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Saint Arnold Brewing Company Interview

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  •   [Interviewer requests and receives permission to record the interview and to use the information gathered]  00:00:00        
  •  NIKO TONKS:         My name is Niko Tonks, - -  I am here at Saint Arnold Brewing Company  here in Houston, Texas, it is August the fifth [5th] twenty-eleven [2011], and I am here with Brock Wagner.  For the record, would you state you name, your position here at the brewery, and you - - birthdate?  BROCK WAGNER:     - - I am Brock Wagner, the founder and brewer at Saint Arnold’s.  NIKO TONKS:          Alright - - so, my, my first [1st] question - - is, is, is more or less a, a two [2] part question - - I am just trying to get at the history of the business, and, and, and your, your personal history - - with brewing.  So, what, what brought you to brewing?  BROCK WAGNER:      - - I grew up in Cincinnati, in Brussels, Belgium I was a Proctor and Gambles child - - I guess it was probably about - - oddly when we lived in Belgium, and my parents were very into wine, so, we would take the great trips to Burgundy every year, and - -  and that was sort of my first [1st] real.   - - And I was, I guess between the ages of nine [9] and thirteen [13] for me.  So, you kind of go where your parents going - - and my parents would always let me - - when I was five [5], my parents would give me a little tiny glass of wine, it was, it wasn’t very much, and then I would drink my milk, or orange juice, or whatever was with, this was with dinner. --  But - - as you know,  in Europe, I really gained the appreciation of the good wine and.  Actually my palette really developed, as my dad would bring a bottle out from the cellar, and I had to guess, you know, what it was.-- It was probably around age sixteen [16] that I started getting more interested in beer, and the first [1st] beer that really turned me on was - -   Hutipul [sp] Brewing in Cincinnati came out with a beer called Christian Moreline [?] [sp], and - - it was the first [1st] beer that, that - -  in this country in perhaps along time - -  that had been brewed according to this crazy German law the Rinhizkebad [sp] [?]  Never heard of before said: You could only use; Malt, hops, yeast and water in the beer, and - - I remember having that beer and thinking.  Wow, this really has a nice flavor to it was- - it was a, - - Looking back, it was a nice malty, probably a Helix really in style - - maybe a slightly dark Helix, more of a Vienna, but it was a really nice beer.  And I really came to like the beer - - and when I came down here, I went to Rice to go to college.  - - triculated [?] in Eighty-three [1983] - - back then, the drinking age was nineteen [19], so, even though I was only eighteen [18], at that point, people weren’t really enforcing the law very - - tightly - - and I would go on, on a - - we didn’t have any food service on campus.  [Phone ringing]   Oops sorry, I forgot to turn my phone off - - we will get a little serenaded by - - Boy I turned it up to I can tell too I can tell.    00:02:56  NIKO TONKS:         It’s coming through nicely - - but then again its fine.  So, you lived in Europe, until you were - -   [Interruption]  BROCK WAGNER:     Hang on a second let me turn it down.   NIKO TONKS:         Okay.  [Interruption]   BROCK WAGNER:     Sorry about that.  So, I lived there till I was thirteen [13].  NIKO TONKS:         Okay, just to be clear.  BROCK WAGNER:     So - - Anyway, the - - So, I came to Rice, we had no food service on Saturday.  So, we had to go off campus, and we would, I would often go to Hungrie’s - - which was in the Rice Village, and they had a cooler back then. - - Hungrie’s is still there, but they have completely renovated it, and it looks completely different.  But there was this cooler with bottles of beer from around the world, and that was really unusual in nineteen-eighty-three [1983], and I would go in, and I would try these different beers.  I remember, I had my, pilz, - - first [1st] Pilsner kil, [?] there.  I had my first [1st] Belhaven [sp] I would, every, - - I had my first [1st] real October fest.  I would go and try these different beers every Saturday. And I really got turned on to all these different beers.  I started reading on it - - and then my sophomore year.  We had a new RA in, in the dorm, Bob Walp who - - played trumpet for the Houston symphony.   And - - he was a home brewer, and we actually got together.  We started doing the - - a lot of stuff with wine;  But he also brewed, and he was the one [1] who introduced me to home brewing, and taught me how to home brew.  NIKO TONKS:         So - - what, what year was that?  BROCK WAGNER:      - - That would have been nineteen-eighty-five [1985] that I actually started home brewing.  [Sipping]   - - So, in home brewing was interesting, because you could make - - I mean, the sky was the limit, and - - if you look at tr - - traditions of brewing in Europe, everybody in Europe.  They brew a lot of good beer, but they brew with their father, and their grandfathers, and great grandfathers, and great, great grandfathers, and there was no, sort of creativity - - or, historically certainly, you know, I could argue, I you think you could argue, in the last five [5] years, you have seen some small changes.  But - - there was no creativity, it was just exactly the same thing, and some beer styles had died, just gone away.  As a home brewer, it was like - - there was sort of the fun of creating these flavors.  There was a little bit of fun of beer archeology, and that you could bring back, you know, or brew a Porter, which had really died  00:05:25  out - -  and also, you know, It was, really very eye opening, just the freshness of the beer, when you drank the beer that fresh how different it tasted.  So, that was what really turned me on, to brewing.  So, I kept brewing after college.  After college, I took a job in investment banking, and, and I did mergers, and acquisitions, and corporate finance, and - - it was nineteen-eighty-seven [1987], when we graduated which was like, the absolute bottom of the real estate market here.  So, me and my roommate from college, we rented this just great high-rise apartment that, you know, people just out of college, just have no business renting - - but it was a big apartment, and - - had a huge kitchen, which was perfect for - - home brewing.  So, I moved all my home brewing equipment, and really kind of geared up.  My roommate actually kind of hated home brewing.  So, if he came, well, you know, when he got up on a Saturday, and if he saw me organizing the equipment.  He would just head out the door, and I wouldn’t see him for the rest of the day.    NIKO TONKS:         What did he - - what did he hate about it?  BROCK WAGNER:     He hated the smell.  [Laughter]   NIKO TONKS:         I find that really hard to believe.  But I guess I will have to take your word for it.  BROCK WAGNER:     I have found a lot of people don’t like the smell.  The people, It’s, it’s one [1] of those you love it, or you hate it.  There’s no sort of - - in between on it.  