Spoetzl Brewery Ice Factory ice tongs

Sales of ice and "near" beer kept a Texas brewery alive during Prohibition

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If you lived around Shiner, Texas, in the 1920s and had a hankering for something stronger than water, a little birdie might have told you to stop by the Spoetzl Brewery Ice Factory for some ice. Prohibition might have been the law of the land, but legend has it that the local brewery could hook you up with a beer, and the ice to keep it cold.

The Shiner beer tradition began in 1909 when a group of Shiner businessmen opened the Shiner Brewing Association. When business failed to take off, the organization leased its brewery to Bavaria-born Kosmos Spoetzl in 1914. Brewing from a Bavarian recipe that included pure malt and hops, Spoetzl was working on becoming a household name when the 18th Amendment outlawed the production and distribution of alcohol in 1920. Undeterred, Spoetzl kept his business alive by selling ice and near beer (beer with a lower alcohol content). And — if you believe the local lore — by selling real beer too.

With the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, Spoetzl’s brewery resumed full force with the introduction of "Texas Export," a new product later known as "Texas Special" beer. Over the next decade the company added a new bottling room and brew house, and in 1947 Spoetzl constructed the white brick plant still in use today. After his death in 1950, his daughter Cecile took over the operation, becoming the only female brewery owner in the nation. The Spoetzl family sold the brewery in 1968, but the tradition of Kosmos Spoetzl is alive and well in Shiner today. In 2017, Spoetzl Brewery was the fifth-largest craft brewery and tenth-largest overall brewery in the United States.

Editor's note: Shiner brewmaster Jimmy Mauric is featured in a Texas Story Project video

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Spoetzl Brewery Ice Factory ice tongs Artifact from Shiner
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