cannon. That’s right: the cannon. But that story will have to wait.