NIKO TONKS:         I pulled into the parking lot, and took a big whiff, and I, I knew I was in the right place.  BROCK WAGNER:     Yeah and it is, I mean, the smells - - it’s cooking, its cooking there’s some, some kind of sweet smells to it, but it is, it’s, it’s a great aroma, especially the hops. When you put the hops in the kettle, but again, some people aren’t really that wild about it, but  [Clearing throat]   Who knows what’s wrong with those people - - So, yeah - - So, I kind of, I kept brewing, I bottled a couple batches.  Those were really my first [1st] home brews on my own.  Because I was always home brewing on my own, because before that, I was always doing it with Bob.--And bottled, I remember I bottled two [2] batches, had great fun designing a label on the old MAC, you know, printed out on, on the old dot matrix kind of printer. - - But was very pleased with how cool this art work looked, but now if you looked at it, you. -- It was laughable but - -   [Clearing Throat]  00:07:42  After bottling two [2] batches, I realized I never wanted to bottle a batch of homebrew again,  [Laughter]   because it’s a huge pain in the ass, and quickly moved to kegging, and then kind of kept brewing - - it’s funny, near the end of my investment banking days.  I wasn’t brewing as much, because I was just working so much that I had no, chance to do it.  [Clearing Throat]      The other thing, problem I would having is I would brew a keg, you know, a batch would be about five [5] gallons.  [Clearing Throat]  And I was never home enough to drink a keg, and then I would want to brew something else. But I wouldn’t have an empty keg, so, I wouldn’t brew.  And finally I just started dumping a keg that I had only had a little bit of, because I really enjoyed the brewing more than the drinking of it, not to say I didn’t enjoy the drinking, but - - but - - in the meantime in investment banking, I kind of it, it been a good career it had been interesting.  I’d gone into it, because, I thought I wanted to do something where I could make lots of money.  That was kind of my, mindset graduating from college.  I had actually considered the idea of opening a brewery.  But ran the numbers, and thought I can’t make any money at this.  Which was true, but - - went - - did the investment banking thing, got incredible experience, really learned a lot about business.  That’s the other good thing about the fact that I didn’t, try to open a brewery right after college.  Because I knew diddly squat about business;  I thought I knew a lot, but - - you know, when you graduate from college, you think you're full of, you know, you hung the moon, but it turns out you just full of shit.  But - -   [Sipping]  We - - at the end of my - - investment banking, I, I had the boss from hell, and I, this, and this was, some of was sort of growing, and bugging me, is as I worked investment banking. We were all paid ridiculous sums of money for the, our age - - we worked crazy hours, I mean, seventy [70] hours, and at seventy [70] hours a week, you have no other life.-- So, basically I sold, I sold my twenties [20’s] to investment banking - - But, I got this incredible experience working with, I would be sitting there at twenty-five [25], sitting with CEO of companies, and discussing strategy, and what you would learn.  You know, I look back at it, and I kind of cringe to think that I could of ever like told somebody who’s running a company, something actually knowledgeable about their own company, because people try to do the same thing to me now, and I realize how silly that is, but, anyway. I didn’t have the perspective, at that point.  [Clearing Throat]  But - - I also, it kept bothering me, that there just was no end in itself.  We were, all we were 00:10:51  trying to do is generate money for ourselves, really more than anything else.  And then I would watch how money would completely corrupted peoples value systems.  [Clearing Throat] And I realized - - came to the conclusion, which I thought was my motivator, was not my motivator.  I needed to do something I was really passionate about, and about that time, I also had the boss from hell.  And I was specialized in the oil industry, and lived in, our office was in Houston, but through series of changes in the firm, ended up with a boss who, who was up in New York.  And even though all of our clients were down here, he ultimately in hind sight. I, I realized he wanted to move, to close the Houston office, and move us all to New York.  But I ended up in New York for was supposed to be six [6] months.  When I, my six [6] months were up, and I said, Okay, I am going back to Houston, that’s when the hell began.  And he decided he wanted to fire me, but instead of just firing me, which he should of, because, I had already told him I thought he was an idiot.  - - Which, you know, should be grounds for firing me.  I mean, he was an idiot, but that’s beside the point - - Then he started setting these traps for me, he caught me the first [1st] time.  Then I figured out what he was doing, and then I out smarted him the next couple of times, and I woke up one [1] morning.  I had TMJ and I couldn’t open my mouth.  And I said; what am I doing?  And that’s when I said; Okay.  [Laughter]     - - I need to do what I love.  And I, I think really what the, the catalyst was.  Is - - my grandparents had - - on my mom’s side, had just passed away recently.  The - - My grandfather a couple of years earlier, and then my grandmother passed away.  And I went out to California, was sitting in their house, kind of half - - settling up the - - everything you have to do after that.  And here you get very pensive and reflective, at those points, and I started think, thinking about my grandfather, and - - something he’d said, and he was - - my grandfather liked to philosophize, and I was a very dutiful grandson, and would sit there and listen to him.  Which gave great pleasure to everybody else; because they didn’t have to listen to him, and so, and he had some wacky things that, I will never tell anybody, that you, as part of his philosophy.  But - - The a - - but he did say one [1] thing that really resonated, and that was; that he considered himself to be such a lucky man, because he loved his work, and he, and so, he felt like he never worked a day in his life - - and he had a nursery business down in Burbank where my mom was growing up. -- Closed that down in nineteen-sixty [1960], and his idea of retirement was, he bought a whole bunch of land up in Northern California, up by Fort Brag, and he opened botanical gardens on, I think it was forty [40] acres, forty to seventy [40-70] acres - -  goes from highway one [1] out to the Pacific ocean, and that’s what he did - - from nineteen-sixty [1960] 1960 to nineteen-eighty [1980] - -I, I when did, when he - - he died, I guess in the late eighty’s [80’s] - - so, he did it almost right up to the end.  Till a crazy family deal, till my uncle sold the gardens out from under them, but that’s another one [1] of those crazy stories we don’t have to get into.  Families you don’t chose them you just inherit them.  [Sipping]  00:14:36  But - -So, anyway, I thought about that, what do I love, and that’s when it was Thanksgiving  of nineteen-ninety-two [1992], and that’s when I went, this is what I want to do. ,And I immediately ran some quick numbers again, discovered - - but from a different perspective. Instead of can I get rich, it’s can I keep food on the table, can I keep a roof over my head?  And that’s and that was my hurdle.  I said; yeah, I can do that, so, - - I called a friend of mine, Kevin Bartol, and I asked him.  I said, hey; because we’d always played around with - - he was also miserable in his job.  He was, he actually was the one [1] who hired me, for my first [1st] job out of college, so, he was also in investment banking.  And - - he was still at the same firm, I had moved to a different firm, at this point, but - - I said; hey, how about this idea?  We open a brewery, and he was like; yeah that sounds like a good idea.  And I ran, you know, ran the numbers, I, I, I started tell, talking to other people about it, talked to my parents about it, they went, yeah, that sounds like a great idea.  Everybody I talked to about it went, yeah, that’s a great idea.  I kept wanting a little bit of push back. -- I remember calling my old girlfriend from high school, and that love and hate in San Francisco, and - - asking her, she was like, yeah, that’s a great idea.  Like come on, somebody tell me this is a bad idea - - so, decided to do it, - - quit in the beginning of January of nineteen-ninety-three [1993], made sure my bonus cleared first [1st], and then - - started working on Saint Arnold’s.  - -  February of ninety-three [1993], went on a big trip up to Seattle, Yakima, - - Portland, visited a whole bunch of breweries.  Went up to - - Kansas City, visited Boulevard Brewing - - all these breweries were just going great guns.  And it was funny, you would talk to them, and - - couple things really struck me, at that point, one [1] was the brewers were so friendly, and helpful coming out of investment banking, where they were not friendly and helpful.  And they were busy as hell, yet they’d sit down and take, all this time with you, and go over, you know, what was happening, and hope they opened their breweries, and give advice - - it was amazing, and they were really good about giving advice, about brewing and the brewing equipment, and - - you know, everything having to building a brewery and brewing beer.  If you asked them any questions about sales or marketing, or financials, they just sort; especially on, on sales like well.  What do you mean?  The truck comes up to our dock, the truck goes off to our distributor, and the next day a truck shows up again.  I mean, what else is there to do to sales?  But - - it’s a different world today, and it was a much different world in Houston.  [Sipping]  NIKO TONKS:        So, do you ever consider to do it anywhere other than Houston?  BROCK WAGNER:     No - - not really, I, I, I’d come to love Houston, I moved, when I moved here to go to Rice, I remember my first [1st] semester at Rice.  I really wasn’t very happy here, it was culture change, and probably home sick, and everything else.  [Clearing Throat]  But after that, - - I mean, I had even prepared transfer application, at that point, but, then  I stuck it out the next semester, and then I really came to like it here, and I LOVE Houston, I think it is, I mean, this city is, it’s a giant melting pot.  Everybody's here; it has no physical beauty.  - - Everybody's here, because of a job, but it draws from around the world, I think partially,  00:18:32  because we have no zoning; which I am not a proponent for no zoning, but I think there is this one [1] incredible benefit to it, well two [2].  One [1] keeps housing prices down, but two [2] it mashes everybody together, you know, there is no, - - there’s much less segregation in this town, than any other place I have ever lived or seen.  I grew up in Cincinnati, and Cincinnati - - you know,  everybody thinks that there’s no racism, I mean,  they all talk about open minded, and how wonderful we are - -  when we all live in the place where all the white people live. And we are very, open minded, till that black person tries to move into the neighborhood, and all of a sudden everybody's like, Ah!!! Can you believe this, what’s happening?  It’s like, you know.  [Laughter]  Nothing’s happening, but you know, here you know, everywhere you go, you will see; black, Hispanic, Indian, - - you know, Asian, of, of, of every form imaginable, and nobody even notices it.  The only thing you might notice is, if you go to an ethnic restaurant, if you see all lot of that ethnicity, you go, Okay, this is probably going to be a better restaurant.  [Laughter]    Than if you don’t, but that’s about the only awareness I think anybody has in this town of, of that.  And not to, I am not saying Houston is perfect, by any means, but I just really Love this town.  And Houston was the biggest town, in the city, in this country that did not have a micro-brewery.  So, for that reason it seemed logical, I didn’t realized the uphill battle that lay ahead of us, - - this still was a light beer town.  - -   [Background Noise]   There was very little awareness of   [Laughter]   That will come through too.  - - There was very little awareness of better beer, and so, when opened the brewery in ninety- four [1994], basically we started educating, I think we had thirty, there were thirty -seven [37] Craft Beer drinkers in Houston, at that point.--  NIKO TONKS:         So, what does - - what does an education effort look like in nineteen-ninety- four [1994] for Craft Beer?  BROCK WAGNER:     It was, for me, what it meant is - - get to the brewery, five-thirty five [5:30] six [6], in the morning, brew all day, finish up six [6] six [6:30] in the evening, go home, grab a quick bit, go out to a pub, go have a pint, go talk to a few people.  - - It was give tours at the brewery, try to get every organization we could think of, offer them use of the brewery for free.  To get them out there, and we would give them a tour, and Kevin and I would work all the events, you know.  00:21:25  [Phone Ringing]  You can close that door, if you like.  - - You know, it was, it just, I, I think of what, what I did  back then, and I would die, if I tried to replicate it today.  - - I worked six [6] days a week, except for the weeks that I worked seven [7] - - and we went out to festivals, you know, People would invite us to go out to, come out to breakfast clubs and lunch clubs - - and also to business clubs, and we wouldn’t turn down a single invitation.  - - We would be out doing sampling at, at liquor stores and grocery stores - - you know, four [4] hours standing there, you know, I remember we thought it was a big deal if we sold, if we sold five [5] cases at, over four [4] hours doing one [1] of those.  That was, that was a big deal. I also remember ones [1’s] where I didn’t sell one [1] six [6] pack over four [4] hours - - you know, It, it was just constituently, never stop trying to talk to people about Craft Beer, and educating them.  I used to do - - I did beer education, I did - - beer tasting classes at the Ginger Man, not just with our beer, I mean,  I would do these beers of the world thing, it was - - it was a monthly series that we did.  