Produced and directed by University of Texas at Austin student Frank Binney, this 1976 documentary describes the history of the Shiner Brewery in Lavaca County. In 1915, German immigrant Kosmos Spoetzl moved to Shiner, Texas, from Bavaria to make beer. He soon bought a small brewery and taught his workers the Bavarian method of brewing beer. After years of continued prosperity, Shiner Beer became known for its consistency and quality. The small brewery withstood many obstacles, such as Prohibition, mass manufacturing, and Spoetzl's death. The documentary interviews many of Spoetzl's employees, friends, and acquaintances, who describe his generosity and love for beer. The Last of the Little Breweries won an Achievement Award in documentary at the 4th Annual Student Film Awards (now known as the Student Academy Awards) in 1977. Binney now operates a media consultancy firm. Bill Mackie was a professor in the Radio-Television-Film Department at the University of Texas. He now works as an independent broadcast media professional.
The Spoetzl Brewery, later known as the Shiner Brewery, began in Shiner, Texas, around 1915. German brewmaster Kosmos Spoetzl immigrated to the United States and moved to Shiner to start a small brewery. He bought a preexisting, but poorly maintained, brewery and taught his employees the Bavarian style of beer-making. With high quality beer, made with only barley and hops, the Spoetzl Brewery became a beloved feature of the Shiner community.
After the passage of Prohibition in 1920, Spoetzl turned to nonalcoholic near beer; however, he secretly brewed alcoholic beer and distributed it around the area. In 1933, Prohibition ended, and Spoetzl expanded his brewery. He built an Alamo-style plant, still in use today, and hosted community events. Spoetzl died in June 1950, after which his daughter Cecilie took over the business. At the time, she was the only female brewery owner in the country.
Ownership by the Spoetzl family ended in 1966, when San Antonio brewmaster William Bigler bought the brewery. After another party of owners, the business was acquired by four native Texans from Houston. Shiner Beer is known for maintaining an active role in the community, hosting polka dances, cook-offs, and parades. In 1971, the Texas Historical Commission placed a historic marker on the brewery.
Joseph Patek was the founder of the Joseph Patek Orchestra, a popular Czech polka band in Shiner, Texas. He was born on September 14, 1907, and learned music from his father, John Patek, Sr.
The Joe Patek Orchestra began under the leadership of his older brother, Jim. In the early 1940s, however, Joe took over and recorded for Martin, a San Antonio label. The band gained increasing notoriety and became one of the most famous polka bands in the state.
On December 31, 1982, the Joe Patek Orchestra played its last show at the American Legion Hall in Shiner. Fiver years later, on October 24, 1987, Joe Patek died. Patek holds a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Texas Polka Music Association and is part of the Houston Institute for Culture's Texas Music Hall of Fame.