Don’t Mess With (the Beer in) Texas

The people of Shiner, Texas, know what they like. They’ve enjoyed music and theater in the same opera house downtown since 1895. Their 12-page weekly paper claims to serve “the cleanest little city in Texas.” And when the Czech and German farmers who settled the area tired of American beer 100 years ago, they hired a brewmaster to create something more European: Shiner beer.

So in June, when the Spoetzl Brewery asked Mark McGarrah and Bryan Jessee to introduce (gulp!) Shiner Light, the admen figured they should get Shinerites involved.

Their Austin shop, McGarrah/ Jessee, threw a big party in Shiner in July to unveil the mysterious new brew. Half of the town’s 2,029 residents showed up, and some 500 signed a sheet declaring their approval of Shiner Light. The week of Oct. 20, those signatures began appearing, one at a time, on Shiner Light labels as the beer rolled out.

Traditional ads wouldn’t have worked, says Jessee. “I can’t do an ad that tells the story [of Shiner, Texas] and makes people believe it. They have to see it themselves,” he says.

To help that along, the shop got Austin’s Beef & Pie Productions to shoot a documentary, Something’s Brewin’ in Shiner, to be sold at the brewery and on Shiner’s Web site. And The Shiner Gazette printed a big story on the party in one issue, which McGarrah/Jessee inserted in alternative weeklies in five Texas cities.

The effort also includes print and outdoor, as well as radio ads performed by Shiner’s Gaslight Theater.

Jessee says he is pleased with the results. And he points out, thankfully, “There is no Miller, Texas.”