Till somebody decided, called the TABC, and said it was illegal for me to be doing that. Which I, debate, but anyway, that’s, it wasn’t sort of, it was a bit of, I, I don’t feel like dying on that battle field.  [Laughter]  NIKO TONKS:         When - - When did the Ginger Man open, and, and have you, have you had a sort of strong relationship with them in terms of, of education for, for a while?  BROCK WAGNER:     Well the Ginger Man opened in nineteen-eighty-five [1985] - - same year I started home brewing.  - - I used to go there.  Actually, I remember going there, before it was the Ginger Man; it was Bev and Dave’s Chuggers. - - You would go there to play quarters, and drink very cheap pitchers of beer.  Kind of before that, it was a dike bar, but that was before my time. - - When the Ginger Man opened, I remember the, they had Guinness on, I think when Bob Precious opened it.   I believe he had three [3] taps.  I remember when you ordered a Guinness. I have this memory - - now getting fuzzy of going to the backroom to pour the Guinness, and coming out with it.  - - And - - I remember coming in, in the very early days - - I heard years later - - telling you know, talking to Bob about it.  - - I, I became a regular there in nineteen-eighty-seven [1987], but I went there, pretty much when it very first [1st] opened. I remember telling him that and him telling me; No you didn’t.   [Laughter]  A gosh. No, no I did!  No, you didn’t.  [Laughter]  Okay!  [Laughter]  00:24:19   This is a very unusual conversation but - - but they were, the Ginger Man was a big supporter, you know, a big educator, they were the first real beer bar in this town.  There were other places like Richman Arm’s, who’d been open longer, and, you know, and Ale House, who had a lot of different taps.  But there was something about the Ginger Man, where as opposed to being as bar with a lot of, with many different taps, it was really, somehow there, was,  The focus on the beer itself, it wasn’t, the focus wasn’t on the bar, it was almost like it was on the beer.  And - - I used to go, you know, in my early investment banking days, every Friday night after work.  We would go to the Ginger Man, and - - you know, have two [2] or three [3] pints, before - - going to dinner, and I remember, before it got really crazy, and then suddenly it became the, the place, for like, all the Docs from the med center would go there. My favorite part about them is, they would go home, and they would shower, and then they would put scrubs back on, and then go to the Ginger Man.  And they didn’t, and we would like count how many pages they would have.  [Laughter]   They weren’t all, I’ve, the, the and one [1] of the cool things about the Ginger Man was always; you would see very well educated successful people who, were basically, not trying to look, you know, they would, they were basically under dressing, not over dressing, so, the people who did do that always stuck out. There  [Laughter]  But - - it, it was a cool place.  NIKO TONKS:          - - So, through all this education, when, when you got a, a Saint Arnold Beer into somebody's hands, was it smooth sailing from there on out, or did you encounter more resistance, even when people started drinking it?  BROCK WAGNER:     Well when, we brewed, yeah, we, we had a lot of hiccups in doing our construction, and getting the brewery started - - plumbers over pressurized our brew kettle, and doing pressure test, they were supposed to isolate the kettle, and they, and instead they blew it - - but finally got the first [1st] brew out of Amber Ale, and that was June of ninety-four [1994], June ninth [9th] nineteen-ninety-four [1994], and we had an opening day party at the Ginger Man.  - - The first [1st] batch of Amber Ale, when we scaled it up, looked, malt scales fairly linearly, hops do not, and I knew that, and I scaled back on the hops, by maybe twenty-five percent [25%], which wasn’t nearly enough and basically the, the very first [1st] batch of Amber Ale was really, an IPA, and I remember looking  around there, you know, the thirty-seven [37] Craft Beer drinkers were there, but there was some other people there too.  Those, those thirty-seven [37] loved it, the hop heads were just in, in heaven, but I also saw a lot of half [1/2] full pints sitting on the table,  [Laughter]   and that was a little disheartening.  You know, revised the recipe, and basically the second  00:27:28  [2nd] batch of it was pretty much dialed in, and Amber Ale’s been the same ever since. -- But,  The, the, yeah, we would get - - I remember I would field phone calls.  This, this is, you know, several months a year, years out.  Where we would get calls from accounts, and people would say; hey, you’re, your beers off, the people here came and drank it, and they said something’s wrong with it, and I would field feel physically sick, sick to my stomach.  And I would drive out there immediately, to try it to see what was wrong, because you know, with beer you’re always worried about infections and problems.  I would go out there, and I would taste it, and I’d go; hmmm, actually this taste pretty good.  I said; well, what did they say the problem was?  They’d say; oh, they, they said; it was bitter.  It’s like; yes, that’s, that’s how this beer is supposed to taste.  So, there were defiantly a lot of issues - - the education process was hard, and the nineties [90’s] were hard, and there were a lot of other breweries opened up in the nineties [90’s], and then they closed.  I remember, you know, when we were trying to get people to come work for us, in ninety-four [1994], and ninety-five [1995], ninety-six [1996], there were a lot of people interested, but then the breweries all started to close, and in ninety-seven [1997], ninety-eight [1998], ninety-nine [1999], two-thousand [2000].  When we would have a job posting, it would.  You know, there wasn’t a lot of interest in people wanting to work at the brewery, and it was tough - - you know, we grew well in ninety [1990], ninety-four [1994], we sold about six hundred [600] barrels, we were open about, you know, just over six [6] months.  Second [2nd] year in ninety-five [1995], I think we sold, you can pull it up, I think we sold about two-thousand [2000] something barrels.  Ninety-six [1996], we sold about four-thousand [4,000] barrels, from ninety-seven [1997] - - between ninety-six [1996] to two-thousand and one [2001, we were between four-thousand [4,000] and six-thousand [6,000] barrels, and we didn’t really, we kind of went up , down just a little up, just a little bit more - - not a huge amount of growth, during that period, basically  flat, and it was during that periods, in ninety-nine [1999] that I bought my partner out, Kevin.  - - Originally we had seventeen [17] outside investors, and then Kevin and myself, so, there was nineteen [19] of us total.  Kevin and I owned the majority of the company, although Kevin had more, a lot more money than I did, so, he actually in, in the very beginning, he had a lot more of the company than I did, I think, he had about just over fifty percent [50%] ,and I had about fifteen percent [15%] - - which was something that always stuck in my crawl a little bit, you know, I, is, all the work I was doing, and owning fifteen percent [15%] just sort of my baby.   [Laughter]  But, you know, you kind of do what you have to, to get it started.  So, in ninety-nine [1999], Kevin agreed to let me buy him out, I went after our other investors.  At that point, if you ran the numbers on it, you know, the company stock wasn’t worth as much as people bought into it.  But just as a matter of pride, I bought people out for what they put into it.  And so, I bought out all of our other investors.  Kevin, although Kevin, I didn’t buy him out completely, so, to this day he still has a little bit of the company, and then; I did not buy out my father, or I had three [3] friends who’d each put a thousand dollars [$1000] into the company, when we opened - - two [2] of whom I am going to see this weekend.  But  - - we  - - so, essentially I did an LBO, Leverage Buy Out on, on the company; which is sort of weird for a small company, but coming out of finance, that was one [1] thing I knew that we could do.  I ended up, coming, you know, came out of it owning the vast majority of the company, and lots of debt, which I had all had,  00:31:21  you know, I had personally guaranteed.  - - that was in ninety-nine [1999], two-thousand [2000] grew a little bit, two-thousand-one [2001], we didn’t really grow.  It was kind of looking a little frightening, at that point, and then, in two-thousand and two [2002], we took off, and we really haven’t stopped since then, and - - I, I always tell people between ninety-four [1994] and two-thousand and one [2001], I think the average - - our average age of our customer was probably around forty [40] years old, except our average age of our customer probably got one [1] year older every year, during that period.  We weren’t really adding a lot of fresh blood.  And then it was in two-thousand and two [2002], something changed, and I don’t know if it was a fact that we had been around now for seven [7] or eight [8] years, and it kind of takes that long to sink into peoples conciseness - - you know, we didn’t do any advertising, it was all just grass root marketing, but suddenly people started becoming aware of us, and we also noticing that people in their twenties [20’s] started buying our beer, and drinking our beer, you know, first [1st] in the sort of the upper twenties [20’s], and the mid-twenties [20’s], then you would start seeing people showing up on their twenty-first [21st] birthday on our tour, and I would know this, because, you know, in those days I was usually the one [1] on the tour, carding everybody, and so, I would be looking, and I started seeing more and more people in their early twenties [20’s] - - We - -  our tours, which, you know, initially we wanted to have that twenty-five [25] people on our tour, and we had kind of gotten up to about fifty [50] people, and it sort of hold, held steady around there.  Suddenly our tour size started to creep up seventy-five [75], to a hundred [100].   I remember when we were getting up to a hundred-fifty [150], and we thought, wow this is crazy, I mean, as is as recently as two-thousand-five [2005], two-thousand-six [2006].  Two hundred [200] people was a huge tour for us - - at the end, we were averaging five-hundred [500] at the old brewery.  Today on Saturdays, we average about a thousand [1,000].  NIKO TONKS:         So, - - so, when did you move - - couple of questions quickly. So when did you move into this building?   BROCK WAGNER:     I have to pause; I have to go, sorry.  [Pause]  Where were we?  NIKO TONKS:         I, I was just asking; when did you transition from the old brewery to this place?  BROCK WAGNER:     Okay - - we, the, the last day brewing at the old brewery was February twenty-eight [28th] of - - two-thousand-ten [2010], first [1st] day brewing here was March first [1st], two-thousand-ten [2010], so, we did that last brew at the old brewery, immediately did the first [1st] brew here - - during March, we were operating two [2] facilities, and then - -  we still had - - at the old, at the old brewery we had a facility full of tanks, full of beer, and as they fermented, and conditioned, and we packaged over there, as we emptied the con, the fermenters there, we would lie them, you know, cut them from the Glycol line, lie them down,  00:34:38  put them on the back of trucks, bring them over here, stand them up pipe them in, clean and brew in to them, and we were trying to do that about in forty-eight [48] hours, and it was constant.  So, we were brewing, packaging, and then moving equipment, all at the same time. Yeah, March last year sucked.  [Laughter]   NIKO TONKS:         It sounds like it might have.-- So what, what did this building used to be?  And how much bigger is this, than, than the old brewery, the older brewery?  BROCK WAGNER:      - - This building was originally, it was a dry goods warehouse, it was built in, I think. nineteen-fourteen [1914], or nineteen-sixteen [1916] - - then around nineteen-sixty [1960], I think a company called Zero Foods bought it, they converted it into a giant frozen food warehouse, turned it into a big freezer - - later they decided that Zero Foods was a very silly name for a company, and they changed their name to Cisco.  So, that’s worked for them, and they sold this building to HISD, the school district, and they continued to use it, as their frozen food warehouse, and they used it right up to the time we closed on it.  In fact, the closing kept getting dragged out, because their other facility wasn’t, their new facility wasn’t ready.  - - So, they moved out, there was probably about three [3] weeks, between when they weren’t using it, and when we closed, and we immediately gutted it, and started work on it - - our old brewery, originally we had about eighteen-thousand [18,000] square feet that was the original space.  We added the space next door, which we just used for storage, that was another twelve-thousand [12,000] square feet, so, we had about thirty-thousand [30,000] square feet, at the original facility.  This building is a hundred and four-thousand [104,000] square feet, I think, it’s not necessarily apples and apples, because our ceiling, you know, the old, you know, the, the original building, you know, we don’t have tall ceilings.  We can’t use it for everything - - you know, the basement is- - good for storage, and not much else, you know, we basically use the first [1st] floor, or the second [2nd] floor, we use the third [3rd] floor for storage, basement for just very little, little - - storage again, and the we added on to, to build the area for the brew house, and the cellar, and all the fermenters.  NIKO TONKS:         So, but in terms of capacity like, like barrels per year that you could produce at the old place, and at this place.  BROCK WAGNER:      - - at well, at the old, at the old brewery, we had a thirty [30] barrel brew house, here we have a hundred-twenty [120] barrel brew house.  So, that’s four [4] times the size - - we got up to almost twenty-six-thousand [26,000], just below twenty-six-thousand [26,000] barrels are full, our last full year at the old brewery here, or ultimately we should have capacity for a hundred-thousand [100,000] barrels.  If we hit that, then we scratch our head, and figure out what we are going to do.  