Leaving banking behind for brewing

January 23, 2008 8:29:55 AM PST
Houston's first microbrewery -- Saint Arnold's brewery on the northwest side -- all started with an investment banker who got tired of the stress.The legend says St. Arnold's relics allowed an unending flow of beer from glasses in Germany, and he has certainly blessed his namesake brewery in Houston.

It is a place full of smells -- of hops, barley, malt and yeast, slowly fermenting to produce a golden essence that dates back thousands of years. It is beer, and in Houston, that means St. Arnold's Brewery.

"There are more patron saints of brewing than any other occupation," said Brock Wagner, CEO, St Arnold's Brewery. "St. Arnold is the most widely accepted."

It was founded 14 years ago by Brock Wagner, the great-great-great-grandson of a San Francisco beer hall owner. Tired of investment banker, Wagner switched to making beer.

He said, " Every morning I wake up and think it was the best move I ever made. This morning, I just really enjoyed it!"

The brand is known for its taste, quality and freshness. The business is known for being a good place to work -- one with a sense of humor. Vats have names like Larry, Moe and Curly. Naming rights are sold to fermenting tanks. The art car license plate reads 'B HOPPY'.

"They all think that we sit around and drink beer all of the time," Wagner said. "It's actually a whole lot of work. I think that's one of the things that has really kept us going -- we've always had great people here and they've always worked really hard. Everybody here is passionate about making great beer."

From 640 barrels of beer made the first year, production is now at 18,000 barrels. It's all sold in Texas. That's enough growth that St. Arnold's current brewery is tapped out. A move to a larger facility is in the making. Good beer is one of those things that is recession-proof.

"When times are good, people drink beer. When times are bad, people drink beer," Wagner explained.

The brewery is also known for an excellent root beer. The facility is open for tours and tastings on certain days. Schedules and information can be found on their website.

- Headlines at a glance