Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Three Kings of Texas Beer - part 3

The final leg of our journey to see the current state of legacy beer in Texas took us to the home of Shiner Beer.   Built in 1909, the Spoetzl Brewery is the only one of the three kings of Texas beer residing in its original location.  Kosmos Spoetzl came all the way from Bavaria to Shiner, Texas to make beer and are we sure glad he came here. Shiner beer hasn’t always been popular with the masses but today it is toasted as one of the best beers of Texas!

As you stand on the grounds outside the historic brewery, one can imagine the gathering of hard working farmers and ranchers enjoying a cold brew after a long, hot day of work. Or, families might have gathered for a weekend picnic under the trees out front, with children playing while the adults enjoy their favorite brew. Either way, this little town of Shiner has embraced the Spoetzl Brewery for a long time.

Shiner Beer can be purchased anywhere in Texas and beyond but the best place to sample the beers of Spoetzl Brewery is in the Hospitality Room at the brewery. Suzanne and I love the ambiance of the place. With your Shiner tokens clutched in your hand, you can choose a tasting from their vast variety of brews, including their seasonal brews. They also have a cool selection of  Shiner merchandise.

If you are inclined, you can take the brewery tour and learn how the beers are made. But, if you just want to enjoy a pleasant drive through the German and Czech communities of the Texas countryside to sip on fresh brewed beer, that’s ok too! With its Texas brothers Lone Star and Pearl, Shiner Beer reminds us of the culture and traditions created by our ancestors here in the Lone Star State. Take a drive and see each of the historic brewery sites. You’ll be glad you did. Here in the Lone Star State, beer is still the king as we see Texas Thru My Back Door!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Three Kings of Texas Beer - part 2

As we continued our journey to find out what has happened to the iconic names in Texas beer, our next stop was the second best known legacy beer in Texas, Pearl Beer.  The Pearl Brewing Company started in San Antonio in 1881 as the J B Behloradsky Brewery and purchased the name “Pearl Beer” and beer formula from a German brewery in 1886. The Pearl name came from a brewmaster who believed that the bubbles foaming in a freshly poured glass of beer looked like pearls. The San Antonio brewery closed in 2001. Today, Pearl Beer like Lone Star Beer is brewed by a contracted brewery in another part of Texas.

 As Suzanne and I walked around the old Pearl Brewery Buildings, I thought about the beer’s trademark Triple XXX and their famous saying: “Brewed With Pure Spring Water From The Country of 1100 Springs”. I remember the commercials like it was yesterday. The competition between Pearl and Lone Star was legendary in Texas. It reminded me of the rivalry between the Hatfields and the McCoys.

Today, the old buildings, sitting on a 22 acre tract, have been converted into a culinary gathering place where one can eat, drink, shop and play along the San Antonio River. We decided that this weekend would be dedicated to eating great food! The restaurant “Boiler House Texas Grill and Wine Garden” incorporated much of the Pearl brewery architecture in its design. One can make out remnants of the old boilers as you enjoy your food and cold one. The restaurant “Cured” is housed in the 1904 Pearl Beer administration building. There are many other high quality restaurants on the property but our decisions were to try the ones housed with historical significance. The Pearl Brewery property is also dotted with other various businesses to explore.

Strolling through the Pearl Farmers Market on a Saturday morning was as invigorating as a cup of hot coffee on a cold morning. The hardworking local vendors scurried around displaying what they harvested, raised and planted just so we could buy the best local products possible to feed our families. What a treat!

So, the next time you are in San Antonio, check out the Pearl of the city while you pay homage to one of the great beers of Texas. Try a Pearl Beer and we will see you down the road as we travel Texas Thru My Back Door!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Three Kings of Texas Beer

Those of us who have grown up in Texas know these three prominent names of Texas beer: Lone Star, Pearl and Shiner. They have been around since the 1800s and hanging in against the national beer brands and the new craft beers of today. So Suzanne and I decided to see what has happen to these iconic Texas beers in a three part travel blog. I hope we can jog your memory and put a smile on your face as you remember your first Lone Star Beer or Pearl Beer or Shiner Beer.

Part 1

Lone Star Beer, the National Beer of Texas, may be the best known of the three Kings of Texas Beers. Adolphus Busch, of St. Louis beer fame, and his partners built this large mechanized brewery in San Antonio, Texas in 1883 and began selling beer under various names. In 1940, the formula developed by Peter Kreil of Munich, Germany was brewed and named “Lone Star Beer”. The National Beer of Texas was born!

The brewery looked like a castle against the backdrop of the Hill Country sky. One can only imagine the hustle of the workers as they brewed the famous beer and got it out the door to make another hard working Texan happy after a long day of work. A tall, cold longneck was just waiting to quench the thirst of a dry-mouth cowboy at his favorite old watering hole. Unfortunately, those days are past.

The old Lone Star brewery in San Antonio closed in 1993 and has been converted into The San Antonio Museum of Art. The Museum is a great place to visit when in San Antonio. The museum exhibits include American, Asian, and European art, but somehow the neon lawn chair seemed like the best fit for a Lone Star building. In 1956 the Lone Star Brewery of San Antonio purchased the Buckhorn Saloon collection of horns and wildlife and created the hospitality and sampling room. The Buckhorn Hall of Horns is forever linked with Lone Star Beer. However, the Buckhorn collection was sold in 1996 and moved once again to a new home in San Antonio as a private Museum.