NIKO TONKS:         So, changing gears a little bit, but - - when you were telling your story about you moved from investment banking to, to brewing.  It struck me as that, that, that’s sort of the, the dominate narrative in the craft brewing industry, is that graduated from College, got this job, decided that it wasn’t fulfilling, and moved to beer, and I was wondering if  00:38:01  you, if you had experienced that, as the story that people tell A and B?  If so, if you had any idea why beer is the thing people turn to?  BROCK WAGNER:      - - Oh, definitely, I mean, you go around the industry, and you talk to people, and it’s, it is, and eclectic very interesting group of people - - they come from all walks  of life - - most people did do something after college, I mean, you’ve got, you know, writers, you know, and, you've got the, the, the English majors of the world, you, there’s lawyers, there’s social workers, there‘s - - you know, chemists and, and PHD’s, and all sort of interesting  - - branches of science.  But, there is something about beer that, I think, when, when it captures your imagination, and I think, to me, it’s the combination of, you know, it’s the cooking, it’s the alchemy of, of fermentation, and the community that surrounds beer, and I think that is what attracts people to it.  It’s a great method for creativity, but I would say truly the unifying element of it, is the community that surrounds beer.  Brewers, we all like to hang out together - -  you would think that we are all competitors, and, you know,  there is that, certainly that element to it, you know, we, we are business.  We have to exist, but, you know, we, we like to be with each other, I mean, it’s an industry, as I like to describe, as being ninety-nine [99%], ninety-nine and half [99 ½%] asshole free, there is the half [1/2] percent, but you can avoid them.  NIKO TONKS:         So, - - let’s just talk about that community a little more, because this is something interest me about beer too - - and I have always sort of wondered whether it’s the, the comd?  And, like you said, whether it’s the commodity beer itself, or the process, or just the, the, the people when they, when they get together - - so, - - how, how do you think?  How, I guess my question is, how do you, how do you, how do you function now?  And this may seem like I am changing gears a little bit, as more less the, the, the elder statesman in that,   [Laughter]   in that community, in Texas, and I don’t mean that in a bad way, at all - -  because I think that when, you know, people they think of Saint Arnold’s when they think of Texas Craft Beer more or less, or it’s one [1] of the places they turn to.  So, what do you think your roll is in that community?  BROCK WAGNER:      - - You know, I, I guess we, you know, by the fact that it- - we, that we weren’t the first [1st] micro-brewery in the state, - - but we are the oldest now, as we have outlasted the others that started before us.  [Clearing Throat]  And, I think part of it is a testament to what a lousy the market Texas was.  [Laughter]  And the, you know, when, when we started, I mean, for the people started in the eighties [80’s], and the early nineties [90’s], you know, in a lot of other parts of the country, the market  00:41:19  was so buoyant that it would carry everybody along, and, you know, I think on the what separated, the reason we're still here is probably, because we did have that business background,.  And that probably helped some, and, to me, it’s like I just, I wasn’t going to fail. I, I didn’t - - It wasn’t so much that I thought I, we were better, or anything else than anybody else it’s, it’s just that I knew I would do whatever it took to not fail, and what it really took was lots, and lots of work.  And perseverance, and you know, having those days when you would just really be depressed about   [Laughter]   the state of, of things, and you would just kind of, pull yourself back up, and, and keep going.  I mean, I, I don’t really I, I guess I don’t think of myself as sort of elder statesman of the business, I mean, there are so many breweries around the country that have been around longer than us.  I don't think it is interesting to see all the breweries that are opening up right now and I think it’s great.  One [1] difference I have seen and maybe it’s because we are geographically removed from a lot of the breweries opening.  Is when we were opening, you know, I went and visited all the other breweries and asked them advice and - - and they were very willing to give it.  I don’t get very many calls asking for advice from people starting up today and I think that’s kind of odd and also not a good use of the available resources because the people that do calm I am very - - try to be as generous as I can about giving advice yet one [1] thing I tell people is how hard it ism I don’t think people like to hear that.  [Laughter]   So, but they just want to hear that the roses and how, how much fun it ism and it is fun, but it’s also very, very hard - - you know, I think when they start, you know, the first [1st], the first [1st] couple of thousands [1m000] of barrels aren’t too hard to sell, it’s kind of when you, getting beyond that point that gets harder - - but, you know, to me, the one [1] area that, that I do feel like I, I have tried to be, you know, create some leadership, and, and some initiative is in getting the laws changed, and I’d, I understand that it’s easier for me to work on that, than somebody that is at two-thousand [2,000] barrels, because - - now, I we have gotten to the point, I don’t brew the beer any more, I am still very involved  [Background Noise]   in every aspect of it, and I look at the fermentation reports on a daily, you know, daily basis, and I am sampling the beers, and I am doing those things, but I am not physically required to be out there for everything to get made, and for everything to happened.  So, - - and when you’re at two-thousand [2,000] barrels, you probably are the one [1] making the beer, so, it’s easier to get away, and do those things.  But I don’t think people fully understand how important it is to be active politically on these topics, because if you’re not the distributors - - who are very political active, and are very powerful, they will be the only voice that gets heard. - - This last session was very disheartening, because we had many different initiatives going, people didn’t understand sort of the realities of the process, and I saw kind of unbridled idealism, and on top of that, I got accused of trying to give away a self-distribution, and things that are very  00:45:30  important to small brewers, to start ups, which I absolutely would not do.  NIKO TONKS:         Accused, accused by people in the Craft Beer community?  BROCK WAGNER:     Yes, and in the end, it got very ugly - - and unfortunately, I think a lot of the pot got stirred by the HB lobbyist, who planted the seed in people’s heads   [Laughter]    - - and I was completely above board on every single topic, and try to explain all the issues, and hey, here’s what it is, and - - it looks kind of ugly, but it made, I don’t think it’s as ugly as it actually looks, and, but - - at the end, at the end, the HB shot us down, but we, we weren’t help, I mean, you know, we had decent ion with in, and that was very frustrating and a little disheartening.  