I've been on a Saint Arnold kick lately. Every time I have one, I'm reminded of the brewery's penchant for high-quality, easily drinkable beverages. Few cities in America have a dependable independent mid-sized brewing outfit like Saint Arnold—we should feel lucky, and we should revisit it every few months (or weeks).

Saint Arnold recently announced a new year-round beer: Guten Tag, a Bavarian-style lager. I've yet to dive into it, but I figure this is as good a time as any to check in and give out some grades. 

We've seen it everywhere: Art Car IPA.

Saint Arnold's Art Car IPA

I haven't yet reviewed Art Car, and it's not like my words are going to add anything illuminating to the experience of drinking one of these. It isn't overly bitter or sweet, bridging citrus flavor (one dry hop of mild Amarillo, Mosaic, and Simcoe) with moderate hoppiness (Cascade, Columbus, Simcoe) and a strong backbone (three kinds of malted barley). It's one of the most balanced, thoroughly enjoyable and down-the-middle American IPAs I've ever had, and it's my go-to in a lot of occasions. And it's a testament to the fact that a beer doesn't have to be sexy or trendy to be outstanding. Rating: 9.0/10

Saint Arnold's Oktoberfest

The fall seasonal has returned, and I crushed a couple of them recently while watching some American football action. It's brewed with three kinds of malted barley (not unusual for this style), and you can taste that caramel sweetness along with a hefty body with a bread-forward flavor. It's also low on hops (again, per the style), but what's there are two noble hops (meaning they're traditional German/Czech varieties). One slight knock: It's another deceptive Oktoberfest, coming in at 6.6 percent ABV. I like big boozy beers, sure, but I guess I'd rather my Oktoberfest beers not sneak up behind me. Nevertheless, it's worth taking some home. Rating: 7.2/10

Spindletap Hops Drop is another in a line of strong offerings at the Northside brewery.

On the Shelf: Spindletap Hops Drop IPA

Spindletap is now partnering with local hazy IPA guru Larry Koestler on a side project called Musical Box Brewing. While we're awaiting the juicy, quenchable brews coming from that effort, we can indulge in everything else Spindletap is doing. I happily found some Hops Drop while grocery shopping recently. Like with Spindletap's over hoppy beers, Hops Drop—dry-hopped with Citra, El Dorado, and Motueka—never burns. It offers a pleasant, tropical scent and a complex taste with grapefruit, mango, and herbal notes. I easily drank this and craved more and more. Rating: 9.2/10

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.

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