Saturday, April 11, 2009

A Saintly Vision for Houston

A Houston entrepreneur has a great thing brewing... and it is not just beer.

Who, you ask, is this person? Brock Wagner, founder of Saint Arnold Brewing Company, “Texas' Oldest Craft Brewery.”

I first visited Saint Arnold and met Wagner in 2003, with a University of Houston MBA class. As he guided us through his brewery, the proud descriptions he gave of his product led me to believe that he was happy with his decision to become a beer man.

Before starting Saint Arnold, Wagner spent his days working in the investment banking world. But those dry days are long ago. In his more than 14 years of brewing since, Wagner’s craft brew has been deserving of its namesake, and with the help of Saint Arnold’s Army, is quietly becoming one of Houston’s most recognizable brands.

As he continues to brew quality mainstay and seasonal beverages, a flavorful Root Beer included, several other positive developments are taking shape for Wagner and his brew crew.

For starters, Saint Arnold is making a move, taking its tanks to a former Houston Independent School District (HISD) Food Service building downtown, a move which should up the company's local profile even further. According to, this leap downtown is scheduled to happen in January, 2010, coinciding with the company's 15th anniversary.

The company recently formed a partnership with one of the region’s largest distributorships, Silver Eagle Distributors, which means Saint Arnold products will be delivered and served on a greater number of taps across the state. Houston Astros’ fans will be happy to see more accessible craft brew throughout Minute Maid Park this year, thanks to this relationship with Silver Eagle.

In the MS-150, an event that brings droves of weekend cyclists to make the two-day journey from Houston to Austin in support of Multiple Sclerosis and which has become one of Houston's most attractive events for corporate sponsorships, Saint Arnold, year after year, is one of the race's most popular team sponsors.

Wagner is also one of four owners of Cactus Music, a new breed of record store aiming to compete in an increasingly digital business. Just a few years ago, Cactus was against the ropes and finally down for the count. After a year-and-a-half, thanks to Wagner and others, the store is back as if it were never gone, still a Houston institution. On Saturdays, music lovers can be found in Cactus, watching bands perform while sipping a Saint Arnold-sponsored keg beer.

Brock Wagner's initiative in the last 15 years is inspirational to all entrepreneurs who agree that quality craft brewing can contribute to a better way of life in Houston. With a sophisticated beer culture already in place, Houston has the demand available to meet ample supply of other craft brewers.

In this regard, Houston can become similar to other cities around the country, like Portland, Oregon, where patrons cherish quality beer-making and breweries are peppered throughout the city. Much thanks for creating the city's original beer vision is owed to Brock Wagner and the Patron Saint of Brewing, Saint Arnold.

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