SHINER — The makers of Shiner beer started a new chapter in their company’s 114-year history. A distillery now sits on the same campus where Bock is brewed.
Vodka, gin and moonshine, known as “Shiner Shine,” will debut to the public at the K. Spoetzl Distillery during Memorial Day weekend, company leaders said. Guests can enjoy live music, drink specials and merchandise giveaways Friday through Monday.
Head Distiller Jessica Michalec said production of the new spirits began in March. Bourbon is coming soon, as it is aging for at least two years in a new barrel house.
“We started with vodka because that is the easiest spirit to get off, and then we went into moonshine because we are big bourbon lovers,” Michalec said.
Beer and spirits are similar in that the base product is made when ingredients are mashed and alcohol ferments, Michalec said. The Shiner distillery increases the alcohol content of the base by using copper pot stills and columns with trays.
“The purpose of the trays of the (columns) and the shape of the pot still is to create something called reflux, which is essentially as the alcohol vapors are evaporating, they’re hitting the cooler surfaces of the copper and recondensing down, falling back into the pot or tray, just to be redistilled again,” Michalec said. “By the time you’re all the way through the process, you’re left with the purest alcohol at the very end.”
Next, the spirits are cut into three parts — the head, the heart and the tail. Michalec said the heart is the drinkable part, while the head and tail are reprocessed because they contain bad-tasting chemical compounds.
A distillery is the right fit, Michalec said, because it pays homage to the longtime tradition of alcohol production in Shiner.
“We are not looking to take anything away from our craft beers,” Michalec said. “We wanted to build a brand that’s unique. Like Shiner beer, all Shiner spirits will be made on site, even aging spirits, like whiskeys.”
Inside the new barrelhouse, 53-gallon barrels of bourbon mature over a two- to four-year period. The barrels are toasted at 350 degrees for 12 hours and charred in an open fire for at least 30 seconds, Michalec said. Bourbon needs a temperature swing of around 30 degrees each day for it to mature properly inside a barrel.
“Lucky for us in Texas, we have that temperature change almost every day,” Michalec said.
For Tom Fiorenzi, the director of brewery and distillery operations, creating a bourbon from corn, malt, rye and wheat will make Shiner products stand out and support the company’s goal to be a “brewstillery.”
“We wanted to show our crafty side,” Fiorenzi said. “There aren’t a lot of four grain bourbons out there.”
The distillery will host tours seven days a week. In addition to spirits, the visitors can drink craft cocktails, the Spoetzloma and the Kosmopolitan. Bottles of spirits will be available for purchase exclusively at the distillery.