New from Shiner: FM 966 Spring Farmhouse Ale

Categories: Brew Blog

Shiner FM 966 002.jpg
Photos by Joshua Justice
Well, someone at Shiner must have finally wised up and realized this whole craft beer thing isn't going anywhere. Because for the first time in 103 years, the Spoetzl brewery in Shiner has not one but two ales in their portfolio.

After the moderate success of its Double Wheat Ale -- Shiner 102 -- in 2011, it seems Shiner has decided that maybe, with a dream and some hope, the public might actually drink something other than lagers. Who woulda thunk it?

All kidding aside, the new ales rolling out from Shiner mark an important shift by one of the largest craft brewers -- yes, beer nerds, Spoetzl is still technically classified as such -- in the country.

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Photo by Bill Herndon
After finding Wild Hare to be perfectly enjoyable (albeit surprisingly tame despite the name), I was quick to wonder about Shiner's newest offering, FM 966. Billed as a Farmhouse Provision Ale, one wonders how long the marketing team at Gambrinus debated whether to release a Shiner beer with the frightening -- not to mention polarizing -- word "Saison" printed on the bottle. Nevertheless, here we sit with a Saison from the little brewery in Shiner. Again I ask, who woulda thunk it?

Upon pouring the golden, slightly hazy beer, a noticeable funk nose becomes apparent -- which is as welcome as it is surprising. It's a tart and bright smell, with biscuit malt followed by the vague hint of rose water, all of it finished with just a slight hint of Belgian esters. If nothing else, it at least smells complex.

But forget all that. What's it taste like? There's good and bad, I suppose. The good news is that the FM 966 is a supremely enjoyable, simple beer. I enjoyed having a couple bottles of back to back. It's light and simple, with crisp, clean, slightly spicy notes that work well as it warms. It's not going to shock anyone -- even your Miller Lite-drinking grandfather.

The bad news, then, for those of you 120 beers into your plate at Flying Saucer is really just the same. It's a very small, composed beer with a little funk just at the very end -- an interesting hop profile dominated by the Golding hops that run right through the middle of the beer. It reminds me of another beer, but after several days, I still can't quite put my finger on which one. And that's the beer in a nutshell, really. It's a bit vague and it reminds me slightly of a lot of different beers, but in the end there isn't very much distinct that's going on. Personally, however, I enjoyed the beer because it was so different in its good-natured simplicity.

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To Shiner's credit, the FM 966 is still a great step. It's also an interesting second ale from a company that, by rights, has no need to make anything but the lagers -- much less a Saison -- they've made for the past century. How the public reacts to it remains to be seen, but with the word "Shiner" on the bottle, I don't think it's going to have much problem.

And as a parting thought, let's look at one other word on the bottle: "Farmhouse." Which other Texas brewery has that word very prominently on the bottle? Could we see Shiner Bock drinkers asking for bottles of Jester King a year down the road? Once again: Who woulda thunk it?



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8 comments
Steve1152
Steve1152

Shiner only makes the craft beer list because the Gambrinus Company's other holdings do more volume than the non-craft corn lagers from Shiner (Bock, Blonde). Kolsch and Weizen beers are warm fermented and then lagered so they're kinda their own animals. Dortmunder is a straight-up lager.

WhiskeyR
WhiskeyR

I guess the point here is how many ales do they have available at one particular time? This article completely misses. Shiner makes and has made plenty of ales. It is not new to them. A cursory look at their website for what ales are currently available besides the one featured in this article: Hefeweizen, Cheer, Wild Hare. So that's 4, at once.

Other ales Shiner makes or has made: Dortmunder, Kolsch, Double Wheat (as mentioned in this article).  

To say Shiner is "wising up" to craft beer is laughable. They have a niche that craft brewers are generally overlooking in their lagers (Both the bock and black lager styles are largely overlooked by craft brewers), but they have been coming out with new and interesting beers (including ales) for years now.

Anse
Anse

This is not a bad beer at all, and while Shiner has yet to make a beer I would go out of my way to drink, I give them props for evolving. What I'd really like to see is a true-blue, malty, heavy-duty, authentic German bock...but that might be risking their flagship beer a little too much, no?

Bruce_Are
Bruce_Are topcommenter

It's a pleasant enough beer but as you imply, it pulls its punches. It's a Saison Lite. Of all the Shiner beers the two that I can think of that are closest to hitting the target are the kolsch and the black (akin to a schwartzbier).


J.A.Justice
J.A.Justice

  @WhiskeyR I wouldn't call limited runs and extinct beers plenty but you are correct and I should have noted the other handful of ales they've made. The "two" was a reference to the two beers on the current lineup that have come from their new dedicated ale house.  poor wording on my part.

I won't go into the argument over whether a Kolsch is an ale or lager.

The point rather was, and perhaps I should have been more clear, that Shiner is very clearly stepping out of their wheelhouse in many different ways.

So calm yourself and have a Shiner, I'm drinking one right now...it's almost noon right?

Bruce_Are
Bruce_Are topcommenter

@WhiskeyR  

The bock style you refer to hasn't so much been overlooked by craft brewers but ignored.  Shiner Bock is a cheaply made adjunct laden lager and isn't really a "bock" in style. Having said that Shiner is OK. It's the Yuengling of Texas, that is, a wildly popular mediocre beer that is locally brewed and better than Bud.

WhiskeyR
WhiskeyR

@J.A.Justice @WhiskeyR Thank you for the reply. I can see why a Saison might be considered branching out for them, but I really don't feel like ales in general are. They seem to have done a pretty good job from a business standpoint, offering new varieties and such. Some of them have been pretty good. I thought you seemed a bit dismissive of them from that standpoint, but I may be imagining things that aren't there for which I'll blame the Patriots trolls all over the net.

There isn't an argument about Kolsch beers though, unless mislabeled they are ales 100% of the time. They use an ale yeast that ferments at ale temperatures. A proper Kolsch does mimic a lager in taste and can be subjected to the process of "lagering" (cold conditioning) but it is still an ale.

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