Although Lone Star beer has been sold and owned by various out-of-state breweries and sold outside of Texas, it still rings true as a beer Of Texas, By Texas and For Texas. Singers have sung about Lone Star beer and it has been featured in movies about Texas. Who doesn’t remember the red, white and blue armadillo with the emblem of Lone Star Beer on its side? The National Beer of Texas’s historic shield and star reminds us what a great state we live in as we travel and see Texas Thru My Back Door!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Art Car Museum

Here in Houston, we have some of the best museums and art galleries in the world. So Suzanne and I decided to visit one of their cousins, the Art Car Museum. Small in stature, small in space, but totally cool, the Art Car Museum is an interesting place to visit. Located at 140 Heights Blvd. in Houston, the Art Car Museum is free to tour.

A cool midmorning Saturday drive in the Heights is a wonderful experience. Here, a blend of historic homes and modern condos fill the tree lined narrow roads. There is the hustle and bustle of young professional people just starting their day, enjoying the fresh morning air. The Heights is one of those areas of Houston where being hip is in fashion; where eclectic and antique blends like a latte at Starbucks.

The Art Car Museum fits the area. It blends in, but provides that eclectic kick once you enter the building. Browsing around the museum, you find what you expect, art cars. Like paintings in an art museum, each car offers a different perspective of life. Sharing your interpretations with another person allows one to explore not only the artist’s thoughts and beliefs, but your own as well. Art is meant to engage you with others and learn how they perceive the same objects you see.

On our visit, in addition to the cars, the museum offered photos from Cuba in the main rooms and photos by homeless people in a small separate room. I found the photos from Cuba very interesting, especially the vintage American cars. My only disappointment was that they did not have many art cars in the museum.  If you have a passion for art cars, you can see hundreds in the world’s largest Art Car Parade, held once a year in right here in Houston.

Since the museum tour takes only about thirty minutes to an hour to view, we had time to do something else this late morning. Food is always a great diversion for me.  We talked about all the common ideas of hamburger joints, Mexican food, and bar-b-q places, but Suzanne mentioned one place that really caught my attention.

What would you think about eating in a restaurant that only serves dishes made with macaroni and cheese? That’s what we did! We stopped at Jus Mac in the Heights on Yale Street. I was surprised by all the different offerings. By the way, they do have a few other things if you don’t like mac and cheese. Each dish is served in a small individual cast iron skillet and the food was delicious! Whether you like the conservative variations or temped by their radical variations, I think you will pleased with the outcome of a delicious dish.

After a morning of great food and culture, it was time to head home. Once again Houston provided Suzanne and I a wonderful day-cation. Whether you work all week or are retired and tired of your normal routine, it is fun to step out and see Texas Thru My Back Door!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Adventure in Palacios

While on a recent jaunt to the Middle Coast of Texas, Suzanne and I passed through the small town of Palacios. Hoping to find something unique off the beaten path of Highway 35, we drove into the heart of town. Old buildings lined the road like a ghost town in the making. As we stopped at an intersection, an antique building caught our attention, the “City by the Sea Museum”.

The museum looked lonely and deserted, but we thought we should check it out anyway. As we entered the building, an energetic lady greeted us. With a wealth of knowledge and a friendly smile, she gave us an overview of the museum contents. Left to explore at our own pace, we strolled around and looked at all the exhibits.

My interest led me to the Hurricane Carla display. Hurricane Carla plowed through Palacios in 1961. As a young boy growing up in Pasadena, I remember the storm. My family huddled in the living room of a very small wooden house to ride the storm out. I remember the fear in my mom’s eyes as the high winds howled and the sheets of rain beat against the windows. Weeks later, after the storm passed, my dad drove us boys down to Galveston to view the destruction.

Suzanne’s interest led her to the display on the French explorer Rene-Robert La Salle. The recovery of his ship, La Belle, in Matagorda Bay in 1996 was quite the endeavor. The artifacts and photos of the recovery were very interesting as was the video documentary of the subject. Our hostess mentioned the half-sized reproduction of the La Belle built as a traveling ambassador for Palacios and moored at the local marina.

Wanting to see this replica of the La Salle ship, we left the museum and started a new adventure to seek out the “La Petite Belle”. Driving up and down along the harbor roads led us to view the historic Luther Hotel built in 1903 and the huge Shrimp Fleet in harbor. What we didn’t find was the La Petite Belle. With frustration and a sense for regrouping, we stopped at a renovated city park for a walk along the shore. With lady luck by our side, I noticed some sailing rigging rising from the marina next door that seemed different from the others.  We went to checked it out. To our amazement, it was the ship we were seeking. Unfortunately, it was located in a fenced-in locked marina. We could only see it from a distance. But no matter, the search for the ship was the fun adventure we wanted!

With our visions of grandeur and lust for adventure fed, we left Palacios with a sense of accomplishment. We had entered this small town with no clue as to what expect, but we came away impressed with the history of this quaint town and happy that we had taken the time to find out what it had to offer. Exploring the back roads and small towns is what makes it great to see Texas Thru My Back Door!

We want to hear from you!  Let us know what you think of the places we visit or suggest new places for our next adventure.  See you next week...