On this -- this seemingly average October but post-Oktoberfest hump day -- Mayor Bill White bestowed upon the city of Houston a day celebrating our beloved local brewery.
October 28, 2009 is now officially Saint Arnold Brewing Company Day.
For me this is a day not just to celebrate, but a day to recognize the achievements of Brock Wagner and crew. I readily admit that I have been critical of the Saint Arnold brewery in the past. But today is a day to reflect upon and honor Texas' oldest craft brewery, much like Americans gather on Thanksgiving to forgive the Native Americans for giving the Pilgrims dysentery and thank them for sharing Pocahontas... or when we invite semi-distant relatives into our home for a meal with three dozen side dishes and forget that they did not even bother to send a card on our birthday.
For this reason I have decided to pull out a bottle of every remaining Divine Reserve that I have in the beer cellar and try them again. There is no better day than Saint Arnold Day to reassess my relationship with the brewery's limited offerings.
Divine Reserve No. 1
Style: Barleywine; Cases Made: 327; Date Brewed: August 18, 2005; Date Bottled: October 17, 2005; Original Gravity: 1.099; Final Gravity: 1.027; Alcohol: 9.3% ABV
Smells nice. Pours brown and typical of a barleywine. Taste up front is sharp, with hops and alcohol attacking the palette first and then mellowing into malty and woody flavors. The beer is not too sweet, rather a complex raisin-like flavor prevails. My only complaints are that it seems thin for a barleywine and there are a ton of yum yums floating in the bottle. Overall, my first apology has now been filed.
Divine Reserve No. 3
Style: Double IPA; Cases Made: 542 Date Brewed: July 17, 2006 Date Bottled: September 21, 2006 Original Gravity: 1.082 Final Gravity: 1.010 Alcohol: 9.5% ABV Malts: Maris Otter, Wheat, Caravienne, Carapils and Dark Crystal Other Sugars: Honey, Molasses Hops: Chinook, Centennial, Ahtenum, Cascades
I am a big Belgian beer fan, and DR#2 was a bit of a disappointment as a "keeper," at least that is my excuse for not pulling back one of the sixer that I bought. To make up for it, I bought over a case of DR#3, the 2IPA. The orange color seems about right for the style. Not overly hoppy on the nose. Well balanced flavor, but something is off with this beer. I cannot pinpoint if it is the beer itself or the stiff competition in this style. If memory serves me right, age has not improved my impression of this beer.
Divine Reserve No. 4
Style: Wee Heavy; Cases Made: 823; Date Brewed: December 20, 2006; Date Bottled: February 20, 2007; Original Gravity: 1.0835; Final Gravity: 1.021; Alcohol: 9.5% ABV
I was only a wee bit excited when I found out the fourth iteration of the DR series would be a Wee Heavy. It is just not my favorite style. I cannot really remember my original evaluation of this beer, but I can tell you my current evaluation is a huge thumbs up. This beer is much more flavorful, rich even, than typical beers of this style. Smoky, dark, complex... bravo!
While digging in the back of the shelf holding my reserved Divine Reserves, I found a two year old Oktoberfest. This is one of my favorite of Saint Arnold's seasonals, so I decided to have it bat clean-up in my Saint Arnold Day lineup. Measuring in at only 6.0% ABV, this is the "light beer" tonight. It is sweet and malty with notes of caramel. Since this is one of my favorites, I wish I knew why I felt this year's offering was not as good as previous years', such as this '07 gem. I hope the variance is only in my head.
Sincere congratulations to all the staff and volunteers at Saint Arnold Brewing Company. Keep up the good work.
Next year... parade!