Having out of town visitors gives me a great excuse to arrange a tour at one of our local breweries.All brewery tours have a certain sameness to them since the process itself is common to all breweries and what makes each truly unique is the inside stories you get and the little bonuses each tour guide will sometimes add to the standard walkthrough.
Saint Arnold Brewing Company has always held a cherished place in my heart.I spent nearly a decade at their old location working the weekly tours and eventually spent some time there as a brewer, so I know a lot of the inside stories already (and most of owner Brock Wagner’s tour jokes as well) but their new facility isn’t as familiar to me and thanks to their non-stop growth since they moved in there’s always something new to see.This time it was their canning line, which is only a few months old.The first canning line I ever got a good look at was the two head line at Southern Star Brewing in Conroe.It barely deserved to be called that, since most of the process was carried out manually.(It took them 17 hours to can a 15 barrel bright tank!)In contrast, the line at Saint Arnold has a multi-head filler and carries out nearly all the processes without human intervention.
Canning has come a long way!The bonus on our tour was a trip out onto the roof of the brewery for a look at the downtown Houston skyline and a view of the lot next door which features in Saint Arnold’s future expansion plans.I also got my first taste of their new Art Car IPA, a session IPA that is bright and bitter, with very pleasant citrus notes complimenting the moderate malt backbone. (It was also easy drinking enough that two pints were very easy to handle!)
Our second tour was at Karbach Brewing, one of the fastest growing breweries in the country.They recently completed a major expansion, adding a 120 barrel brewhouse and a restaurant.They were literally bursting at the seams in their old brewery, as they kept adding fermentation capacity until the building was nearly wall to wall stainless. The new brewery has bumped up the starting fermenter size to a whopping 600 barrels each, with no fewer than six (!) new tanks on the way.
It was great getting to see the blend of new and old at Karbach.The old, cramped fermenter farms contrasting with their airy new brewhouse, gleaming in all its automated splendor. Karbach’s head brewer, Eric Warner, has changed the way a lot of Houstonians think about craft beer, as he’s emphasized lagers in their lineup, while most Houston breweries are still very ale-centric.Karbachtoberfest, the fall seasonal, is a classic German-style Märzen, with a rich melanoidin malt presence that is a delight. My friends on the tour were also quite taken with Mother-In-Lager, a schwarzbier that also features that rich malty note accented by a more bittersweet chocolate note.
I really appreciated the willingness of both breweries to accommodate my friends and me with a guided tour (and some samples!)If you ever are trying to think of a way to entertain your out of town guests, why not suggest a tour of your local brewery?You’ll never get beer any fresher and it’s a chance to support your local brewery while entertaining your guests!
Bev Blackwood II is the Southwest Brewing News Contributing Editor for Texas and has been covering Texas beers for 17 years An award winning home brewer, Bev has also brewed professionally at St. Arnold Brewing Company and was part of the team that brought home Saint Arnold’s first Great American Beer Festival gold medal in 2007. A long time member of Houston’s premiere homebrew club, the Foam Rangers, Bev teaches their Beer Judge Certification Program course and has also taught at Rice University’s Glasscock School of Continuing Studies.
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