We interrupt this beer review column for an important development: Hard cider.
Boozy and carbonated apple drinks have been pretty popular for a while now, but down here in Houston it took a while to catch on, primarily because there isn't an apple culture in our humid climate.
But at some point, somebody was going to go all in on hard cider. While a few producers have popped up over the years—most of them making their product outside of the area but distributing it locally—the Houston Cider Company was the first to make their stuff right here in the city (with apples from the Pacific Northwest, however).
Just as the Houston Cider Company started rolling out cans, Saint Arnold unveiled its first foray into cider: Saint Arnold Dry Cider. The apples are sourced from the Pacific Northwest, the yeast is the brewery's own, and adjuncts include Belgian candi sugar and Burleson's honey.
Saint Arnold Dry Cider pours gold, maybe a slight pale, but sparkles and continues to carbonate while it's resting still. The apple smell is down the middle, neither tart nor sweet, but there's an underlying sugary scent, more like pear.
There are five grams of sugar in a serving, which puts it somewhere on the line separating dry and off-dry, but it's nowhere near as sweet as a serving of Austin Eastciders Dry. The taste proves it: Saint Arnold Dry Cider is pretty dry. In fact, I felt my tongue and mouth drying up a bit after tasting. In that sense Saint Arnold accomplished what it set out to do. Still, I would've liked a stronger apple bite. The apple varieties used run through the gamut of way-too-popular and somewhat boring (Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Fuji, Gala, Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, etc.). It's difficult to get Jonagolds and Sweet Tangos, especially when working with a third party in the Pacific Northwest, but they'd be awesome to experiment with.
Saint Arnold Dry Cider is a nice opening salvo for the big boys. For those wanting a dry, gluten-free beverage while at the beer hall, beer garden, and restaurant, this really is a godsend. I hope to see the brewery try some fun stuff with cider down the line, though. The expertise is there to really blow some people away.
Explanation of ratings: 9.5-10: as good as the best beer in America; 9-9.4: the best beer in Houston; 8-8.9: among the better beers in Houston; 7-7.9: really good beer; 6-6.9: try this beer at least once; 5-5.9: if you’re stuck, this won’t hurt; 3-4.9: among the lowest-quality beers in Houston; 0-2.9: as bad as the worst beer in America