Beer battle brewing over billboard and branding in Shiner

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SHINER, Texas (Nexstar) — A big battle over beer has begun in a tiny Texas town.

A billboard in Lavaca County, Texas, advertising the 2019 Shiner Music Festival in Shiner, Texas. (Photo: Del Papa Distributing)

The public spat started over the Shiner Music Festival, which features local fare and country music and is hosted by the local Lion’s Club.

Houston-based Karbach Brewing Company was a headlining sponsor of the festival. They produce a beer in partnership with the Houston Astros called Crawford Bock, which they advertised ahead of the festival on a series of billboards.

Shiner, a town of slight more than 2,000 people, is the home of Shiner Bock, a popular Texas beer brewed exclusively in the town, which is situated between San Antonio and Houston. The Lavaca County mainstay was a lower-level sponsor of the music festival this year, and has been involved in the fest for the last few years, a spokesperson said.

Karbach Brewing Company signage at the 2019 Shiner Music Festival touting a “new Bock in Shiner.” (Photo: Shiner)

Spoetzl Brewery, the makers of Shiner Bock since the brewery opened 110 years ago, took issue with the billboards and a sign which appeared at the festival touting a “new Bock in Shiner.”

The company published an open letter, calling out the Karbach crew and its parent company Anheuser-Busch InBev. The beer giant purchased the Houston-based brewing company in 2016.

“This is a huge company with deep pockets seeking to force its way into our town,” the Spoetzl team wrote.

Julie Boehm, Spoetzl’s procurement and logistics manager said the move struck a nerve for the company, which employs just more than 100 people and produces “every drop” of Shiner Beer in Shiner, Texas.

“It was definitely an aggressive move by a large industry that tried to hide behind a craft name,” she said.

“We want everybody to know that it wasn’t a small craft brewery that came out here to try to sponsor an event,” Boehm said. “It is a major corporation that came in here with a lot of dollars, deep pockets that were able to come up here and sponsor an event here in Shiner, but it’s not a small craft brewery like we are.”

A photo of one of the billboards in question shows references to Karbach and Crawford Bock, but not the verbiage used in Spoetzl’s open letter.

“When we got the call from Del Papa Distributing in Shiner, TX, asking us to help them support the Lion’s Club Shiner Music Fest, the partnership was an easy ‘yes’ from us,” Karbach’s brand manager David Graham said in a statement. “Shiner Music Fest not only has a rich history in the area—it’s also important to our community—and we’re honored to do our part.”

Graham said Karbach’s involvement in the music festival was part of the company’s commitment to “support our home state.”

“Karbach Brewing Co. has always been deeply invested in Houston and the greater Texas community—it’s a part of our brewery’s DNA to give back and support our home state, where we brew 100% of our beer,” Graham said, adding that the Crawford Bock has helped raise nearly $100K for the Astros Foundation.

Boehm said the open letter aimed to reassure customers in Shiner that Spoetzl Brewery was “here to stay.”

“We give to several charities, we give back to the community, we do sponsor events and we just want everybody to know that we are standing behind our brand and we are proud to be a small craft brewery, family owned and operated right here in Shiner, Texas,” Boehm said.

A request to Anheuser-Busch for comment was not returned.

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