NIKO TONKS:         So, - - just to be clear, we're, we're, we're talking about HB six-o- two [602], I think is the bill that we are talking about, but there was also HB six-sixty [660].   BROCK WAGNER:     Yeah.  NIKO TONKS:         And I think another couple of initiatives that was in the legislator this, this passed session - - and, I know that none of them passed, and we just talked about that a little bit, so, my, I would, I wanted to talk about legislative action a little bit, and how you would like to see the three [3] tier system working, or not working, and what, what you think a workable goal for Craft Beer would be?  BROCK WAGNER:     Well, I think, as a craft brewer, it is very important to know that - - the three [3] tier system is critical for us.  Without it we wouldn’t have a chance - -   [Background Noise Stopped]   So, we, we do not want to disassemble the three [3] tier system, we just want to make some minor tweaks to it - - and they would help the entire beer, business that’s the irony of it.  If you look historically at it, it has helped in, in the markets where, where breweries like us are allowed to have some on premise sales, it ends up driving the off premise sales, it goes to the distributors, and, and there’s, it’s a multiplier, it’s not, you know, so, the, everybody would really benefit from it, but trying to convince the distributors that it’s not a zero sum game that it’s not the end of the world, because you know, they just, they are so used to selling just Bud, Miller and Coors, and that’s what the beer business is.  The beer business is changing, and they need to understand that, and they need to get on board, and be progressive thinkers, and some of them are - - but not, unfortunately, not all of them - - and so, we, we need to keep pushing, you know, and in between sessions - - you know, Jessica Farrar, who has been carrying our bill, she has been pushing for getting a study on the alcohol, on redoing the beer laws - - and as an interim study, and she need to get someone from the Senate to do it too, and I know she was working on that - - you know, in, what I would like to do it basically throw all the bills out  00:48:38  that we were working on and start fresh.  [Background Noise]   I mean, people - - six-o- two [602], which was the one [1] I was pushing so hard on - - it had, it was not, it was by no means the perfect bill.  But it was the bill that I actually thought could have gotten passed last session, and I think if we had played it a little bit differently, we could have gotten all the way through, I mean, it got all the way, it got out of the House, it got out of committee, and the Senate.  It died, you know, on the Senate floor. - -  NIKO TONKS:         Can you really quickly just - - describe; what HB six-o- two [602], was attempting to accomplish?  BROCK WAGNER:    It was basically, what it was trying to do was let people let breweries sell up to two [2] six [6] packs of beer to visitors.  We are not talking about anything earth shattering here, but the way it was written, it was very convoluted, it was part of a tour, we were not actually selling the beer.  You know, what I would like to now is, is go back start a fresh, see what we can all agree on.  [Background Noise]  That wasn’t feedback, that was actually from the air conditioning - - and - - see, if we can get a better, a better bill written, but the reason I was pushing it was, because that was the only legislation that had a prayer of making it through the last - - the last session, as you saw, because six-sixty [660], and all the other one’s [1]’s, they died a horrible death, and, you know, they never got out of committee, and never got out of the House.  Which, I knew that was going to happen but, I mean, that’s how our bill, three [3] sessions ago, how it began too, so, it  takes a lot of work to get done, but you have to get the distributors on board, at some level, or it’s not going to, it’s not going to fly.  NIKO TONKS:         So, so, just for the record, HB six-sixty [660] was the more or less the "Brew Pub Bill" that would have allowed to sell off premise.  BROCK WAGNER:     Correct.  NIKO TONKS:        Okay.  So, do you think, so, if do you think that - - in the future, a law like that would have a chance, and do you think it would be something that would beneficial for Craft Beer, for the beer industry as a whole?  BROCK WAGNER:      - - Yes, I think it’s possible - - you know, we have to, it’s going to take a lot of education, it’s going to take, take a lot of work, it’s going to take a very unified front by our industry, you know, honestly change.  You know, we, we are at a point where these laws have much less, changing the law will have much less benefit for us, than it will for the small breweries.  Which is a little bit of the irony, is that, you know, myself, Brad from Real Ale, we did more work on this than anyone else, and we probably would benefit the least. And in fact 00:51:37   even got undermined by some, other people, who  [Laughter]  It would have benefited a whole lot more - - but having said that, it will benefit the whole business, it will certainly benefit us.  So, I mean, I don’t want people to think I am claiming  to be altruistic here - - but it will - -  I also think that it is, you know, our, my responsibility, having the, having a little bit more time to do this, that will make for a healthy Craft Beer business long  term in Texas. NIKO TONKS:         And is - - So, that leads to another question, I was going to ask.  - - Where, Texas Craft Beer it, it, it seem to be a little slow on the, the uptake, compared to a lot of other states, but, in recent years, there have been a large number of breweries that have opened, and as part of the emphasis from my doing this project, so, I was wondering if someone, as someone with experience in this state where, where, where do you see Texas Craft Beer going one [1]?  And, and two [2]:  What do you think that having a local option - - for all across the state, and just in general is, is something that  is necessary for the industry, or just sort of a bonus?  BROCK WAGNER:      - - Where do I think its going?  I think the, the Craft Beer business is going up,   [Laughter]   and I think it’s got a lot of room to go up, and I think it is going to continue to be a - - a long process, I think it is going to be very interesting, you know, if, if you look, I mean,  when people ask me who’s our demographic?  I say; its beer lovers, and I don’t draw any demographic lines, I think that is very silly.  It’s very short side to do that, it’s, we want, it’s beer lovers, and if you look, and you see who appreciates beer, it does cross a, go across demographic line - - having said that, you know, you can always do an average, and see who, who the average consumer is on any product, and it probably does tend to go to sort of educated white males - - and given the demographic of Texas.  Which is so, heavily Hispanic - - and, and that’s an area that’s going to continue to grow.  I think it will be real interesting to see, does it become a part of the Texas culture, as a whole?  