Saint Arnold Brewery Tour
You may have been expecting the next installment of my visit to The Avenue in New Orleans, but I’ll get back to that soon. On Saturday I visited Saint Arnold Brewing Company for my birthday; it’s just north of downtown Houston and is located at 2000 Lyons Ave.
Saint Arnold hosts tours every day except Sunday. On weekdays they open at 3:00 pm until about 4:15 pm, but on Saturdays they are open from 11:00 am until 2:00 pm. During this time they open the beer hall where you can sit and taste all the various Saint Arnold beers. Tours of the actual brewery are also held (3:30 pm on weekdays and 12:00 pm, 1:00 pm, and 2:00 pm on Saturdays).
For $7 Saint Arnold provides you with a tasting glass and four tokens; these tokens are redeemed for beer. Bring your glass and a token to the bar and they’ll fill your glass with beer. However, if you buy or bring a larger Saint Arnold glass, they will fill that glass instead of your taster glass. You can also trade in your taster glass for $1 off a larger glass.
I had heard that you need to arrive early on Saturdays, and it’s the absolute truth. At 10:30 am (30 minutes before the actual opening) there was a line from the beer hall on the second floor all the way down the stairs to just inside the front door. There are a limited number of picnic tables in the beer hall; my sister, her boyfriend and I were able to get seats at the picnic tables but if you’re not going to arrive early bring lawn chairs or something with you to sit. By noon or so the beer hall was packed; people had set out lawn chairs, blankets on the floor, and all sorts of other things.
Also, bring food with you. There’s not much to eat at the brewery; Saint Arnold does sell hot pretzels at the merchandise counter, and they will let you bring in just about any food you want. We saw people with pizza, Raising Cane’s chicken fingers, Chick-fil-A, and much more; we brought a sort of picnic lunch with chicken salad, croissants, barbecue chips (Lays Tangy Carolina Barbecue to be exact, and they were really good), vegetables, hummus, and pita chips.
Of course, what we were really there for was the beer and the tour, and Saint Arnold certainly didn’t disappoint. Give the bartender one token (except for the delicious Endeavour double IPA which is two tokens) and they’ll fill your glass, either the provided one or any other Saint Arnold glass you bring or buy. Personally, I stuck to the provided glass for this trip, but perhaps in the future I’ll bring a Saint Arnold pint glass now that I have a couple.
Saint Arnold Brewing Company is named after Arnulf (Arnold in English) of Metz, a Catholic bishop who lived from about 582 to 640. After his death, he was canonized as a saint and is the patron saint of brewers.
Before the tour of the actual brewery, I tried the Amber and Brown ales and also had a glass of Endeavour. All three of these were quite good. In addition, Saint Arnold serves their root beer; you can fill your glass with root beer without giving up a token. The root beer is also delicious.
The tour of the brewery starts just outside the beer hall where the mash tun, brew kettle and agitator are located. One of the brewers leads the tour, describing the brewing process and giving some Saint Arnold history. The current brewing equipment was purchased from Klosterbrauerei Raitenhaslach, one of the oldest monastery breweries. Raitenhaslach stopped brewing in 2003 and sold its brewing equipment to Saint Arnold. The brewing equipment was installed in the new brewery during its renovation from a Houston Independent School District cold storage building. In the upstairs brewery room alongside the various awards a crest from Klosterbrauerei Raitenhaslach hangs on the wall.
The tour then goes downstairs where the fermenters and bright tanks are located. Since it was a Saturday, no one was really working; I imagine the tour during the week is a bit more interesting as operations are actually taking place. We didn’t go to the bottling line, but it sounded like this was something they show during the week. All of the fermenters and bright tanks are named Saint _____. Some are actual saints while others are not. One is named Saint Michael Jackson, which is named for the English author of The World Guide to Beer.
After the tour of the facility, we wrapped things up and I left completely satisfied. This is not just a one-time tour; it’s an event to experience many times. Beer lovers from all around the area gather at Saint Arnold to relax, play games, eat, and enjoy fresh, delicious beer. If you’re visiting Houston a visit to the brewery is something I can’t recommend enough.