Point/Counterpoint is a recurring feature on BDCwire which explores the pros and cons of various parts of life in Boston. These arguments may, or may not, break any new ground, but are meant as a starting point for you too to make an argument. Today’s debate surrounds the Texas-based beer, Shiner. What do you think? Are you pro-Shiner or anti-Shiner?
Glenn Yoder, arguing in favor of Shiner Bock
When Yuengling made its much-ballyhooed return to Massachusetts this spring following a 20-year hiatus, Pennsylvania natives living around Boston lost their shit. One friend told me tales of how, prior to its re-debut, he had to buy the beer at inflated underground prices from a Mission Hill pub or have friends truck cases back from the homeland. Then suddenly, it was here. He was over the moon.
From a taste perspective, I didn’t get the hype — Yuengling is not a bad beer by any stretch, though it makes my head fuzzy and always vaguely tastes like you’re drinking from a dirty glass, even when it’s in a bottle. But from a sentimental standpoint, I certainly understood the hoopla: Some beers just taste like home. So when the nectar of my home state, Texas’ Shiner Bock, quietly expanded into my adopted state this month, I too lost my shit.
When I used to tour with a Boston band made up of ex-Texans, we would most look forward to shows in states that carried Shiner (usually in the south). One of those bandmates even got a Shiner tattoo. Another Texan living in New York City scoured Manhattan to find the one bar that carried Shiner — until suddenly it didn’t (maybe we drank them dry). When the band would come home from tours, we’d lug cases of the beer back with us and other southerners would excitedly clamor for a bottle as if we were handing out sips from the fountain of youth. Just last week, that same friend who got the tattoo grew impatient with Shiner’s “coming soon” Massachusetts ad campaign and made the 40-minute drive to Woonsocket, R.I., to snag a case.So yeah, I’m a bit sentimental when it comes to Shiner Bock. And suddenly, it’s here and I’m over the moon. But I don’t think I’ll allow my marshmallow-y, homesickness-fueled, fanboy tendencies to cloud my judgment. So let’s be clear: It’s insulting to compare Shiner Bock to a Narragansett or PBR as so many have (those beers’ Texas cousin is probably Lone Star). Shiner is a great beer.
It has been dutifully and lovingly prepared for 105 years at the Spoetzl Brewery in the small town of Shiner, Texas. Its roots cross the Atlantic to Bavaria: its founder was an immigrant brewer who helped instill the flagship bock in 1913. Since then, it has appeared in Robert Earl Keen songs, Quentin Tarantino films, and it was called the favorite beer of badass agent Hank Schrader in an episode of “Breaking Bad.” This year, the Brewers Association ranked Shiner the fourth best craft brewery in America, trailing New Belgium (God, let’s get Fat Tire here, too), Sierra Nevada, and old friend Boston Beer Co./Samuel Adams.
None of that does much to convince you of its taste, though it does give you an idea of the company Shiner truly keeps. As for the bock’s taste, it’s dark and smooth, never skunky or overly heavy (it registers at 4.4 percent). It tastes well-made, consistent, and to me, like home.
I know Shiner has its eye on the long game rather than the short, hence the under-the-radar entrance into Massachusetts as part of its plan to reach all 50 states by the end of 2014. Here’s to hoping it sticks around — and never gets compared to a ‘gansett again.
Perry Eaton, arguing against Shiner Bock
It’s difficult to be passionately argue against any beer, at least on the most basic level. It’s beer. It will get you drunk, which is pretty cool. But if you’re looking to do just that, I like to compare Shiners to fellow Texas staple the San Antonio Spurs– they’ll get the job done, but they’ll bore you in the process. Sure, Shiner isn’t the only beer to fall into this realm, but why do we really need another? The fact that the Texas brew is even considered a “craft beer” is almost laughable. Not only does it not taste much different than others in its price range, but its arrival in Boston is part of a larger initiative to expand to all 50 states by the end of the year. Sounds like a sellout to me.
Next time you go to a Boston bar, you may be given the choice between Shiner, Yuengling, Narragansett, and Pabst Blue Ribbon. How will you decide? It’s not as if any of these beers taste drastically different than the next, unless you consider yourself a beer snob, in which case, why would you be drinking any of these to begin with? Many of your bandwagon friends will choose Yuengling because it’s new and new things are exciting to them. Some may choose PBR because it’s an old standby. The intelligent ones will choose Narragansett because it’s both fine and local, and supporting local businesses is a fine idea. Who does that leave to drink Shiner? More bandwagoners and Texans– two kinds of people whom we frown upon here in Massachusetts.
Texas oil money already has a chokehold on this country and the Dallas Cowboys, for some reason, get away with calling themselves “America’s Team.” Do we really want them to take over the affordable beer industry as well? With the craft beer business evolving over the past decade, we can do way better than Shiner. Call me when Fat Tire, or something a bit more worthwhile shows its face out here. In the meantime, I’ll be satisfied with my ‘gansett