Saint Arnold Brewing Co., which distributed its very first batch of beer, its Amber Ale, in June 1994, is the first craft brewery in Houston to reach its 25th anniversary. It'll celebrate the big birthday for the next few weeks, culminating in a party June 8 at the brewery.
To also mark the occasion, Saint Arnold has unveiled 25th Anniversary Grand Cru. It'll be available in stores over the next two weeks; you should be able to get it at the brewery around then, too. The term "grand cru" just means the product is of a high quality, so it's positioning this beer to be consumed in celebration.
The beer combines three Saint Arnold recipes, made and aged in bourbon barrels. The combination: Belgian-style quadrupel (50 percent of the beer), which brings in a fruitier flavor; Russian imperial stout (25 percent of the beer), which adds notes of roasted malt and chocolate; and English-style barleywine (25 percent of the beer), which supplies a sugary caramel flavor and sufficiently boozy taste.
I sat down over the weekend with a bottle, pouring it into a snifter and letting it breathe for a while. The kids were in bed, my wife and I were relaxing on the couch after a long drive home from visiting the family, and the Grand Cru felt like a real reward.
Combining multiple styles can make for a strange taste, but to this day, and including the Grand Cru, I've yet to find a Saint Arnold beer that stumps me. Brock Wagner's crew nails its flavor profiles without fail, delivering suds that are easy to drink. It's not as sweet as a traditional barleywine, not as malty as a traditional stout, and not as estery as a traditional quad. It is boozy, though, and a fun trip that often changes in taste from sip to sip.
Saint Arnold's 25th Anniversary Grand Cru is perfect for that relaxing night at home, or for celebrating something, whether the arrival of a new baby or the success of a true Houston original. Cheers to Saint Arnold, and here's to 25, and many more years.
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.