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AUG/SEP 2005 | REGIONAL | SOUTHWEST

Spoetzl Brewmaster Retires After 33 Years
By Chuck Cook

John Hybner, brewmaster of the Spoetzl Brewery in Shiner, Texas, retired recently after an accomplished career. Hybner was hired in 1966 and rose through the brewery ranks to become brewmaster after attending the Siebel Institute in Chicago in 1972.

A native of Shiner, Hybner lived there most of his life, and this is the only brewery he ever worked for. In fact, a listing of the hiring dates of Shiner employees reveals that many of them have been at the brewery since the 1970s and 1980s — entire careers. In this day and age, where changing jobs every few years seems the norm, the Shiner brewery has very loyal employees and obviously treats them well. New brewmaster Jimmy Mauric has been on board for 27 years and has been a brewing assistant since 1991!

I asked Hybner what he considered his greatest accomplishment at Spoetzl, and he replied, “Just surviving as a brewery all these years. Especially in the ’70s and ’80s, it was really tough. The big breweries were driving most of the smaller breweries out of business, and most did not make it. We really tightened our belts and got by as best we could. It was mainly the loyalty of the town of Shiner and our employees that helped us get through the lean times.”

The brewery changed hands a few times, and circumstances were uncertain for a long time. Finally, Carlos Alvarez, owner of The Gambrinus Company, acquired the brewery, and he gave Spoetzl what it needed to improve and prosper. “Carlos has been very good to me and the town of Shiner, to the local schools and employees of the brewery,” Hybner told me.

Hybner said some of the most rewarding things about his career were the many awards and medals the brewery had won during his tenure.

The fruits of Mr. Alvarez’s help can be seen in the beautiful 10-year-old copper brewhouse. “We took a European tour in 1991 to get some ideas about how to modernize and automate a new brewhouse. We visited 13 breweries in Germany and the Czech Republic in 10 days — all small breweries. It was a great trip, a real learning experience,” said Hybner.

At the retirement celebration on the brewery grounds on June 23, the liquid results of the brewery were readily evident: Shiner Blonde, Bock, Light, Summer Stock, Hefeweizen and a special new Märzen beer that will be released in September in honor of Spoetzl’s 96th year in business. All delicious beers and very welcome on a 95-degree Texas day.

The Shiner beers are now available in 30 states, and Shiner Light will soon be sent outside Texas for the first time. Quality Assurance Manager Peter Takas told me that production levels would be somewhere around 300,000 barrels for 2005. When Hybner took over in 1972, that number was 30,000 barrels.

Hybner told me some of the most rewarding things about his career were the many awards and medals the brewery had won for Shiner beer during his tenure.

As to his retirement plans, Hybner told me that he looked forward to not having any set schedule. Taking his grandchildren fishing came up, and he also plans to do some traveling around the U.S. This will include brewery visits: “I like visiting small breweries, tasting local beers,” Hybner said.

Congrats and more power to you, John Hybner. It sounds like a great life to me.

Chuck Cook is a freelance writer living in Richmond, Va. His passions are beer and travel, and he has written for various beer publications. He can be reached via e-mail at chuck@beerandtravel.com.

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