Breweries Culture

Saint Arnold: 30 Years of Great Beer and Community Impact

The story has been well documented since June of 1994, when Rice graduates Kevin Bartol and Brock Wagner officially shipped the first kegs of Saint Arnold Amber into the world. Houston’s first microbrewery opened with little, if any, fanfare. Of course, this story would not be so well chronicled if Saint Arnold had, like many other breweries that have since followed, gone gently into that good night.

The first few years were not without their challenges, as the craft beer industry as we know it was just entering its infancy. “It was a rough go early on. Financially it was challenging. If you asked me at year six or seven if we would still be around in twenty years, I would not have confidently told you yes,” Wagner explained, then went on to add, “I always like to say after twelve years we were an overnight success!”

Brock Wagner – Founder/Brewer

Reservations aside, thirty years later, Brock Wagner has guided Saint Arnold from an unknown upstart into a thriving Houston institution. What started out as a small industrial park brewery has turned into a regional brewing powerhouse that ranked as the Brewer Association’s 41st largest independent craft brewery in the United States in 2023. Saint Arnold has been named Brewery of the Year at the Great American Beer Fest twice (2017, 2023). The brewery has won countless medals at competitions both domestically and across the globe.

Most importantly, the impact that Saint Arnold has had on the Houston area and the craft brewing industry in Texas far outweighs any national ranking or medals. The brewery has been an instrumental philanthropic partner through sponsoring endeavors such as annual bike teams supporting Texas Children’s Hospital through the MS 150, as well as the Feast of Saint Arnold, the Houston Zoo, the Orange Show Center for Visionary Art, BARC Animal Shelter, Galveston Bay Foundation, Kids’ Meals, and many others too numerous to list. Saint Arnold has also been a devoted steward of the Texas Craft Brewers Guild going all the way back to day one.

Beer Garden

“As pioneers in Texas’s craft brewing movement, Brock and the team at Saint Arnold have not only set a high bar for brewing quality beer but have also been instrumental in fostering the genuine spirit of community and camaraderie that continues to make the Texas craft brewing industry so special,” said Caroline Wallace, Executive Director of the Texas Craft Brewers Guild. “In fact, numerous craft breweries across Texas can trace their ‘brewing lineage’ back to Saint Arnold. From being one of the Texas Craft Brewers Guild’s founding breweries to playing a pivotal role in our legislative progress for Texas breweries and brewpubs over the years, Saint Arnold has really been a leader in the collective advancement of our industry.”

With thirty years in the ledger and a laundry list of accolades, being able to stop to enjoy the moment of this weekend’s upcoming celebration is nothing to be trifled with. Wagner is taking the moment in stride, almost to the point of underselling the significance. “I’m bad about celebrating milestones because I feel like people might think it’s a finish line where there is no finish line.” When asked how he plans to celebrate the occasion, Wagner added, “We have an amazing team and I have zero responsibilities the day of the party. I am going to take an Uber and start drinking beer. I get to come enjoy the festival like being a home brewer back in college again and the local microbrewery is having a party, and you can just show up and have a great time!”

The Thirtieth Anniversary Party is a weekend-long affair, starting with the official party on Saturday, June 9th. General admission tickets are still available and are required for entry into the event, which begins at 11 AM and features live entertainment from 2 PM until 10 PM. Parking passes are limited, and ride-sharing or other means of transportation are suggested for those attending. On Sunday, Saint Arnold is hosting a sold-out Thirtieth Anniversary Special Rare Cellar Event in the Beer Hall.

The highlight release for the party is the Thirtieth Anniversary Grand Cru, which debuted earlier this week through pre-sale, and is now available in individual bottles at retailers and on tap at select venues across the city. The release is a 16.8% ABV double-barrel Imperial Stout with Commitment as the base, which was then aged between two and four years in a variety of different bourbon and whiskey barrels. The barrels were then blended additionally in a series of Madeira, Tokaji, and Tawny Port barrels before being blended again.

Moving forward, Wagner is not looking at slowing down anytime soon. His goal is to continue to push the brewery and the craft beer industry in Texas further. “I want to see Saint Arnold as the leading craft brewery in Texas. We have a respected institution, which is one of those things you can’t quit. It’s very, very important for us to always be innovating and evolving. Everything we have done to get us to thirty years will not get us to the next thirty years. This is part of the moment where we celebrate where we are today, but we can never assume or take our guests and customers for granted. We have to keep winning our customers every single day.”

Purchase tickets to the anniversary celebration at https://www.saintarnold.com/30th-anniversary-party/

Jackie Von Panda / Brock Wagner

Special thank you to local craft beer photographer, Steve Fraga – photo credit on all images.

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