Brock Wagner on Saint Arnold Amber

Brock Wagner on Saint Arnold Amber Ale

Amber Ale
First Brewed
June 9, 1994
Malt Varieties
Pale 2-row and caravienne (20 lovibond Belgian caramel malt)
Hop Varieties
Cascade and Liberty
Saint Arnold house ale yeast
Hamburgers, fried seafood, and hearty soups.
Saint Arnold Brewing Co.
Brock Wagner on Saint Arnold Amber

One of the interesting dynamics of 2020 was the number of people revisiting beers that have been around for a while and so perhaps aren’t the cool kids at the moment. This was no exception at Saint Arnold, as we saw our core beers grow at a faster pace than they had over recent years, at least in the off premise. Nothing grew on premise. There was no on premise.

Our flagship beer, at least if you ask our customers, has changed over the years. Until very recently, it has been Fancy Lawnmower Beer. Art Car IPA has now overtaken it and is definitely our most widely available and highest volume offering. But for me, our flagship has and always will be Amber Ale.

This is the beer with which I started the brewery and continues to be like visiting with an old friend every time I enjoy one.

Over my eight years as a homebrewer, I never brewed the same beer twice. When it came to opening a brewery, I had to decide what to brew and needed to both develop a recipe and up my brewing skills and knowledge to a professional level. I was fortunate to have George Fix up the road in Dallas – what we call a four hour drive in Texas – and I would go to his home a couple times a month to use his far superior brewing setup and read technical articles he would pull out for me.

My goal was a beer with the Cascade character of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and the body and yeast character of Fullers ESB. The end result was Saint Arnold Amber Ale and the recipe has not changed since batch 2. (Batch 1 suffered from my inexperience in performing a recipe scale up, unintentionally becoming an IPA that would make West Coast enthusiasts’ mouths water. Houston in 1994, however, took a dimmer view.)

Brock Wagner with his Saint Arnold Amber Ale.

At 6.2% ABV and 32 IBU, Amber Ale has a slightly creamy, malty body with notes of caramel, a pleasant fruitiness from our house Saint Arnold yeast, a nice but balanced bitter with grapefruit, and a slightly floral finish. Our yeast comes from a now defunct brewery in the south of England, which Fix procured for me via a friend of his with a yeast collection at UCLA. After trying several other yeasts that failed to excite me, our Saint Arnold yeast continues to be featured in many of our offerings.

It’s interesting how tastes evolve and change. I’m no different. Amber Ale does not occupy as large a percentage of my refrigerator real estate as it once did. But I, too, drank more Amber Ales in 2020 than I had in several years.

Saint Arnold Brewing Co. was originally founded in June of 1994 by Brock Wagner and Kevin Bartol, who subsequently left the business for Wagner to soldier on alone. They chose Houston, Texas, because, other than living there, this was the largest city in the country that did not have a microbrewery. Wagner was a longtime homebrewer and had considered opening a brewery as far back as college, although that was quickly dismissed as a silly idea. Seven years after graduating, Brock revisited the idea, enlisted Kevin’s help, and the brewery was off and running, and continues to grow and thrive almost 27 years later.

Flagship beers were chosen by the individual writers with no input from the #FlagshipFebruary partners or sponsor breweries.

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