Filed under: craft beer, top-feature, Tours
Craft Brew at St. Arnold Brewing Co.
St. Arnold: Patron Saint of Brewers, credited with the miracle of providing a never-ending mug of beer to the parishoners of his church, who exhumed his body and carried him from his original resting place in Remiremont, France to their church in Metz, France for reburial. (BeerChurch.com)
When we first got to Houston my husband and I stocked up on some Texas-made beer and wine from the grocery store. The standout from that trial run was a beer called Fancy Lawnmower by St. Arnold Brewing Company. This balanced, German-style Kolsch grabbed my attention because it wasn’t overly hoppy (I’m not much for IPAs and such) and it seemed to go well with everything: salads, burgers, pizza, or whatever was on TV! Fancy Lawnmower has been our go-to beer ever since, and last weekend it was time to visit the brewery.
We arrived at the refurbished warehouse that St. Arnold calls home at 11 AM on Saturday. We entered and walked up two short flights of stairs to the tasting room. A man checked our IDs and then we queued behind the cashier, who in exchange for $7 handed us each a 10-oz. St. Arnold tasting glass – to keep – and four black tokens, like poker chips, that we were told to trade in for four beers of our choice. This tasting room was much different from what I am used to; instead of a small room with a bar, or series of bars, where you stand and taste a lot of small samples, St. Arnold uses an “open house” approach. Members of “The Brew Crew” pour beer from five year-round and five seasonal selections, and you? You hang out drinking great local craft brew and meeting new friends at the long, communal tables and benches that live in the middle of the huge tasting room.
I tasted the Amber, Texas Wheat, and Summer Pils and my husband tried those plus the Brown Ale, to which he gave high marks. I enjoyed the Amber and the Texas Wheat more than the Summer Pils, but for now I’m sticking with Fancy Lawnmower as my overall favorite. In the interest of full disclosure I am going to admit that I have had a terrible case of allergies combined with a spring cold, so I did not get to fully appreciate any of the beer. All the more reason to return! I suspect that I might change my tune on the Amber, if paired with a big, juicy cheeseburger. I’ll keep you posted.
St. Arnold has weekend hours on Saturdays from 11 AM to 3 PM and they offer three tours, on the hour, between noon and 2 PM. I am always as interested in the process as the product, so we took the 30 minute guided tour that starts upstairs and ends up downstairs on the production floor, among giant, hulking stainless steel tanks. A member of the staff walked us through a brisk but entertaining history of beer, some background on the brewery, and details on the brewing process, from grain selection to fermentation to bottling. There was even a brief Q & A session at the conclusion of the tour, something I know my homebrewer friends would especially appreciate. I discovered that St. Arnold is Texas’ oldest craft brewery and that the beer is sold only in the state of Texas. Unlike at most wineries and breweries, guests can only consume St. Arnold beer on-site because state laws prevent direct sale of beer from the brewery.
The Brewery invites visitors to bring along food (I even saw people playing board games that they brought in) and relax with friends while you enjoy their beer. By separating the tour and informational talk from the tasting aspect, St. Arnold allows the visitor to tailor their visit to their own interests. It can be like a quick stop at the bar for a couple of short ones, or it can be more like the traditional “tasting room experience” when you opt for the tour. The atmosphere is family-friendly enough to accomodate an afternoon with younger children – this would be a great rainy-day picnic alternative.
Where: 2000 Lyons Ave. (map)
Hours of Operation: Monday-Friday, entry 3 PM-3:30 PM, taps close at 4 PM; Saturday 11 AM-3 PM.
Cost: $7 (includes a glass to keep and four 10 oz. beers); under 21 must be accompanied by adult.
Tips: Bring your ID – take it from a former bartender, you always need your ID when ordering alcohol no matter how old you are! And please always use a designated driver.
Photos courtesy of Joshua Payne