By William Humbird“Life is too short to drink tasteless beer,” a simple motto that Saint Arnold’s owner, Brock Wagner, begins the tour of his brewery off Highway 290 in north Houston.
Saint Arnold is Texas’ oldest craft brewery, as the awning outside their office proudly claims, with its 15-year anniversary this summer. Wagner left his job in investment banking to start the company in 1994.
Wagner chose the name Saint Arnold, after the Bishop of Metz who was canonized by the Catholic Church as the patron saint of brewers.
A story that Wagner used to recant during his tours, and now simply posts on Saint Arnold’s Web site, tells the tale of St. Arnold’s final miracle.
“In 641, the citizens of Metz requested that St. Arnold’s body be exhumed and ceremoniously carried to Metz for reburial in their Church of the Holy Apostles,” tells the story from Saint Arnold’s Web site. “During this voyage a miracle came to pass in the town of Champignuelles. The tired porters and followers stopped for a rest and walked into a tavern for a drink of their favorite beverage. Regretfully, there was only one mug of beer to be shared, but that mug never ran dry and all of the thirsty pilgrims were satisfied.”
“St. Arnold used to walk around and tell people to drink beer, it’s a gift from god.” Wagner said. “Needless to say, he was extremely popular with the villagers of Metz.”
St. Arnold had legitimate reasons for promoting beer over water. At that point, villagers had not discovered how to separate drinking water from sewage, and beer is boiled during the brewing process, so it was safer to drink.
The Saint Arnold brewery has grown in popularity, paving the way for a $6 million expansion.
By the end of the year, the date is still unknown because of delays, Saint Arnold will be moving into its new home at 2000 Lyons Ave in a former Houston Independent School District Food Services Building.
Saint Arnold hopes the new brewery will allow for increased brewing capacity, as well as, more amenities for people going on the tours.
“The new building will have A/C, which is nice in the summer months,” Wagner said. “And a lot more restrooms.”
The restroom issue grew as the popularity in the brewery tours grew. The number of visitors at the tours ranged from 20 to 30. On April 11, volunteers, like Peet Bighorse who has been coming to the tour for 14 years, estimated the number of people there to be over 600. “It’s great.” Bighorse said. “Where else can I go to meet new people and try great beers for free?”
The brewery tour used to be free, but because of the overwhelming numbers of beer fans that show up, Saint Arnold charges $5 per person to go on the tour. The tour does come with a pilsner style tasting glass and four wooden nickels that individuals can trade in to have their tasters filled.
The tours start at 1 p.m., but plan on arriving early, since the line was out to the street by 12:45 p.m. For information on the tour and a map to the brewery, visit Saint Arnold’s Web site at www.saintarnold.com/.