Every Saturday afternoon at 1pm, the pair leads a tour of beer-loving visitors around the small brewery in a industrial park on Houston's northside. "We're not better than the major (brewers)," Bartol tells the group assembled in the lobby, "we're just different. They talk about what's outside the bottle (image), we talk about what's in the bottle."
After the introductory lecture in the lobby, Wagner takes the group around the factory following the brewing process. First stop is a chance to smell and taste the barley and hops. Next stop is the brewing kettle and stainless steel storage tanks. Along the way he explains the process with the humor and knowledge of a man who loves his work.
The final stop in the tour is the tasting area and corner gift shop of the spotless factory. Wagner and Bartol answer questions and explain the intricate flavors of their three beers as the visitors sample their wares. The brewery produces an Amber Ale, a British-style pale ale with a reddish color; a Brown Ale, with a rich, malty flavor and a hint of chocolate; and a Kristall Weizen, a golden wheat beer.
On June 9, 1994, Saint Arnold Brewing Company rolled out its first kegs to an eager reception. In two years they have already reached capacity. If they do not increase their fermenting capacity they won't be able to make their Christmas beer, Wagner said.
Wagner and Bartol began their careers together in the banking industry several years ago. "Kevin hired me for my first job out of college," Wagner said. The two wanted to start their own company, but weren't sure what it should be. Over a glass of Wagner's homebrew they hit on the idea of a brewery. Houston was the largest city in the country without its own microbewery, and after all, freshness was a key ingredient in beer, Wagner said.
The brewery is named for a French bishop who proclaimed beer to be a gift from God and encouraged his parishioners to drink beer instead of the untreated water. Saint Arnold became the patron saint of brewers for his preference for beer over wine or bacteria-infested water. You can sample the wares of Houston's first microbrewery from the grocery shelf, selected pubs, or fresh from the factory on Saturday afternoons. To learn more about St. Arnold, the brewery, or upcoming events visit their web site at http://www.saintarnold.com/saintarnold or call 713/686-9494.
Coming up this week...
Night in Old Fredericksburg Festival celebrates Fredericksburg's German and Texas heritage with music, food, horse racing, and a carnival at Market Square and the fairgrounds, July 19-21. 210/997-6523.
SpaceWeek '96 at the Space Center in Houston celebrates man's landing on the moon, July 20-27. 713/244-2105.
Happy Shahan Festival at Brackettville's Kinney County Civic Center honors the man who brought the Alamo and John Wayne to town, July 20. 210/563-9393.
The Great Texas Mosquito Festival Tribute to Willie Manchew in Clute is a tribute to the world's largest mosquito with food and entertainment, July 25-27. 409/265-8392.
Texas Jazz Festival brings national and regional jazz bands to stages along the shoreline and civic center in Corpus Christi, July 26-28. 512/883-4500.