Food & Drink | September 2019

By Abby & Kevin Tankersley

Burgers & Beer

Thanks to a youth group mission trip to South Texas a couple of months ago, we found ourselves child-free for the better part of a week, so we hit the road as well. Since we already had a Houston trip planned for later, we opted for smaller-town Texas for this excursion and had a thoroughly enjoyable time.

We stayed at an Airbnb in Shiner and made stops in La Grange, Lockhart, Yoakum, as well as Schulenburg and some surrounding communities. (Lockhart, with a population of 12,698, was the biggest town on our itinerary.)

The painted churches in and around Schulenburg were the highlight of this trip for us. We had wanted to visit them for years and had just never found the right opportunity until now. We spent $5 at the Schulenburg Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Center for a map that directed us to the churches in communities such as Ammannsville, Dubina, High Hill and Praha.

The painted churches were breathtaking. Most are set off by themselves, down a country road, and don’t appear to be anything spectacular from the outside. Inside, however, the churches — most built by Germans and Czechs in the late 1800s and early 1900s — replicate the sanctuaries of the houses of worship in the old country. They contain sculptures and paintings and stained glass and other fabulous works of art. St. Mary Catholic Church in High Hill is considered the highlight of the painted churches tour. Built in 1906 and painted in 1912, the building features original stained-glass windows made in 1876 that were moved from the previous church building.

While a self-guided tour of the churches is possible, we wish we would have paid for a guide to join us. The fee for that is $10 per person — the money is split between the Schulenburg Chamber of Commerce and the participating churches — and the guide rides in the tourist’s vehicle. (A $40 gratuity is expected at the conclusion of the trip, according to the chamber’s website.) A guide with knowledge of each church would have made the tour more meaningful.

We visited a couple of antique stores in downtown La Grange, as well as the wonderful Art Connections Gallery, which features art from more than 160 artists from around the world. We tried as well to find any remnants of the Chicken Ranch, made famous in the film “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.” Our maps app took us to a gate that led into a pasture. There were tire tracks leading into the property, and had we had a pickup, we might have ventured forth, but we decided that it might not be the best voyage for a minivan.

The most interesting meal of our trip took place in Yoakum, about a 15-minute drive from Shiner. Reviewers on several sites had raved about Mayos Tacos, so we decided to give it a try. Again, we followed our maps app, but as it said we were almost to Mayos, we were in a residential area, and then Mayos appeared. And we were still in a neighborhood. Mayos is attached to a house and appears to be an add-on or a closed-in garage. But the online reviewers were right. The street-style tacos were outstanding and cost less than $3 each. Mayos is only open from 5:30 p.m. to midnight Thursday through Sunday, so plan that trip accordingly.

In Shiner, we of course visited the Spoetzl Brewery, which brews the Shiner family of beers. Tours of the brewery cost $5 but included are four wooden tokens which you can exchange for small cups of Shiner product in the gift shop.

The tour guide talked about the history of the brewery, the amount of beer it produces each day and other interesting stuff, but the tidbit of information that jumped out at us was that every bottle that comes into the brewery is made at the Owens-Illinois glass plant on Beverly Drive in Waco.

In addition to shirts and hats and all kinds of other stuff in the Spoetzl gift shop, there was also the book “A Taste of Texas: Cooking with Beer from the Little Brewery in Shiner, Texas,” available for $10. Most of the menu below was inspired by recipes in the book, except for the Summer Redbird, a drink that Abby created recently. The ginger beer-and-lime ice cubes combined with the tart, sweet Shiner Ruby Redbird makes for a refreshing drink on a hot evening.

The Recipes

Beer Burger

  • 1 pound ground chuck
  • 1 pound ground sirloin
  • 1/4 cup cracker or bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon grated onion
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, grated
  • 1/4 cup flat beer
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Tabasco
  • Salt and pepper

In a large mixing bowl, mix together the meats, crumbs, onion, garlic, beer, Worcestershire and Tabasco. (It’s easiest to use your hands to mix everything together.) Separate the mixture into 8 equal portions and roll into balls. Place on a plate and refrigerate for at least an hour.

When ready to cook the burgers, flatten the balls of meat into patties. Use your thumb to make an indention into the center of each patty. Sprinkle the meat liberally with salt and pepper. Cook the patties on a grill or hot skillet until cooked through. Makes 8 servings.
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Beer Buns

  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 12 ounces dark beer, such as Shiner Bock
  • 1/2 cup grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese
  • 4-ounce jar pimentos, drained
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 3 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup dry milk

In a large saucepan, combine the butter, 2 tablespoons flour, sugar and salt. Place over medium heat and cook until the butter is melted and the mixture is a smooth paste. Add the beer and stir until thickened slightly, then remove from heat. Add the cheese and pimentos. Stir until the cheese is melted, then set aside to cool to room temperature.

Dissolve the yeast in the warm water until bubbly. Add the yeast to the cheese mixture.

Place the 3 1/2 cups flour and dry milk in a large mixing bowl. Add the cheese mixture to the flour and stir until mixed. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and knead for 5 minutes. Place the dough back in the bowl and allow to rise until doubled, about
90 minutes. Punch down and let the dough rise again until it’s about 1 1/2 times its size.

Heat the oven to 375 F. To make the hamburger buns, divide the dough into 8 equal portions (or 10 portions if you want to make slider buns). Roll the dough portions on the counter to make smooth balls, then place on a sheet pan that has been lined with parchment. Press with the palm of your hand to shape the buns. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the buns are golden brown, rotating the pan halfway through cooking. Makes 8 or 10 servings.
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Beer Cheese

  • 2 pounds extra-sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Tabasco (or more to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon grated onion (or more to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon grated garlic (or more to taste)
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup dark beer, such as Shiner Bock

Place all the ingredients in a mixing bowl and use an electric mixer to combine. Place the beer cheese into a serving bowl, cover and refrigerate until cold.

Remove the cheese from the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before serving. In addition to using on the beer burgers, the beer cheese can be served with pretzels, fresh vegetables or made into a grilled cheese sandwich. Makes 5-6 cups beer cheese.
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Warm Potato Salad

  • 2 pounds red potatoes
  • 3 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 1/2 cup celery, diced
  • 2 tablespoon onion or shallots, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons salt, divided
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Tabasco
  • 1/2 cup dark beer, such as Shiner Bock
  • 1 tablespoon parsley, chopped

In a large pot with water, boil potatoes until just tender. Allow to cool and cut into bite-size pieces. Place in an 8-by-8 glass baking dish. Add bacon, celery and onion. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt.

In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the flour, mustard, sugar and 1 teaspoon salt. Stir until it’s a smooth paste. Gradually add Tabasco and beer. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens and comes to a boil. Pour the mixture over the potatoes and stir lightly to combine. Let sit for about an hour.

Heat oven to 375 F. Bake the potato salad for 25 minutes or until heated through.

Sprinkle on the parsley and serve. Makes 5-6 servings.
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Summer Redbird

  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • Zest and juice of half a lime
  • Ginger beer
  • Shiner Ruby Redbird beer
  • 1 slice grapefruit, for garnish, if desired
  • 1 slice lime, for garnish, if desired

In a 12-ounce glass, stir the sugar into the water until the sugar dissolves. Add lime juice and lime zest; stir to mix. Add the ginger beer until you have 1 1/2 cups liquid. Stir to mix thoroughly. Pour mixture into an ice cube tray and freeze. (The ice cubes won’t freeze totally; they’ll be a bit slushy.)

When ready to serve, place 3 or 4 ice cubes in a glass and pour the Ruby Red beer over. Garnish with slices of lime and grapefruit. Makes 1 drink.
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