With Texas’s craft beer boom, there’s no end to unique breweries in Texas. Jester King Brewery is housed in a rustic farmhouse. With its bare metal beams and rainbow neon lights, the taproom at Austin Beerworks is as bold and clean as the beers brewed within it. Freetail Brewing Company has barrels filled with aging beer among the seating, allowing drinkers to feel like they are part of the brewing process. But there’s only one brewery that’s truly fit for the Sabbath.
Saint Arnold Brewing Company’s new beer garden and restaurant, which opened July 23 in Houston, doesn’t hold religious services. But the cathedral-like space, complete with painted alcoves, stained glass windows, and lofty ceilings, welcomes all parishioners, young and old, seven days a week.
Founded in 1994 by Brock Wagner and Kevin Bartol (who moved on from the company in 1999), Saint Arnold Brewing has operated in its space on Lyons Avenue since 2010. Three years later, Wagner decided to upgrade the beer hall to a full-service restaurant and beer garden and bought the former tow lot next door. Fittingly, he chose to model the building to resemble a cathedral, honoring seventh century bishop Saint Arnold of Metz, the brewery’s namesake and the patron saint of brewers. (Arnold warned his parishioners of the dangers of drinking polluted water and encouraged them to stick to beer.)
The industrial, church-like edifice, designed by Houston-based architecture firm Natalye Appel + Associates, features exposed wooden beams and a cupola running the length of the building. Inside, the beer hall is adorned with murals painted in six alcoves (or chapels, as the brewery calls them) by Houston artists GONZO247, Carlos Hernandez, Nick Papas, Robynn Sanders, Matthew Schott, and Jeff Szymansk. Most of the chapels have a loose religious theme, often involving Saint Arnold of Metz, like Nick Papas’ depiction of his life and two associated stories, the Legend of the Ring and the Legend of the Beer Mug.
Executive chef Ryan Savoie, who previously ran Saint Arnold’s popular lunch service, still helms the restaurant in its new space. The previous beer hall, which is as cozy and welcoming as those in Germany, is still open on Saturdays for brews and small bites in the brewery next door.
The new restaurant’s food menu is broad and ambitious, especially for a brewery, offering entrées, appetizers, salads, pizzas, and sandwiches. Entrées, including red snapper with Thai red curry and bistro filet au frites, are impressive and unexpected. If those seem too much for a casual drinking session, splitting a pizza and a sandwich is always an option. A classic margherita pie and the house-cured corned beef reuben stand up well to a couple of pints of Saint Arnold’s familiar year-round beers. If you’re unsure of what beer to order with your meal, fear not—the brewery provides suggested pairings for each dish, like a piney Endeavour double IPA with a grilled ribeye or a fruity and tart Raspberry AF to complement a plate of Texas hot fried chicken.
With around twenty beers on tap, including year-round and limited release brews, there’s something for everyone to enjoy, whether you’re looking for hoppy IPAs (Art Car IPA), drinkable lagers (Summer Pils), fruity sours (RAFarita), or refreshing wheats (Weedwacker). The brewery even offers freshly-brewed root beer for kids (and adults with a sweet tooth). Add ice cream to make a root beer float on particularly hot days.
As befits a cathedral, the service is excellent. Saint Arnold has doubled its number of employees with the opening, from 95 full- and part-time employees to 204, and it shows. Table service, available both inside and outside, was fast and friendly.
With the elaborately painted chapels and refreshing beer, Saint Arnold patrons will find much to entertain them. More active beer drinkers may enjoy the oversized Connect Four games, three full-size bocce courts, or corn hole. Kids and adults alike can cool off beside giant outdoor fans, or by playing in the spray of a fountain made from a brew kettle top turned upside-down, which resembles an enormous beer chalice overflowing.
The new basilica of beer is particularly lovely at the end of a workday, as the sun sets over the spectacular view of downtown Houston. Overlooking the changing skies with a beer in hand is almost enough to inspire reverence. In the name of the malt, the hops, and the yeast, cheers!