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The taking of Europe

Kosmos Spoetzl, a Bavarian immigrant to Texas, probably never thought beers made at his little brewery in Shiner would travel back to his home and wow critics.

But the Spoetzl Brewery, owned by San Antonio’s Gambrinus Co., has done just that 101 years after it was founded on Texas soil.

In Nuremberg, Germany, two Shiner beers have taken awards for excellence in the European Beer Star Awards. In all, the respected competition had 950 beers from 33 countries competing in 44 categories.

Shiner Oktoberfest, first released as an anniversary beer several years ago and reintroduced late this summer, took the gold medal in the German Märzen-style category. Shiner 101, a Czech-style pilsner, took a silver medal among all Bohemian-style pilsners. Gold and bronze for pils were awarded to Czech breweries.

Imported beers were once the height of attainment for the cultured quaffer in the United States. Now, they share the spotlight with American versions of classic styles.

In fact, the appreciation for a classic Austrian pils led San Antonio’s Carlos Alvarez to take the Trumer Pils brand to a new brewery in Berkley, Calif., in a joint venture with a revered Austrian brewer.

The fact that some are doing it well enough to compete on the European turf, however, is just the tip of the iceberg.

Greg Koch, the outspoken CEO and co-founder of Stone Brewing Co., spoke to a recent national gathering of beer bloggers about American brewers taking their ideas to the tradition-steeped beer world of Europe.

Koch, whose brewery is best known for its Arrogant Bastard Ale, spent some time in Scotland at Brewdog for transatlantic collaboration beer Bashah. That gave him a taste of what Europe needed: a New World brewery on Old World soil.

Stone will brew distinctive beers in the American style for Europeans on their own turf. A film crew following him to the Great British Beer Festival asked beer journalists from all over Europe about their thoughts about the beer culture. Almost to a person, Koch reports, “they said ‘we wish we could be more like you guys.’” They see what’s happening across the pond and find their own beer cultures stagnant.

That’s partly because they don’t necessarily share their own beer cultures with each other from country to country, Koch said. “They don’t have an appreciation of what they’ve got.” •

Travis E. Poling writes about beer weekly for the Current. He is co-author of Beer Across Texas: A Guide to the Brews and Brewers of the Lone Star State. Send information about beers or beer-related events two weeks in advance to [email protected]

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