The Culture of Saint Arnold: Local brewery and its army continues to grow

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by Kevin Reece / KHOU 11 News

khou.com

Posted on January 31, 2014 at 11:53 PM

Updated Friday, Jan 31 at 11:54 PM

HOUSTON -- Saint Arnold Brewing Company owner Brock Wagner thought his move to a former HISD food service warehouse north of downtown Houston would give him the space he needed to brew his unique brand for the next 20 years.

Instead, with a growing and loyal customer base, Wagner is now producing 58,000 barrels a year and is close to maxing out the available 104,000 square feet of warehouse space in just four years.

“This was a pipe dream,” Wagner said in a recent interview with KHOU 11 News. “But I didn’t ever let myself imagine that it would actually happen.”

Wagner made the comments at a weekend gathering that has become an annual fixture in Saint Arnold’s unique marketing campaigns. The “One Pot Showdown” held last weekend in Hennessey Park, just across the train tracks from the brewery on Lyons Avenue, featured 80 teams in competition with 80 different recipes featuring a Saint Arnold beer or root beer as a key ingredient.

Teams, in costumes varying from accordion-playing lederhosen-wearing minstrels to dozens dressed in homemade mitre headgear to pay tribute to the patron saint of beer, filled the park in an event that is equal parts festival, beer garden, and the community-building rallying point that Wagner hoped his local product would become.

“This kind of event is exactly what it’s all about to me,” Wagner said after the final round of judging at the One Pot Showdown."When I started the brewery I had two goals. One was brew and sell the best beer in Texas. And the other was to create an institution that Houston and the region was proud of."

“It’s one of the highlights of Houston,” said competitor Josh Nauls whose “science” team’s recipe was a cracker spread that looks like caviar that is actually filled with Saint Arnold root beer.

“It’s not just a great Houston beer it’s a great United States beer,” said competitor Bob Kochman whose team “Thai Me Up” used Saint Arnold Brown Ale in a Thai-inspired soup.

“I’m equally passionate about building community as I am about brewing beer,” said Wagner. “And I’m pretty darn passionate about brewing beer.”

The Saint Arnold Army, as fans call themselves, are passionate as well. Wagner says Saint Arnold has grown at a rate of up to 20% a year.

Wagner started Saint Arnold Brewing Company in 1994. There are now nearly 60 full-time employees and Wagner says the company has already purchased additional properties for future expansion.

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