Brew Blog: Shiner Wild Hare Pale Ale

Categories: Brew Blog

Shiner Wild Hare.jpg
Photo by Nicholas L. Hall
Far more subdued than its name would suggest.
Shiner Bock used to be one of my go-to beers. This was early in my drinking life, and I think the perceived cachet of a Texas Beer was part of the allure. Though my tastes have changed significantly, largely leaving Shiner behind, the brewery still holds a special place in my mind. Near the end of an all-day barbecue tour around central Texas a year or so back, a frosty mason jar of Shiner at Louie Mueller's in Taylor was exactly what I needed to shake off the dust of the road, reminding me that beer is about more than the nerdiness of these columns. It was cold, crisp, and refreshing, and I didn't care one bit about whether or not it was a "true bock," or any of the other typical quibbles.

Of course, there are lots of times when I do care about those things, or I wouldn't be doing this. When I saw Shiner Wild Hare sitting on the shelf at Disco Kroger, I decided to put it through the Brew Blog ringer. The last time I tried a new Shiner beer, it just reinforced my general disregard for the brand. This was a bit different, but in some odd ways.

Wild Hare pours a clear, vaguely yellow-orange amber. A one-inch head reduces to a very sudsy cap, leaving moderate lacing. I must admit, the first whiff I got was kind of exciting. I actually wrote "whoa" on my tasting notes. A Shiner with noticeable hops is a rare thing, indeed, and this one had them right up front. Pine, orange, and a hint of tropical fruit predominated, fresh and vibrant and full of promise. A malty ribbon wove through those aromas, offering dark bread and caramel contrast.

The first thing that struck me on tasting Wild Hare was that it seemed surprisingly tart. It's a gentle but noticeable quality that manifests more as freshness than outright acidity, and it provides a nice framework for the beer. Few Shiner beers have caught my attention right out of the bottle, so I took that as a good sign.

After that initial surge, Wild Hare is well-balanced between biscuity malt and dried tropical fruit hops. For all its balance, though, nothing really comes forward. It's almost like it's perfectly balanced so as to be perfectly inoffensive. Neither the hops nor the malt is particularly prominent or flavorful, almost canceling each other out in their attempt to get along. Ultimately, the beer seems to be trying so hard to be broadly appealing that it ends up not having much to set it apart. I can find rounded, biscuit-rich, malty beers that blow it out of the water; we shouldn't even have to discuss hops; and there are lots of "missing link" brews that unite the two species.

Wild Hare is a perfectly respectable, very drinkable beer. Whatever that means. I enjoyed drinking it, and would probably drink it again. There are some nice things going on in there, and I consider it perhaps a step in the right direction. At the same time, it's almost like two steps in different directions, leaving you awkwardly straddling the line from which you started, not really getting anywhere.


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18 comments
Zap Rowsdower
Zap Rowsdower

The beauty of this brew is that it's a happy meeting place for the wife and I. I love strong hoppy IPA's and dark malty brown ales, porters, and stouts. My wife shudders every time she tries one. Well, I bought a six of this and when my wife tried on she liked it. I agree it isn't nearly as complex as some of my favorites (Mirror Pond Pale Ale, Stone Ruination IPA, 512 IPA, etc), but it is tasty and easy drinking. A very solid beer from the folks in Shiner.

H_e_x
H_e_x

Does anyone know what happened to shiner summer grolsch? The one with the horney-toad on it?

Mindcrime
Mindcrime

My gateway? My first beer ever. Age 19, in the UK. Caffery's on a nitro pour. Coming back after my year abroad to try american macrobrew was a -harsh- comedown. This back in the 90s where decent american beer was just starting to show up. Solution? Starting to homebrew :)

Christopher
Christopher

"[B]eer is about more than the nerdiness of these columns." Well said, and humbly.

I think my "gateway beer" was either Dogfish Head, or Lagunitas' IPA. Both very excellent, but very different beers. Lagunitas is just a nice beer to have on hand, without getting too special or fancy about it.

J. Moss
J. Moss

It's one of Shiner's better offerings, but it stays true to the Shiner philosophy. Beers with decent, if relatively tame, flavor. Kind of like the Texas version of Sam Adams. This beer and the Dortmunder are the best two Shiner have, and they are both available right now.

Terry Alexander
Terry Alexander

I was eating out Friday and saw the place serving Wild Hare. Naturally I ordered one. That turned into two. Would have had more but I was driving the kids, so I settled for stopping in at HEB and buying a six to take home. The notes I tweeted that night were - Slight hops. Some citrus and a pleasant finish. I like it.

I think of Shiner as the next step up for the person who has been drinking Bud Light all their life and wants to try some of this craft beer that everyone is talking about. As you said about the Bock and this PA, they seem to brew their beers a few notches below the type of brew they are calling them. Not that that is a bad thing. I think it helps ease the palate, that has been reared on the blandness of the Big 3, into more bolder brews. Saving you from the shock that could arise from a true Pilsner, Bock or Ale.TA

Matthew
Matthew

sounds like a good option to look for at places that don't offer a more rewarding selection.

Corey
Corey

Kolsch not Grolsch (which is from Holland), as in Koln or in English Cologne it's a German style of brew. :) Good beer, usually hits around May..

T.C. Sprencel
T.C. Sprencel

I guess I passed through two gates, because I had two gateway beers. The first was Franziskaner Hefe-Weisse and the second was Dogfish Head's 90 Minute.

As for Shiner's new offering, I think it's pretty damn good. Not very challenging or complex, but well-balanced and very drinkable. It's...well...Shiner beer.

Nicholas L. Hall
Nicholas L. Hall

A fair assessment, I think. I never really had a Bud Light phase, so I suppose Shiner was my BL. . .

That's got me thinking, again, about the notion of "gateway beer." May have to do a post on the subject.

Commenters: What was your "Gateway Beer?" You know, the beer that changed everything, after which you couldn't drink crappy beer anymore. The one that showed you the light.

H_e_x
H_e_x

Thanks, I knew I was getting the name wrong. It's been years since I've seen it.

Bodl
Bodl

First gateway beer around 1980. I lived in Michigan and made occasional trips to Canada, where I found a vast array of beers not available in the US at the time. They were mostly pale lagers similar to American beers, but Molson Golden, Molson Canadian, Labatt's Blue Label, and Moosehead were exotic at that time, especially since they came in "stubbies", short squat bottles rare in the US at that time.

From that time forward, I was always on the lookout for something different.

Jason
Jason

Gateways can kind of be graduated.  After college, Shiner was my gateway from the big 3 (which I had gotten tired of and as a result just wasn't drinking much beer anymore) to what I considered 'quality' beers.  Then, more recently, I tried Pine Belt Pale from the very-local Southern Star brewery and when those hops zinged my taste buds it was the turning point for me.  I started learning more about the different types of beers, shopping by type rather than name and getting to know the breweries.  Now I get excited for places that have good selections.

Wuwu
Wuwu

shiner is like whataburger,  freaking institution....enough said....

Corey
Corey

 MIne was my Mom's Kahlua, and promised myself never again.... BLECH...

GL
GL

"My _____!" - Alonzo Harris

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