Saint Arnold, Texas’ oldest and largest craft brewery, launched several weekday lunch specials last week with former Grove and Alto chef Ryan Savoie. With Houston lacking a proper brewpub (for now), the addition of food at a local brewery is surely a sign of more to come. Having been to the brewery several times over the years and wished I'd prepared food for the afternoon, I'm happy to see Saint Arnold has completed the trifecta of brewery nirvana: some quaffable and some seasonal, heavier hitting beers, excellent food to pair with them, and a fun, beer-garden atmosphere.
I sat down with Brock Wagner, owner and founder of Saint Arnold, last Friday to chat about the new lunch feature and try the daily special of hummus and tabouli with crispy flatbread followed by vegetable curry with basmati rice and saag paneer. Brock said he's always wanted a restaurant element to complete the community, family-style, beer-hall atmosphere he envisions for the brewery. Saint Arnold has future plans for catering, beer dinners, and maybe even offering food on the weekend tours. It's no coincidence that Brock hired Savoie -- the chef loves beer. His favorite Saint Arnold offering is the sessionable Santo.
The recommended pairing for today's lunch was the Elissa IPA, a year-round, classic offering from Saint Arnold. Generally, IPAs are recommended for spicy foods (among other things), though the best part of pairing food with beer is the personal nature of your palate and the wide range of food compatibility in beer styles. While I'm not usually an IPA drinker, the Elissa paired wonderfully with the not too spicy vegetable curry featuring cauliflower, peppers, chickpeas, and carrots. If the hearty curry and saag paneer portions weren't enough, the fresh, light tabouli salad and hummus with flatbread appetizer certainly filled me up. The two-course lunch is just under 20 bucks, with beer samples available. For an extra $5, you can enjoy the dessert du jour; Friday, they had both a flourless chocolate cake with whipped cream and berry sauce, and a lemon pound cake. There's iced tea for those who don’t (or can’t) drink during their lunch hour.
Saint Arnold's new weekday lunch specials are a welcome addition to the craft beer community and the Houston dining scene. I expect the program to expand quickly after the initial growing pains have been sorted out. Friday's lunch sold out, over 150 orders, and they've already hired new employees and moved some from part-time to full-time. Expect Fridays and holidays to be packed, but if at all possible sneak away for lunch Monday through Thursday for delicious beers (I won't tell!) and an excellent meal.