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Brewmaster Interview: Jimmy Mauric of Spoetzl Brewery (Maker of Shiner Beer)

by Danya Henninger on May 27, 2013 in Beer
Brewmaster Interview: Jimmy Mauric of Spoetzl Brewery (Maker of Shiner Beer)

After spring 2013 launches in New York City and Philadelphia, Shiner beer is now available in all the nation’s major metropolises and all but seven U.S. states. What makes this unassuming Texas beer so popular? Longevity plays a big part.

Spoetzl Brewery has been making beer at its Shiner, TX, facility for 104 years, and brewmaster Jimmy Mauric has been working at Spoetzl for over 35 years. We recently caught up with him for a quick chat to find out more about the man, the brewery and the beer.

→ What was your first job at Spoetzl?
When I was 17 years old, I got a job running the front end of a bottle washer (back then, we had returnable beer bottles), and it was a good fit. I worked under brewmaster John Hybner for 27 years. I became assistant brewmaster in 1992, and when he left, in 2005, I became brewmaster myself.


Mauric stands on the main drag in Shiner, TX

How have things changed since you started working at Spoetzl?
The major change came in 1989, when Carlos Alvarez of San Antonio acquired the brewery. [Note: The family-owned Gambrinus Company owns Shiner, BridgePort, Trumer Pils and the Tappeto Volante brands and is the fourth-largest craft brewing concern in the U.S.] Alvarez was a godsend. Prior to that we were only producing around 39,000 barrels a year. But he brought sales and marketing expertise to the company, and we have not looked back. Yearly production is over 500,000 barrels now.

But you still only have one facility. How do you turn out so much beer?
Most modernized breweries have pretty much the same equipment. I think we produce so much because we take pride in operating the machines, and doing a good job. It’s all about the timing, and having the right people. Everyone who works here brings that small town work ethic. Combine that with state-of-the-art equipment and you get a small company producing a lot of beer.

How many people work at Spoetzl now?
Right now I have 120 employees — and that’s nearly double the number we had five years ago. They all work under me, since it’s such a small company. I’m basically brewmaster, plant manager and human resources director, all in one.


Mauric in front of the brewery with his staff

With your recent expansion to NYC and Philadelphia, will you need to hire more people?
We’re not really planning to hire more, but we are planning to increase capacity. We’ve always been slow with our expansion. You don’t want to outgrow your britches, you want to make sure you can keep your customers happy.

In the 1990s we expanded to a new brewing facility, and now we’re going to do that again. We have plans to build another bottling line — our current one does 600 bottles per minute, and we’re going to double that. After that, we’ll enlarge the brewhouse; we’re getting new fermentation and aging tanks. But we won’t need more workers, just the same smart folks to run the new, faster machines.

How many kinds of beer do you make?
The brewery was founded in 1909 by German and Czech immigrants, so those styles of lager have always been our signature beers. But craft brewing is a quickly changing world, so we have to adapt. Now we’re starting to produce several different styles, like Belgians and fruit beers — we’re changing with the times.

Full time, we do Shiner Bock (the most popular), Premium (the original), Black Lager, Hefeweizen, Light Blond and 103 Wild Hare. [Note: That last is a pale ale, and it was the first ale (as opposed to a lager) ever brewed by Spoetzl, 103 years after its founding.] We also do a lot of seasonals, like Ruby Redbird (a summer beer), Oktoberfest (a marzen) and Holiday Cheer (for winter). The best way to sample our beers is in the “family pack,” which is a mixed pack of our main beers plus a surprise — you never know which other beer you’ll get. We’re currently putting in a Czech pils, but soon it will change to Shine Prickly Pear. It’s the only way you can get that label.

Which one is your favorite?
At one time we made only one beer, Shiner Premium, and I grew up on it. It’s still my favorite. It’s been renamed over the years — at one point it was called Shiner Texas Special, and in the ‘90s it was Shiner Blond — and we just rebranded it back to Shiner Premium. Seeing that name back on the label made me feel 25 years younger!

Anything else you want to tell us?
Just that we appreciate our location immensely. Shiner has a population of 2,069, which means the brewery is a huge part of this small, rural community. We have a really good relationship with the town. I was born and raised here and lived here all my life. My brother works at Spoetzl. I have three kids and now that it’s summer, they’ll be knocking on my door for a job, too. It’s all in the family. We love our beer, and it shows.
 


Mauric raises a pint with the Shiner pastor

Top photo by Danya Henninger; subsequent photos from this great video produced by Spoetzl


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