Visitors mill around the gift shop at the Spoetzl Brewery in Shiner, sipping fresh-brewed beer from tiny paper cups and smacking their lips.
Moments before a free tour of the brewery begins, a couple of starry-eyed 23-year-olds—Shane Bowles of Dallas and Michelle Mercurio of Houston—gush about the famous Texas brew.
“We’re nuts,” he starts, “about Shiner,” she quickly finishes.
You’ll be nuts about this 31-mile trip from Schulenburg to Shiner, which showcases the century-old brewery, historic painted churches, savory Southern cooking and charming bed-and-breakfasts.
It’s a beautiful drive through the rolling countryside of south-central Texas as you jog west on U.S. 90, then head south on State Highway 95.
Schulenburg is a busy town of about 3,000, where the restoration of the 115-year-old Sengelmann Hall (a dance hall, café and beer garden) is helping bring the historic downtown area back to life.
Founded in 1873, Schulenburg proudly displays its German and Czech heritage in the painted Catholic churches that rim the outskirts of town in the tiny communities of Ammansville, Dubina, High Hill and Praha.
It’s a delightful drive to the churches, with rolling hills, windmills, farmhouses, cattle and big round hay bales decorating the landscape.
These church interiors offer an overwhelming feast for the eyes with stained-glass windows, statues too numerous to count, multispired altars and ornate, stenciled artwork that covers seemingly every inch of the structures.
The drive yields other wonderful surprises: There’s the Itsy Bitsy Burro Company north of town (call for directions and to arrange a visit) where miniature donkeys are raised; and nearby, about five miles northeast of Schulenburg, on Company Field Road, you’ll find 2S Clydesdales, a breeding farm where the big horses graze within easy viewing distance.
Back in town, check out the Stanzel Model Aircraft Museum, named for two brothers who for decades made model airplanes at the now-closed Victor Stanzel Company.
As for your dining options, no one’s a stranger at Mik’s Cafe & Catering, where owner John Mikulik and his staff greet customers by name. At Frank’s Restaurant, an institution that started modestly in 1929 with four chairs, eight counter stools and jumbo hamburgers for 10 cents, you just never know when you’ll run into someone famous, such as National Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan.
Weary after a full day of sightseeing? Set your suitcase down at the Gus Cranz Mansion Bed & Breakfast, an 1874 Victorian house that dazzles with beveled glass windows and a crystal chandelier from the original Rice Hotel in Houston.
Chamber of Commerce, 1-866-504-5294, www.schulenburgchamber.org
Itsy Bitsy Burro Company, (979) 247-4965, www.lildonk.com
German and Czech farmers first settled here, where a post office called Half Moon paved the way for the railroad town of Shiner, named for landowner Henry B. Shiner in 1888. Then in 1909 came the biggest thing to ever hit this bustling little burg: the opening of what would become the Spoetzl Brewery, named for Bavarian brewmaster Kosmos Spoetzl.
If you want to see Texas’ oldest independent brewery up close—free tours are held Monday through Friday, at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.—get there early. The parking lot and gift shop, where the tour starts, fill up fast. After sampling free beer (each person of legal drinking age is limited to four 7-ounce cups), visitors get a quick history lesson and then head upstairs to the brewhouse. From there, it’s on to see thousands of bottles being washed, filled and crowned, marching along conveyer belts like little glass soldiers.
The brewery is definitely the hottest tourist draw in town, but take time to see the magnificent, castle-like Saints Cyril and Methodius Catholic Church that features elaborate artwork, statues, Bavarian stained-glass windows and a larger-than-life mural of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.
Also be sure to check out the Edwin Wolters Memorial Museum that preserves Shiner’s history. You won’t walk away hungry from Kloesel’s Steakhouse in Moulton, 10 miles north of Shiner on State Highway 95, and back in Shiner, you’ll wake up rested at the Old Kasper House Bed & Breakfast, which features a spacious 1905 Victorian home.
Chamber of Commerce, (361) 594-4180, www.shinertx.com
Spoetzl Brewery, 1-800-574-4637, www.shiner.com
Camille Wheeler is staff writer for Texas Co-op Power.