Lets start by stating the obvious. Beer is delicious. And beer should not taste like water. Yes, some people choose to drink beer that tastes like you just dunked your dixiecup in a toilet for one reason or another. But wait, you say… it’s inexpensive, and refreshing, and the commercials are so funny. Seriously? Maybe it tastes so refreshing because it tastes like WATER! Water is refreshing, and most places give you a glass of water for FREE, or you can drink the free kind that comes out of your faucet. And water has ZERO calories… so there’s no fear of getting a water-gut from enjoying some refreshing water. So if you’re going to be drinking something that tastes like water anyway, just drink water. Yes, water wouldn’t give you that happy,relaxing, i need-to-unwind-and-beer-makes-me-happy feeling. To that I say, pay the extra dollar or two and order a real beer with some flavor. And if you dont like the way real beer tastes (i.e. non-water-like), drink something else.
Now that that’s settled… on to the St Arnold tour! St Arnold is a craft brewery here in Houston, Texas. You can go to the official brewery website to find out all about the history of the brewery (a small hobby that grew out of control), the award-winning beer they make (my favorite is Oktoberfest, and when it’s not in season, I highly recommend Brown), and some history about St Arnold himself (yes, he is an official Saint recognized by the Catholic Church).
The website can tell you about the tour too. But to get the unwritten rules on HOW to go on the tour, you need to find someone in-the-know. I think my family qualifies; we’ve been going on the tour since 2006, have several family photos there amongst the kegs and bottling lines, and even went on the 2008 St Arnold “island-crawl” Cruise through the Caribbean. So here are a few insider tips for you about the tour 😀
For starters, it’s not what you’d typically think of as a tour. The tour starts at 1, but plan on getting there early. There will be a line to get in. If you want a seat at a picnic table inside, get there REALLY early. $5 at the door gets you a hand stamp, 4 wooden tokens, and a cute tasting glass to keep.
You also could turn in your tasting glass at the gift shop for a dollar credit towards a St Arnold pint glass. Get a pint glass. Each of your little wooden tokens is good for one beer on tap… so you could get a little tasting glass full, or a pint full… you decide. There are a lot of different glass options, they make lovely souvenirs, and you can bring it back the next time you’re on a tour!
When you arrive, you stand amongst the tanks and listen to a brewery employee talk about beer. The length of the talk usually depends on the employee and the weather (the current brewery is not air conditioned, and Houston can get pretty hot and humid). Sometimes this lasts 15 min and sometimes this lasts 45ish minutes. Be prepared to stand. You’ll hear some of the most interesting facts on how beer is made, how the Brewery grew into what it is today, and essentially why Beer is more complex than wine 😀 Listening to these talks has made me appreciate beer and what it stands for; how its beverage meant to capture the unique qualities of the region it’s brewed in.
After the talk, it’s time to get in line and turn in your tokens for some tasty beer! Heres another tip from a repeat brewery fan: bring snacks. This is something we always manage to forget/not leave time for on the way to the brewery. But there are ALWAYS the people there who are super prepaired, bring an entire lunch, or some snacks, or cakes… and you just look at them with envy. But we have our own solution to this dilemma (more to come).
The gift shop is conveniently located on the left side of the main bar, and the line also gets you up to the taps to get your beer. So if you don’t plan on buying anything, I recommend going to another line. At the gift shop, you can also turn in your used 6-pack carriers for points! This is the brewery’s way of recycling and helps keep packing costs a bit low (so don’t be alarmed when the beer on the shelf at the market isn’t in a brand-new case). My brother was nice and organized my family’s 6 pack carriers by type of beer ( BTW this is about a years worth of carriers, so don’t go getting the wrong ideas out us :|).
The remainder of the tour is more like being at your favorite bar… great music, friendly people, draft beer, and it’s freakin CROWDED. The bonus is that you can wander all throughout the brewery and talk to the volunteers and brewery employees. They have great stories and are super nice!
Beer is made from grain, it cant be that bad 😉
So after a couple hours of fun and merriment, and several pints of beer, you will no doubt be very happy but not necessarily in any condition to operate heavy machinery. And it’s the middle of a Saturday afternoon. This is where a designated driver comes in handy. There is another solution that my family highly recommends: GO TO Wings n Things!! It’s in the shopping center right around the corner from the brewery (the came center as JoAnns Fabrics and the BlackEyed Pea).
Wings n Things is a local chain, and hands down the best wing establishment in Houston. There are so many wing choices in the Houston area (Buffalo Wild Wings, Wing Stop, Wings and More, Wing Street… But Wings N Things is definitely, by far, hands down, the best around. And believe me, this family has had their share of wings. It’s no-nonsense, order by the basket wing goodness. The keep the ingredients simple, and the flavor really comes through. I can taste the butter in my Medium wing sauce. My mom loves that they use real lemon juice in their Lemon-Pepper Wings (yes, we asked what their secret was). They serve curly fries and and onion strings too, yum yum.
But the secret/not on the menu/must try wing that they recommended to us: Hot Lemon-Pepper Wings! Yes, Hot Buffalo Sauce + Lemon Pepper Seasoning. They’ll serve it to you proudly, where other wing establishments wont (some others will give you a side of lemon-pepper seasoning though… not the same).
Seriously, how can you beat a Saturday afternoon filled with great beer and great food… you learn a little, you make new friends… and usually end up taking a nap when you get home. Cheers!
Please note, these tour tips will only last a few more months. St Arnold is in the process of moving to a new, much LARGER brew space on the other end of Houston. Sadly, the new location will not be around the corner from a Wings and Things. On a happier note, it will be air conditioned! I cant wait to see the new digs 😀