In the 1840’s, German immigrants began to come to Texas in large numbers, and because of that, beer in Texas was not far behind. Texas beer has become a favorite of beer lovers in and out of the state.
When Charles Nimitz, who was the grandfather of Admiral Chester Nimitz, acquired his frontier hotel in Fredericksburg, Texas in 1855, he felt it was natural to have his own beer brewery. Residents of Fredericksburg, as well as noted guests such as Robert E. Lee, Rutherford B. Hayes, and Ulysses S. Grant thought the brewery was a great idea. This establishment became the focal point for the town, and to this day is considered the beginning of Texas beer history.
Scholz’s Garden, the old watering hole in Austin Texas, has been serving beer since 1866. About that same time, City Brewery of San Antonio, under owner Otto Koehler, built a small plant that became the headquarters for Pearl Beer in 1885. Pearl later became the first beer of Texas to be distributed outside its immediate area. Pearl purchased its formula from a brewery in Bremen, Germany that called its beer “Perle” because of the bubbles that would rise in the glass when the beer is poured.
German and Czech farmers near the small town of Shiner, Texas started another Old World brewery back in 1909. To make the kind of beer they wanted, the founders of this brewery hired Kosmos Spoetzl, a Bavarian whose family had a beer recipe that dated back several generations. To this day, the Spoetzl Brewery makes its Shiner and Shiner Bock beers using the same formula. And most tasks of the brewing process are still done by hand, using one of the smallest commercial brew kettles in the United States.
Both Pearl and Shiner survived Prohibition, at a time when most breweries did not. This was because they sold other products temporarily, such as “near beer” and ice. After Otto Koehler’s death, his wife Emma guided Pearl through those tough times. In 1933, and just 15 minutes after the repeal of Prohibition, more than 100 trucks and 25 boxcars loaded with beer rolled out of the Pearl plant to destinations throughout the state.
Within 10 years, the Lone Star Brewery joined Pearl in San Antonio, and became the third of the major breweries in Texas, and continue to produce and distribute beer which Texans enjoy today.
These were not the only breweries in Texas coming from German influences, however. In recent years, the Dallas Brewing Company, a new microbrewery, began to release a series of barley-malt beers made under the traditional German Purity Law of 1516. The German brewing heritage is still very strong in Texas after 150 years, and appears likely to thrive for many more years to come.
Billy Bristol is the editor and chief bbq pitmaster for TexasBarbeques.com, an outdoor cooking and entertaining website devoted to backyard living. TexasBarbeques.com has been providing barbecue recipes, cooking tips, grilling techniques, and backyard entertainment ideas since 2005.
Billy is also the writer and editor for Food in Texas, a website devoted to the celebration of traditional homemade Texas Food. With simple recipes and cooking ideas that bring out the best in classic Texas cuisine, Food in Texas is creating its own culinary legacy.
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