14 March 2007

Of Beer and BBQ

If you are arriving in the middle of this story, you might want to go back and start with Part I.

When last we left the trip through Texas, I was leaving the Avalon Diner and heading west to Shiner, Texas, and the Spoetzel Brewery - the makers of my favorite brewski, Shiner Bock. I remember my first trip to Texas back in the early '90s. One of my college buddies was getting married in San Antonio, and I flew out for the festivities. Every place we went, I would go to order my beer of choice, Amber Bock, and every place I went, I was told "we don't serve Amber Bock, we have Shiner Bock." Not being familiar with the brand - and not being much of a beer drinker to begin with, I moved on to something else. It wasn't until the night of the bachelor party when my friend was still coherent enough to know that he should stop consuming all the beers people purchased for him, that he passed me (the designated driver) one of his Shiners. I guess we could call it love at first taste - because I was hooked.

For all the times I have been to central Texas, I always wanted to visit Shiner and the brewery. Unfortunately, Shiner is about two hours west of Houston, an hour and a half east of San Antonio and about an hour and a half southeast of Austin. Usually, no matter how well I plan, I just can't swing that much drive time on the work nickel to score a trip to a brewery. This trip, though, was my own doing, and there was a group gathering at the brewery as part of the weekend festivities, so the stars aligned properly - for once!

We arrived in Shiner too late for the morning tour and way early for the afternoon gig (note to self: someone should really check to see the tour times before driving two hours!). We had time to kill, so we went - well, where else? The nearest watering hole. Heck, it was after noon somewhere, right? Right up the road from the brewery was a place (which may well have been named "Bar" or "Tavern" for all I know) that sold frosty cold plastic cups of Shiner Blonde for - get this - $1.25. This will do until the brewery tour begins.

The Shiner folks are a little squirrelly about people taking pictures inside the brewery, so I only got some outside shots. The brewery tour is cool (and free!). I learned a lot about beermaking and that Shiner Bock is now the #1 best-selling craft beer in Texas (not really surprising - those yellow bottles are EVERYWHERE) and the #4 best-selling craft beer in all of the United States. Today's trivia - Who are the three ranked ahead of Shiner Bock? Answer at the end of the post (if I could only figure out a way to post upside down!).

You get a few free samples before, during, or after the tour. They offer more than just the bock for tasting, too. I sampled the blonde, hefeweizen, bock and the seasonal dunkelweizen. The first three were good, but the dunkel is an acquired taste that I have not acquired. I thought it tasted a little thick - but, true beer lovers may love it. Me, when I say "Shiner," I mean "bock."

After navigating our way through the backroad Texas speedtraps, the caravan made it's way up to Taylor, TX - home of the legendary Louie Mueller's BBQ. I visited Louie Mueller's about a year ago, and detailed the bulk of my feelings at that time. Still, there was something so noteworthy at this stop that bears specific mention. For all the readers out there in Internet-land who are fans of menus, Louie Mueller's boasts one of my favorites. Scratched out on butcher paper and posted to the wall with masking tape, all of the days offerings are clearly spelled out. You can pretty well figure that most regulars here don't stop to read the menu.

The barbecue at Mueller's is excellent. As big a fan as I am of Williams Smokehouse in Houston (I won't link to the same article again, but if you haven't read the first post in this series, you'll know what I mean), if I had a choice between the two on a daily basis, I suspect that I wouldn't be eating much at Williams. During this weekend, though, we searched out the pinnacle of all BBQ, and while the beef brisket and pork ribs are really solid choices here, we would find some samples of those products to be superior further along in the trip (how's that for a teaser?). But, the single best thing on the menu here are the phenomenal beef ribs. Pictured to the left is the guy in our group affectionately called "The Mayor" enjoying one of these Flintstone-esque brontosaurus - errrr....beef ribs. I may go so far as to say that these ribs weren't only the best thing on the Mueller's menu, but it may have been the single best piece of meat - any style - that we enjoyed the whole weekend. Maybe after the last post, I will do an "awards" post for the best of this trip. The guys at Mueller's are probably going to hate me for posting this, as they told us that they get a spike in business whenever the local food writer mentions the beef ribs - and they usually cannot keep up with the demand on a daily basis. As a matter of fact, the rib shown in the picture was the last one sold for the day - yes, most of us didn't get to order them, as they were sold out. I managed to sample a small piece of the rib meat that someone else had ordered, and I can assure you - this is a serious nominee for best BBQ of the weekend.

Stay tuned...more to come on visits to Lockhart (Kreutz's Market, Smitty's) and Southside Market in Elgin.


carne al fuoco - il piacere del BBQ said...

Hey! I like this topic, congratulations 4 the blog too!

greetings from the italian bbq fans community

carne al fuoco - tutto per il barbecue ricette grigliate consigli

Anonymous said...

In case there was any doubt by any reader out there - there is nothing in the WORLD like a Dublin DP, some central TX BBQ and a frosty cold SHINER!!! Ahhh, Shiner, how I miss thee...
While I am completely crushed you got to visit the brewery before me, I am very grateful for my souvenir t-shirt! Thanks, Travelin' Man

The Mayor said...

Steve, Your report is spot-on man. Good Job. I don't think the photo of me with the Texas Beef Rib is a "Prom Shot", but it does show that Fred Flintstone isn't the only guy to enjoy Big Bones!! See you in Nashville next month. AL