While sampling different bottled root beers over my professional root beer tasting career, I’ve come across some interesting breweries that produce their own soft drinks. One of those breweries is Saint Arnold Brewing Company in Houston.
While traveling for my day job I found myself *CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP* DEEP IN THE HEART OF TEXAS! This was both my first trip to Houston and my first visit to Saint Arnold’s. The brewery is tucked away on the north end of town in a mammoth brick building. The interior decorations and design are outstanding.
I first came across Saint Arnold Root Beer last December when I found a bottle at the Root Beer Store in Lynnwood Washington. I loved it at the time, even gave it a 9 out of 10, so when a business trip to Houston put me in the path of the brewery I took the opportunity to try the root beer on tap at the source.
Saint Arnold lists a few ingredients in their root beer on the website, which confirmed my guess from the initial tasting.They use a substantial amount of wintergreen, a little vanilla, cane sugar (gives it sort of half-malted mouth-feel), and “other secret ingredients”. They’re up front about using an extract to get that base root flavor (sassafras has carcinogens that are tough to deal with), but their other fresh ingredients add enough character that it doesn’t feel lab produced.
What are those secret ingredients? I don’t know, but I’d guess it could either be cinnamon, wild cherry bark, cloves, or even a little bit of ginger. Either way it’s an incredibly balanced root beer with a bit of bite, a smooth wintergreen finish, and enough sweetness to keep most people happy. One of my favorite root beers. Root beer is a money-losing proposition for this brewery (as it is for most that try hard at it), but I appreciate that they put in so much effort to provide a quality alternative for families.
Saint Arnold also serves lunch throughout the week and add dinner on the weekends. The restaurant portion is a counter-service setup with a large communal hall for seating. Feels very appropriate given their Spanish mission theme. This also gave me a chance to try their version of poutine.
The poutine was outrageous! The stainless steel handled bowl was a great presentation, and the components of the dish were unique and delicious. I loved the breakfast style gravy (could have been sausage gravy, not sure). It had a bit of a kick to it, but was more creamy and peppery than anything else. It paired extremely well with the buttery soft pepper-jack cheese curds. They arrived still cool in the center but melty on the outside. Seriously impressed that they didn’t go the easy route and just shred some cheese…these curds were legit. The vibrant green herbs on top freshened up the presentation and made for a beautiful plate.
My only criticism, and it’s a small one, are the fries themselves. They are perfectly adequate hand-cut potato fries. They leave enough skin on the potato to give some earthiness without making them too bitter, but something in their preparation leaves them slightly wrinkled after frying. They don’t quite achieve the crust that I’ve seen with some of our other fry entries on the blog, but it’s a small sacrifice. To be honest, I’m not sure how long that crust would hold up under the gravy anyway, so it’s probably a worthy compromise. If I were to rate them they’d most likely fall into the 8 to 8.5 range.
If you’re ever in Houston give Saint Arnold Brewing Company a shot. They also do tours and tastings, so schedule accordingly. It’s only about 30 minutes from George Bush airport so it might work well on your way out of town. I’m certainly glad that I stopped by. If you can’t make it to the brewery, they also sell bottles around town. To kill two birds with one stone I recommend visiting Goode Company BBQ for some awesome food (they carry bottles in the restaurant).
Sampled the bottled root beer 12/23/2015, purchased from the Root Beer Store
Sampled on tap, with poutine, on 8/5/2016 in Houston, Texas at the brewery
Sampled a bottle again on 8/7/2016, purchased from the Root Beer Store in Lynnwood