With the rise in popularity, and consequently, number of craft breweries both in Houston and across the country, it’s no surprise that major producers in the industry like Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors are building a portfolio of craft breweries in Texas. Just last year, Karbach Brewing Company shocked the Houston market by announcing its sale to Anheuser-Busch, a deal that had been secretly in the making for over a year. Though a seemingly ideal scenario for a business desiring growth, increased profits and mass distribution, consumers were left feeling uneasy about big brands swooping into their local safe havens. The beer may taste the same but feelings of exclusivity, small-batch uniqueness and close ties to the city could face dilution.
Despite the looming presence of industry titans, one Houston brewery has stayed true to its roots, held tight to the city that birthed it and supported the community that has supported it for over 23 years. In celebration of this huge milestone, their love for Houston, their independence and simply beer itself, Saint Arnold Brewing Company played host in early June to nearly a dozen local bands and served a sold-out, thirsty crowd with seemingly endless amounts of craft beer.
The brewery opened its doors for the Local & Independent Music Showcase early afternoon on June 10th and kept the party alive late into the evening with notable Houston acts like Buxton, 30footFall, the Tontons and Houston rap legend Bun B commanding the crowd.
To gain some insider perspective on the celebration, the brewery’s 23 years of existence and how it has maintained strength and relevance as an independent craft brewery, Cooglife sat down with Lennie Ambrose, Marketing and Events Director, and Priscilla Walker, head of PR & Brand Marketing at Saint Arnold.
Cooglife: How have you and the others on the Saint Arnold team seen Houston change over the past 23 years?
Lennie Ambrose: The amount of breweries that have opened, but that really didn’t start until the last seven years or so. For a while, Saint Arnold was the only game in town, which was great and sometimes lonely at the same time. People just didn’t know what craft beer was back then.
Priscilla Walker: In the last decade or so, the scene has exploded. It’s been interesting to see the different styles of beer being offered and the craft beer scene growing.
CL: How has Saint Arnold adapted over the years to remain relevant and successful as a craft brewery in one of the nation’s largest cities?
LA: Being the “elder statesmen” is good and bad in some ways, but you never want to look dated. We kind of struggled a little bit to find the next big thing in our lineup but have really hit our stride recently with Art Car IPA, Pub Crawl Pale Ale and 5 O’Clock Pils.
PW: We stick to our principles of brewing the most refreshing beer available in the state and being a pillar in the Houston community through our presence at events and donations. We’ve recently updated our packaging and branding, incorporating local artists such as Gonzo247! and Carlos Hernandez, and I think that has helped us stay relevant.
CL: Why did Saint Arnold choose to celebrate 23 Years rather than wait to celebrate the more common 25 Year Anniversary? Is there any significance to celebrating 23?
LA: We actually just celebrate every anniversary. We did a big party for the 20th and kind have kept that model since then but there have been anniversary parties since the brewery started.
PW: This year the theme of local and independent really became a focal point after recent acquisitions and the support we received from what we like to call the “Fellowship of Houston Beer” (B-52, Brash, Eureka Heights, Lone Pint and Southern Star) came together and brewed Tribute Beers to pay homage to some of our beers in our lineup. The amount of support we (and the other breweries) got at events around town really illustrated to us how much Houstonians care about the craft beer scene.
CL: Has Saint Arnold always been a supporter of the local Houston music scene? Do you often host local musicians or have plans to do so in the future?
LA: Honestly our Beer Hall isn’t the best place for bands or concerts so we try to support local music in other ways. One way is that we are part owners of Cactus Music here in town and support all of the in store performances they have there.
PW: Yes, we are supporters of the local Houston music scene. We donate beer to Splice Records for their big events such as BowieElvis Fest and River Revival Festival. We supply beer for the Cactus Music in-store performances (and Brock Wagner is also part-owner of Cactus Music.) We also have some employees that perform. Our Executive Chef spins as Franklin Mint and our marketing guy Jeremy Johnson is a freestyle rapper by the name akaGermatic.
CL: Any big plans for the rest of the summer that we should be looking forward to?
LA: Well, we still have our summer seasonal, Summer Pils, out and have just released our new Icon Gold: Belgian IPA. As for events, we have our Texas Children’s Hospital Fundraiser, The Feast of Saint Arnold and National French Fry Day at the brewery is incredible!
PW: Yes, we always have something going on and the best way to find out is to sign up for our newsletter at saintarnold.com. Some events of note are the Downtown Pub Crawl on July 8, National French Fry Day on July 13 and Feast of Saint Arnold on July 16.