DISCLAIMER: This post reflects the personal views of the author, in his individual capacity. It does not necessarily represent the views of TheFerm.org or its other resident bloggers, and is not sponsored or endorsed by them.

If Saint Arnold's Divine Reserve #8 hits the shelves and I'm not there purchase any, does it make a difference?

I am admittedly a little less dedicated to the cause than the rest of the Saint Arnold Army. And when I say less dedicated, I mean I spent my lunch hour four years ago visiting several local Specs Stores (and a few grocery stores) to get my hands on the first release of Divine Reserve, a heavily hopped barleywine. After over an hour of enthusiastic search, I drove back to work frustrated and empty handed. It seems there were loads of local beer drinkers more passionate than myself.

Breweries are known to instill a sense of community among the local population. However, the Saint Arnold Army phenomenon is staggering, awe-inspiring, and enviable. Besides having a welcoming attitude at the brewery itself, Saint Arnold actively supports local businesses and participates in countless community efforts. Hosting Saint Arnold at an event means getting two to four times the amount of attendees than you would have without them. Saint Arnold has that kind of following. Having almost no local and very little regional competition probably helps, but as Texas' Oldest Craft Brewery, they play more of the role of a pioneer than pirate.

This is why their introduction of small batch, special edition beers ordained for craft beer enthusiasts like me sounded so exciting. Saint Arnold may have been late to the small batch party, but this is *our* local brewery. Unable to get my hands on any Divine Reserve #1 in Houston, TheFerm.org's own K-Dub brought me some… from Dallas.

And my first impression? Eh…

Inevitably the beer could not live up to such heavenly expectations. However, paired against its peers, it honestly comes off as mediocre. K-Dub's own hoppy barleywine, which he brewed for me to celebrate the birth of my daughter, blows the earthly Saint Arnold product away. *Gasp* I can almost hear the Internet comments rolling in now ("You Suck!!" –anonymous). The next six releases also failed to live up to expectations, although I will admit, the brewery started to hit their stride around DR#5.

"But SirRon," you say (because you probably only know me by my online pseudonym), "you should support local businesses." To this I say "Sure!" But does the support local movement apply to all businesses, regardless of size or quality? Coffee shops, independent farmers, the old hardware store guy, chef owned restaurants... I understand the correlation and importance here. Is a brewery with statewide distribution on par with these local businesses?

I support countless craft breweries (nightly), all of which are small businesses situated in somebody's local community. I've visited Victory Brewing Company, located in the small community of Downingtown, PA a handful of times. I believe their output exceeds Saint Arnold, but they make outstanding beers. In the end, the experience is what means the most to me. Otter Creek Brewing Company is located in the Middlebury, a Vermont town of just over 8,000 residents. Now that they have distribution in Texas, I wish they were still brewing their Middleberry Ale, a tasty beer brewed with locally grown elderberries and blueberries. Proceeds from the sales benefited their town, if memory serves me right. Ever tried Austin Amber? Guess where this small five year old, distributor-less brewery is located?

On 9/10/09, the Saint Arnold Army will probably be out in force, clearing the shelves of their local groceries and liquor stores of Divine Reserve #8, a Scotch Ale inspired by a homebrewer's winning entry in the 2009 Big Batch Brew Bash. Myself, I'll probably be supporting someone else's community that night. I'm not saying I will never pick one of these up at over at my closest Specs liquor emporium if available, I just have lost that excitement I had in the days leading up to the DR#1 release. I support our local troops and their defense of Saint Arnold Nation, but I think I'll just hang one of those ribbons in my garage instead.

That gets me thinking... If a cynical blogger from an obscure drinking blog is uninterested in the Divine Reserve series, does it even cause any waves?

8 comments
  1. J.R. Ewing September 9, 2009 at 7:37 PM  

    (Deleted Comment #1 for a gross typo)

    It is frustrating as a consumer. You can either:

    a) show up at 11a and sit there and wait until the guy unloads it. Looking through the beer aisle gets a little old after like 10 mins. Missing work for the pleasure.

    or

    b) Try to time the delivery. Ahh, they usually come at 2p. I'll show up at 3p. This bought me the "Oh man, we only got 8 cases and those sold out in 23 minutes" for DR#7.

    or (the JR Ewing endorsed option)

    c) Find out where they'll have it on tap and make sure to hit that joint in short order.

