Burgers and Beer

The History of Beer in Texas

a can of Lone Star Beer with a silhouette of Texas

Texas is warm and humid, which are the reasons why the people living there are always thirsty and craving for drinks. There are many beverages available in the state, but none can satisfy the thirst of most Texans than a cold glass of beer.

While Texas is home to a few of the most popular beer brands in the world, the alcoholic beverage didn’t really come from the state itself, as it was brought by immigrants and was enhanced, or even perfected, by the locals living there. Here is the fascinating history of how the beer came to Texas.

Texas Ale

Before the most common type of beer was introduced in Texas, which is the lager beer, the locals of the state were drinking many kinds of alcoholic beverages like persimmon beer and potato beer. However, these beers are considered awful tasting by some Texans, but they have no choice as the ingredients used to make their beer are the only resources that they have in their area.

Another alcoholic beverage that they used to drink a lot in the state is ale, which has been around since the period of the ancient Egyptians. Ale is also a beverage that is quite easy to make in Texas, as the yeasts used to make ale should be fermented in warm temperatures and should rise at the top of the tank or container.

It was not until the 1840s that ale will be replaced with lager beer as the most popular alcoholic beer in Texas.

Lager Beer

a cold glass of beer

When German and Czech immigrants came over to Texas during the 1840s, they brought their beer recipes with them and shared it with the Texans. These immigrants are the ones who introduced the lager beer in the state.

However, while ale is made in warm temperatures, lager beer is made in cold temperatures, and the yeasts should sink near the bottom of the container. Due to this process, lager beer was difficult to make in Texas because of the state’s warm climate.

Interestingly, the first sellers of ale and other alcoholic beverages were homebrewers, and most of them were unable to make lager beer due to limited resources and a lack of sufficient money to buy machines to keep the brew cold. Some homebrewers would opt to make lager beer during winter, and they would often store it in cellars or even in places like caves just to lower the temperature needed to craft the beer.

The Menger Hotel

Menger Hotel in San Antonio Texas

Lager beer became widely accepted in Texas as the best-tasting beer out of all available alcoholic beverages in the state, but the supply of the beer was not enough to satisfy the demand due to how hard it is to make.

Many companies tried to meet the demand for lager beer by producing it in large quantities inside large buildings, and one of these companies is the Menger’s Western Brewery that is founded in 1855 and is located in San Antonio, Texas.

After the success of the brewery, William A. Menger, the founder of the company, decided to build a hotel next to the brewery to expand his business further and let the tourists and locals staying at his hotel to have a taste of his special lager beer.

Menger’s beer was crafted inside a cellar that is kept cool by the flowing cold water from the San Antonio River. The Menger’s Western Brewery was the largest brewing company in Texas until it was closed in 1878.

Lone Star Brewery

the Lone Star beer factory in 1884

In 1883, a German brewer named Adolphus Busch, along with a few businessmen who are knowledgeable in the brewing business, wanted to replicate the success that Menger got when his brewing company was still running, which led to the founding of the Lone Star Brewery in San Antonio, Texas.

The Lone Star Brewery makes lager beer inside a large factory that is able to produce thousands of bottles a day, allowing them to export boxes of beer to faraway locations in Texas as well as in other states without depleting the supply in San Antonio.

Prohibition Era

But the success of the Lone Star Brewery ended when the Prohibition was implemented. The Prohibition was a constitutional ban in the United States that prevented the production of alcoholic beverages from 1920 to 1933. This ban affected almost all brewing companies in the country, including the Lone Star Brewery, which prompted them to sell non-alcoholic drinks that consumers didn’t like.

When the Great Depression happened in 1929, most politicians regretted the decision to ban alcohol since the product was one of their biggest sources of tax revenue. It was not until Franklin Roosevelt was elected president in 1932 that the Prohibition was abolished, as he promised his people that the ban would be lifted if he is the leader of the country.

Return of Lone Star

Pearl Brewery retro logo

In 1940, the Champion Brewing Company, another brewing business in San Antonio, was rebranded into Lone Star Brewing after the company, and the brand was purchased by the Muchlebach Brewing Company. It was also during this time that the formula for the popular Lone Star beer that we know today was created.

But the new Lone Star was not able to capture the success that it was once had, as several big companies in Texas have also emerged during Lone Star’s absence, and one of them being Pearl Beer, which was founded in 1886.

During the Prohibition, Emma Koehler, the wife of the company’s manager Otto Koehler, was able to keep the Pearl Beer alive by selling other items like sodas, ice, and dairy products. It is also believed that Emma was selling beer secretly to customers during this period.

After the Prohibition ended, Koehler began selling more and more bottles of beer as the demand was high, and when Lone Star returned, her company was able to go toe to toe in terms of income and production with the legendary brand.

Texas Beer Today

the Spoetzl Brewery where they make Shiner beer

Besides Pearl Beer and Lone Star, there is also another company that is slowly rising in the beer industry, and that is the Spoetzl Brewery, who is mostly known as the creator of the Shiner beer. With the dominance of the three companies in the Texas market, homebrewers and small brewing companies have begun to go out of business one by one during the 20th century.

But of course, the beer brewing industry did not just become prominent in Texas, as bigger companies have also become successful in other parts of the United States.

Pearl Beer closed in 2001, with its factory being sold to Silver Ventures, Inc., who is currently preserving that state of the building to serve as a crown jewel and a tourist attraction in San Antonio. The Lone Star brand is eventually sold to the Pabst Brewing Company, and the Shiner Beer brand was purchased by The Gambrinus Company. Both the Shiner Beer and the Lone Star Beer is still being served at bars and sold in grocery stores not only in Texas but also in other parts of the world.

On the other hand, craft beer and homebrews had a resurgence that started from the early 2000s, so those who may be getting tired of drinking the same brands of beer now have other options. There are various pubs and bars in Texas that are currently creating their own flavors and formulas for craft beers, and they will continue to make these beverages as long as customers or drinkers want something different for their palate.

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