Saint Arnold Brewing will roll out a limited series of a new beer next week, but don't put in a request for time off work just yet.
The Icon series will be quarterly releases, rotating in style and not necessarily tied to the season, with new label art. On December 10, the brewery will release Icon Red, a Belgian pale ale, to the Houston market, followed by draft, then package release to the rest of the state and Louisiana. Icon Blue, a Cascadian dark ale, is scheduled for March, followed by Green in June and Gold in September. It will be available on draft and in four-packs of 12-ounce bottles priced about the same as a regular Saint Arnold six-pack.
To learn more about it as well as the kitchen under development, and to dig up a little info about the next Divine Reserve release, I talked with founder Brock Wagner.
So tell me about the Icon series. I've read that it's been in the works since 2006. What's the idea for the series, and what led to it coming about now?
This is something we started thinking about several years ago. Basically we enjoy developing beer. It's one of the most fun things we do. But we also have to come up with some kind of avenue to release it. You can't just keep adding beers to your portfolio. You're not going to get unlimited shelf space.
Divine Reserve allowed us to do some of that beer developing on the high-alcohol end, big beers, but it wasn't set up in a way to do beers in the 4- to 6-percent range. Our original thought with the Icon series was to make very traditional beers, kind of the icons of that style. As we got into it, we couldn't help tweaking, playing with them and being creative. We have never been beholden to style guidelines. All I care about is it tastes great. I don't care if fits an existing style guide. We developed the artwork back in 2006. The problem was, at the old brewery we didn't have the capacity to make another beer. We were having a tough time keeping up with sales of our existing beers. You never sit around projecting 25 percent growth every year for a bunch of years unless you've been smoking something.
When we opened the new brewery, we had a backlog of projects, beers we wanted to release, and are now finally getting to the Icon series. The idea is to have it be seasonal beers, out for two to three months but not necessarily designed for a particular season. The first one is a Belgian pale ale, available in 12-ounce bottles in four-packs. It will hopefully be around till March, something you shouldn't have to take off work and stand in line for. Then again, we didn't plan that for Divine Reserve or Pumpkinator. The idea will be to have it out a few months and all have same packaging with a few colors. After Red, we will release Blue, a Cascadian dark ale inspired by the winning entry at Big Batch Brew Bash. Next year, when we roll back around to Red again, you might see the Belgian pale ale again or we might come up with something new. It gives us a nice creative outlet.
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So it's Red, then Blue, then Green and Gold. Do you know what Green and Gold will be?
We don't know yet.
How will the supply compare to Divine Reserve? Can you give me an idea of how much will be out, say in barrels? Is it a single batch coming out on a single date, or multiple batches?
We did two tanks of Divine Reserve 12. But they're not full tanks because the way Divine Reserve works, there are low yields because the beer is so big. I think we did 390 barrels for the last Divine Reserve. Let's see, we're going to release at 120 barrels, then do two 240s ... I think it will be about 720 to maybe as much as 840 barrels.
When will it be released?
I heard the Cascadian dark ale was originally going to be Divine Reserve 13. Is that true? What does this series mean for Divine Reserve?
That's not true, it was never planned to be a Divine Reserve. I've heard from a couple people we're ending Divine Reserve. I don't know where that came from. We are brewing No. 13 in two weeks.
What style will it be?
I could tell you it's a Belgian quadrupel, but then I'd have to kill you.
And I understand you're opening a kitchen soon. When will it open?
Probably late January.
Is it something you've wanted to do for a while, or a more recent idea?
I've wanted to do it for a while. It's been a bit of a pipe dream, and we finally got time to focus on it. It will be very much a family-style thing.
What kind of food?
I'm not trying to be coy, but we're still kind of working on it. It will be beer-centric, designed to pair with beers. I think kind of Belgian, French, Alsatian bistro kind of fare. Not a super wide menu, maybe six or seven dishes and rotate weekly.
Who will the chef be?
We are interviewing chefs right now. I'm working with my friend Joe Abuso, who used to run a catering business and play in the Houston Symphony. Well, he still plays in the Houston Symphony sometimes. He used to be a big bass player in the symphony full-time before his cooking career took off. Great guy, excellent chef.