Like most musicians, Thom Truver and Nick Morales have their heroes. Unlike most musicians, those heroes are not Jimmy Page or Robert Plant or even Mozart, but deities of a different sort, Saint Arnold among them.
Not the famed Bishop of Metz, who owes his sainthood in part to performing a miracle—turning a few drops of beer into a full mug—but Saint Arnold the Brewery, whose semi-miracles include Santo black kölsch, which the company pioneered (the one with the sugar skull-decorated label designed by local artist Carlos Hernandez), and popular concoctions like Elissa IPA (the one with the Galveston tall ship).
Morales and Truver, native Houstonians both, have been drinking Saint Arnold’s beer for as long as they’ve been legal. And while that’s only been five or six years, it’s clear that the beer-maker of Lyons Ave. has nonetheless exerted a profound influence.
Sitting inside the brewery’s busy beer hall one sunny Friday afternoon, Morales mourned St. Arnold’s decision to stop bottling Texas Wheat, prompting Truver to impart a private theory about the beer’s disappearance—Morales drank it all.
At times, Truver’s affection for Saint Arnold borders on the blurbirific. The brewery is “driven by passion and excellence,” he tells us, and “truly inspirational,” words he hopes the world will someday use to describe him and Morales, specifically their folk/Americana band, Second Lovers.
That’s already happening, to an extent. The Houston Press recently called them “the best group to emerge on the Houston scene in the past couple of years.” It would seem to be the kind of praise the two have long dreamed of, not to mention something Truver and Morales might say about Saint Arnold’s Pumpkinator. The boys appear to be embarrassed by such accolades, however. “I never really think we’re gonna get as far as we do,” Morales says.
Luckily, then, promoting Second Lovers falls to the band’s canny manager, Tom Paynter, a videographer by day who counts both the band and the brewery among his clients, conveniently. It was Paynter’s idea—after meeting Truver and Morales, enjoying their music, and noticing their near-obsession with local ale—to forge a connection between the band and their beer-brewing idol.
“Saint Arnold is part of the tapestry of Houston,” explains Paynter, the rhetorical equal of his clients. Once a lone stalwart in a city averse to microbreweries, he says, Saint Arnold is now—at 20 years old—synonymous with the city itself. Its home—a three-story warehouse just north of downtown—is nearly a century old. Better yet—at least to the boys of Second Lovers—it has a surprising acoustic quality.
Last year, Paynter persuaded Saint Arnold to allow some popular local acts to record an album of live cuts in the brewery. The result, The Caroline Sessions, demonstrated a heretofore unknown talent possessed by the hall: its sound is as crisp and clean as a pint of Fancy Lawnmower. The album was so well-received, Paynter pitched another idea: shooting a music video at Saint Arnold for a song on Second Lovers’ debut album, Wishers, Dreamers & Liars. The sepia-toned production turned out to be as much a showcase for the brewery as the band and its catchy pop tune, “New Mexico.”
“We have marketed it as a ‘love letter’ to the company,” says Truver, who may be savvier than he seems. In fact, the Texas craft beer community has already begun to embrace Second Lovers, which has played shows at Buffalo Bayou Brewing Company, New Republic Brewing in College Station, and No Label Brewing Company in Katy. What’s next? The guys are in talks with a start-up brewery eager to create a beer named for them.
Like what, we wonder? Second Lagers? (You’re welcome!)