    Taps typically don't run out so fast.

    Option "c" you lose the ability to enjoy at your leisure, perhaps with your favorite food pairing, offer it as a gift (which then becomes a conversation piece). But it works.

  2. Anonymous September 9, 2009 at 11:38 PM  

    You Suck!!

  3. Anonymous September 10, 2009 at 9:48 AM  

    Hi SirRon,

    Lennie from Saint Arnold here. I appreciate the post and the opinion. It is really interesting to hear a different perspective for sure. The only thing I would counter though was to say the we "hit our stride" at DR5. Divine Reserve 4, a strong scottish ale, won a gold medal at the World Beer Cup.

    Thanks for your support of craft beer.

    Cheers!

  4. Steve September 10, 2009 at 1:18 PM  

    It sold out in 21 mins at the downtown Spec's, but what does that really mean? The beer changes with each release and no one has actually tasted it yet, it sold out purely on hype.

    There are some exceptional yearly seasonals that people wait in line for because they already know they love it and feel its worth it (Three Floyds Dark Lord Day, for example). People are driving all around town and waiting in line to pay $15 a sixpack (and in one instance, two cases of it http://twitpic.com/h6zc6) for a beer that they know nothing about it.

  5. J.R. Ewing September 11, 2009 at 12:59 AM  

    This blog could not have been more prophetic. My work email inbox was filled with coworkers talking about the where's and when's and how's. Twitter updates were referenced, Houston Chronicle Blogs forwarded, etc. Only one person found it (random Krogers). Spec's appears to be the worst place to get it (Clear Lake store sold out in less than an hour, downtown store of course in 21 minutes). Unfortunately, the JR Ewing endorsed option of going to a pub/bar seems to be in Jeopardy, those that didn't get to the Clear Lake Specs plan to call Boondoggles every hour on the hour to make sure their keg tapping is noon on Saturday and flood the place, so that will be drained.

    Anyway, a lot of hype, but it's starting to look like sitting on the sidelines ain't a bad place to be. The only other option is nearing the need for a tent or knowing someone related to a store/bar employee.

  6. SirRon September 11, 2009 at 11:17 AM  

    RE: Comments

    I'm sure the avg person will read this (or just the stinger of a title) and think I'm some Saint Arnold hater, not the guy that has like a hundred six pack carriers in his garage or someone that has a shelf in the beer fridge containing a bottle or two of all the older DR's. That's just acceptable risk in order to write something that I may find interesting and thought provoking.

    The post was born from two conversations... one that Steve hit right on the head and another regarding enjoying craft beers in Houston. It seems that every time I choose to drink a beer w/o the good saint on the label I get labeled as someone who doesn't support local business. WTF!? The whole Army thing is amazing, but 95% of them are probably not beer connoisseurs.

    If I owned a brewery though (which I guess in a very very small amount I do), heck yeah I'd be jealous of the Army. Kudos to Brock for however he built this following.

    I'm just envious and annoyed at the same time. This doesn't mean I don't go to the occasional Saturday tour, sit next to Brock at Texans games, purchase Saint Arnold regularly, OR wish I had a sixer of the new Divine Reserve. :)

  7. Anonymous September 13, 2009 at 8:16 PM  

    I am right there with your SirRon. DR #5 - absolutely worthy of the hype. DR #6 - worthy in my opinion. DR #4 (my first to try in the series) as well as #7 and #8 grade out as average to slightly below average for the style. The amount of hype generated is staggering. I found a six pack of #8, I had one, and I have given the rest away and will stick to Old Chub if I want a quality Wee Heavy this fall / winter.

  8. K Dub September 22, 2009 at 7:45 PM  

    You know, while I totally love St. Arnold's, I'm done waiting in line for beer. I did that in college. If I see it on the shelves up here in Dallas I'll definately get a sixer or two, but that line sh*t is for the birds.