Wednesday, August 14, 2013

UPDATE: The Saint comes marching in

Posted By on Wed, Aug 14, 2013 at 12:19 PM

The folks from Saint Arnold were kind enough to send us a sample package of their beers last week, ahead of the mid-September distribution to Colorado. 

Here's a look at the labels we tried:
click to enlarge A saintly spread. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • A saintly spread.

Our favorite, by a long shot, was the Bishop's Barrel No. 4, described as a bourbon barrel Weizenbock with cocoa nibs.

Founder/brewer Brock Wagner describes it as "delicious, with notes of bourbon, chocolate and banana in this beer, almost like a banana split made with chocolate ice cream."

We didn't quite get all that, but no joke, it was one of the most memorable and impressive brews we've sampled in quite some time. We were seriously freaking out after every sip — scheming to buy car-trunk loads as soon as it hit local shelves. 

Then, Monday brought sad news inside of a new press release: "Because of the small amount of beer produced from the barrels, it will only be available in pubs and restaurants throughout Texas and Louisiana. "

Flash to Indy newsroom, the two food editors splayed out on the floor, pounding fists and kicking legs in a full tantrum, with screams of "WHY GOD?! WHYYYYY?!" echoing throughout the building, perhaps even to the Nevada Avenue sidewalk out front. 

Talk about a cruel, cruel tease ... it's like that scene from Borat where he mimics "You will never get this, you will never get this, la-la-la-la-la."

Thanks a whole hell of a lot, Brock Wagner, if that is your real name. (OK, we're pretty sure it is, we're just angry.)

And to make matters even worse, we're not certain Coloradans will even get to try the Amarillo Hefe, our second favorite brew (and a fun, hoppier hefeweizen than most) that's part of Saint Arnold's limited Icon Series. (Brock, don't make us come down there ...)

Ditto on the enjoyable Bière de Saison, a somewhat straightforward Belgian farmhouse beer.  

Which leaves the three labels that we are likely to have pretty regular access to and a decent but not memorable Oktoberfest (which has won several GABF awards) that was overly malty. 

The Elissa IPA  is perfectly drinkable, with a somewhat heavier, maltier profile than many IPAs and pretty big, one-note hop kick — that being Cascade. Our only thought is that it'll have difficulty competing in our saturated Colorado market where awesome IPAs are everywhere, and many, like New Belgium's superb Rampant IPA, bring the depth and complexity of multiple hops. 

Playing off the playful term "lawnmower beer" (meaning a light session beer perfect for consuming on a hot day while mowing the lawn, in case the obvious often evades you), Saint Arnold's Fancy Lawnmower Beer is indeed crisp and light, in the style of a German Kölsch. It's a little biscuity from the stylized yeast addition, and fine, but not as impressive as the above special releases.

Lastly, the Santo is interesting as a black Kölsch, which the brewery says "technically doesn’t exist as a style." Again, I wrote down "bready" in my notes, but it is noticeably richer and darker than the lawnmower. (Maybe for late-night mowing by headlamp, which the neighbors are sure to enjoy?) And again, it's fine and drinkable, but you won't find us throwing a tantrum over it being here or not. 

Which brings me to this conclusion: Try the Saint Arnold spread yourself as it trickles into town, because sampling new beers will always expand your brew education and horizons. And sans the spoiling sips of superior Saint Arnold labels, perhaps you won't feel as generally ho-hum about the flagship line. (Yes, we Coloradans are tough to please, surrounded as we are by one of the planet's best brewery scenes.) 

And feel free to join us in harassing Mr. Wagner and his colleagues, pleading with them, really, to turn Bishop's Barrel No. 4 into a year-round, mass produced product with ample distribution to our area. That beer is a true world beater, and should travel not just as an emissary to impress editors, but as an ambassador of good things to come, a promise of a better, beerier tomorrow.  

----- ORIGINAL POST: 10:56 A.M., MONDAY, AUG. 5 ----- 

Beer nerds look out: As of the middle of this coming September, Saint Arnold Brewing Co., "named for Saint Arnold of Metz, the patron saint of brewers," will launch distribution along Colorado's Front Range for the first time. 

The 19-year-old, Houston-based brewery stakes the claim of "oldest craft brewery in Texas" and proudly displays 16 Great American Beer Festival awards and 10 World Beer Cup victories. 

click to enlarge screen_shot_2013-08-05_at_10.43.42_am.png

See below to view excerpts from a press release, with more about the outfit, its brews and its plans for Colorado:

Saint Arnold will begin with offering year-round beers including Saint Arnold Fancy Lawnmower Beer, Saint Arnold Elissa IPA and Santo, as well as its complete seasonal series. Additionally, Coloradoans can look forward to receiving special releases including Saint Arnold Pumpkinator, Saint Arnold Divine Reserve and Saint Arnold Bishop's Barrel. ...

Saint Arnold's beers include:

Saint Arnold Amber Ale
Saint Arnold Brown Ale
Saint Arnold Elissa IPA
Saint Arnold Endeavour
Saint Arnold Fancy Lawnmower
Saint Arnold Weedwacker

Santo Saint Arnold Spring Bock
Saint Arnold Summer Pils
Saint Arnold Oktoberfest
Saint Arnold Pumpkinator
Saint Arnold Christmas Ale
Saint Arnold Winter Stout

Special series:
Saint Arnold Divine Reserve
Saint Arnold Icon Series
Saint Arnold Bishop's Barrel

Under the leadership of Founder/Brewer Brock Wagner, the emphasis has been on quality, and growth has been steady and manageable. For its first 16 years, Saint Arnold was only available in Texas. In late 2010, Saint Arnold expanded into Louisiana. Despite its limited geographic reach, Saint Arnold is ranked 45th on the Brewers Association list of top craft breweries.

"We've had many requests from Colorado over the years for our beers," said Wagner. "The requests come from both transplanted Texans as well as the many people from Colorado who travel to Texas for business. Our answer had always been, 'There are already lots of great beers in Colorado.' But recently, with both the increase in interest from Colorado and one of our key people moving there, we felt like we could build community there as we have in Texas and Louisiana." ...

Established in 1994, Saint Arnold Brewing operates out of a 104,000 square foot 3-story brick building originally constructed in 1914 that sits on the northern edge of downtown Houston. Saint Arnold's brewhouse, which was imported from Klosterbrauerei Raitenhaslach, a Bavarian monastery, has an annual capacity of 90,000 barrels. Daily tours and special events attract 100,000 people to the brewery annually, making it one of Houston's top tourist destinations. 

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