Good economic news found in beer

January 13, 2009 3:19:45 PM PST
Houston's hometown brewery boasts a success story during otherwise bleak economic times.[SIGN UP: Get headlines and breaking news sent to you]

Saint Arnold Brewing Company, the oldest craft brewery in Texas, reported production of nearly 23,000 barrels of beer in 2008. The increase of nearly 5,000 barrels over 2007's record production tally represents a 28 percent boost for the year. Production has increased 225 percent during the past five years.

Saint Arnold Brewing is now operating 24 hours a day in its Northwest Houston facility to keep up with demand. Meanwhile, restoration and construction is underway on an historic building north of downtown Houston that is being turned into Saint Arnold's new brewing facility. When opened in June, it will accommodate future growth.

"We are benefitting from the continued shift in tastes toward full-flavored beers and a preference for local brewers," said Brock Wagner, founder of Saint Arnold Brewing. "The fact that we have been a part of the community for nearly 15 years also helps."

Saint Arnold Amber Ale remains the top selling Saint Arnold beer, following by Saint Arnold Fancy Lawnmower and Saint Arnold Christmas Ale, which is only available part of the year.

So far, the craft brewing industry in Texas has been able to shrug off signs of softening in the industry. Eight craft breweries are now operating in Texas -- a 60 percent increase from a year ago. Nationwide, craft brewers are faced with significant financial challenges, including rising costs for ingredients, the potential for costly changes to federal labeling requirements and uncertainty about consumer spending patterns in the midst of a prolonged recession.

"Good full-flavored beer is an affordable luxury," said Wagner. "But we have our eyes wide open and we are being careful operationally because beer may be recession resistant, but it is not recession proof."

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