This week it was time for a bolero and cowboy hat as I downed one of the quintessential Texas brews. Well, actually I wore no hat nor string tie, but there’s no exaggeration to say that Shiner is a brand as synonomous with the Lone Star State as cowboy boots, long-horned cattle and oil rigs. I sampled one of their seasonal, winter beers – Shiner Frost.
Shiner is the label name for Spoetzel Brewery and the town it’s located in. The small town between San Antonio and Houston has become something of a tourist attraction because of the beer, promoted in the state with a series of witty TV ads. Unlike the two Michigan breweries I’ve looked at so far in this series, Spoetzel has a lot of history. It was founded by Kosmos Spoetzel in 1909, Somehow it *ahem* even seemed to come through the Prohibition years A-OK.
Despite the popularity of the brand (now making over 6 million cases a year), it’s stayed in Shiner and every drop of their various brews come from that one spot. And a wide range it is. They are best-known for their Bock, which they note means “goat” hence the ram on their packaging, but they offer some other year-rounds including a Black lager, a light blond lager and Ruby, a grapefruit-infused lager. Although their bock seems like it would be a strong brew (as anyone who’s had authentic German or Dutch bocks would assume), it comes in at just 4.4% alcohol and a decidedly lighter flavor than its Euro cousins, seemingly in keeping with Texan tastes which seem to run towards beers lighter both in taste and alcohol strength.
As varied as those are, the more interesting choices from Shiner are typically the limited-time seasonals, such as a Pecan porter and a Smores-flavored one, both part of their winter package. The one I tried, Frost, is also a part of the winter sampler from them.
Spoetzel describe Frost as a “Dortmunder Style” beer. Dortmunders were originally brewed in Dortmund, Germany, and are closer to pilsners than anything else, although a little maltier and darker than most pilsners. The Texans go on to say Frost is a “deliciously distinctive seasonal (which) brings a hint of malty sweetness that quickly fades to show a crisp, hoppy character” perfect for frosty days. It comes in at 5.0% alcohol, about average overall but surprisingly a bit higher than most of the other offerings in the Shiner family.
This weekend, I opened the 12-ounce bottle and found it had quite a head when I poured it, although that quickly dissipated. It was a little cloudy and a deep golden color, as it were indicating what it was – a slightly more robust version of a normal lager.
I had it with some piping hot pepperoni pizza making for a nice late lunch. Now, perhaps like you, I’ve never been all that clear on the differences between the terms breweries love: “malty” and “hoppy.” But seems like the malty comes from the grain – wheat beers, for instance taste discernibly different than ones made from corn – and relate to how “smooth” the beer tastes and how sweet. The hops on the other hand, give it the character and bitterness (or lack of.)
Well, my first impression was of a rather ordinary beer but a little bitter. Seconds later, it actually seemed to leave a more bitter aftertaste. If there was a malty sweetness, I missed it.
Now, that’s not to say it was a bad beer. Not at all. It’s flavor and texture were decent, and preferable to some of the really watery light lagers so favored in these parts. But the aftertaste was a little on the strong and bitter side for my liking and it didn’t pair that well with the tanginess of the pizza sauce. I’d say this might be a beer better suited for having with a lighter, blander snack like plain potato chips or microwave popcorn.
Not a bad drink, but not one that stands out enough to make me likely to choose it again when there are so many fine brews out there left to sample. Overall, I give Frost a 6 out of 10 for flavor, 6 out of 10 for strength and
three out of five billygoats!