And that’s something that I would really like to see; because I think everybody appreciates good beer.  This is not something that is somehow limited genetically, and, - - and to one [1] - - demographic - - so, - - you know, that, that’s something that, that I really hope long term, and I think it will be important for a very long term healthy Craft Beer in Texas.  I think seeing all these breweries open up, is great. -- It really wasn’t healthy having only a small handful of breweries, especially spread around a state this big.  You don’t get that sense of community - - that I would, I would like to see.  So, I am very happy to see all these breweries opening up.  You know, you’re going to see more of a community of brewers now - -  I suspect with all the breweries opening up, that there’s too many, more breweries opening that should be opening, so, you will probably see a wash out in a couple of years.  - - But again, if the, if the industry, if, if the market here develops enough, it will carry everybody along, and some of the ones [1] s who aren’t necessarily doing things, as well at the  00:55:21  beginning, it will cover up their mistakes, and they will learn, and you know, so, you may not see a wash out.  NIKO TONKS:         So, the ood, the lu- - I like what you said about a- - beer being integrated into Texas culture, as a whole. Do you think that you can, you can say and, and I don’t mean for this to be a leading question, at all - - say that, that, that Saint Arnold’s has sort of become part of the Houston culture?  Can you, can you break Texas up in to chunks, and say, that, that is something that you have either done, or on, on the road to doing?  BROCK WAGNER:    Yeah, and when I opened the brewery, I had to right a "Mission Statement", and - - you know, it’s, it’s one [1] of those things that, that I spent a lot of time working on, and I am really glad, my dad actually helped me through on this process, and, and starting the business, and figuring out what I wanted it to be, and - - it was, and I am glad we did, and it it’s one [1] of those things that, it’s something I feel.  I have some pride in, because it, the "Mission Statement" I wrote in nineteen-ninety-three [1993], for this brewery that didn’t even have a name yet, - - at this time, it was Wagner/Bartol Brewing, that was just our working name.  We had no intention of calling it that - - is still our mission today, and what drives absolutely everything we do, and it’s two [2] fold.  One [1] is brew and sell the best beer in Texas, which I define as brew a great, you know, world class beer, and get it to people fresh - - and the other was to create an institution that Houston, and the region would be proud of, and that still is very much what drives everything, and I do think that we have become more and more a part of Houston’s culture, probably not Texas at large, but definitely Houston.   NIKO TONKS:         So, quick question; how did you, how did you arrive at Saint Arnold’s as the name? BROCK WAGNER:      - - I was trying to come up with the names, I actually have a sheet in the file, with a list of all these names, that I was thinking of, and among them were Live Oak, Yellow Rose, - - Real Ale, Independence, they are all on this list.  [Laughter]   NIKO TONKS:         Did you accuse anyone of plagiarism, over the years?    BROCK WAGNER:     Nobody else saw the list, and clearly, you know, there, there’s a reason that those came to mind, they come to everybody’s mind.  - - But - - the - - the one [1] I was starting to narrow it down to, San Jacinto Brewing, but a lot of people their, their memory, you know, you go to San Jacinto Monument, it’s a mosquito plain, surrounded by refineries not exactly, you know, people, too many, too many people had horrible field trips, you know,  etched in their mind of this - -  and it was about then that a, it just struck me at, I went, I wonder who the patron saint of brewers is?  And I started doing research, found Saint Arnold’s, that I was surprised nobody else had used the guy’s name, and the more research I did, the more I liked it, and, and so, I ran with, and - -  you know, one [1] thing we didn’t.  You know, Kevin and I, we had a lot of talks about what we wanted it to represent, and, you know, as much as we wanted to tie everything to Texas, and we loved being here, and ,you know, proud of this  00:58:52  heritage, Texas and beer, you know, Texas pride was a bit too fresh in our minds.  This was not a brand known for quality, and Lone Star, you know, was not known for quality, so, we kind of wanted a break from the Texas connection, with the name anyway  - - but still very much promote that we are from here.  NIKO TONKS:         And, I guess, so, the last, the last thing I wanted to ask you about - - is the beers themselves, and how, and what the process is like - - designing a beer, and, and how much you take into account?   Who’s going to be drinking it, or is it just what you want to make, and, and how did you arrive at the lineup that you have today?  BROCK WAGNER:      - - It is a combination of things, part of it is literally, I brewed the beers that I wanted to drink - - but, then I also tried to figure out, okay, what, you know, what style, you know, what do we need?  A broad portfolio that appeals to a lot of different people, but it was also what do I want to drink, and all the different moods that I may be in?  [Laughter]   I know that sounds rather egotistical, but, you know, I think companies have a culture, and the culture kind of has to, it needs to come from the top. You can’t somehow, you know, tell everybody to behave one [1] way, and the guy that's running the company behaves a different way.  And, you know, from the beers I think it all, that also need to be a reflection of the philosophy of the company, which basically ends up, you know, you know, to, to some extent, is an extension of my personality - - but now, both the good and the bad.  [Laughter]   But when I opened the brewery, I decided I wanted to do, kind of my favorite type of beer to drink, and sort of the Pale Ale was the, the style I liked.  I decided to call it Amber Ale, as opposed to a Pale Ale, because, at that point, a lot of the brew pubs were starting to come out with a Pale Ale’s that were really pale, and people didn’t know what a Pale Ale was still, at that point, and people like the name Amber a little more.  But I spent a lot of time developing that recipe, working on the malt and the hops, but I also spent a lot of time searching for the right yeast, because the yeast is so critical to the flavor of the beer, and the most popular yeast, especially, at that point, but even to this day, for craft breweries the old ten-fifty-six [1056], also known as a Chico yeast, or an American Ale yeast, because that is Sierra Nevada’s yeast - - a very nice clean yeast, but not a lot of character to it.  I wanted something that had some fruit, and something really promoted the malt, because I really like the malt in the beer - - and so, settled on this yeast.  My, my brewing mentor, George Fix, he was able to a, from another university, you know, a guy who ran a lab, another university, at another school collected yeast from breweries around the world, and he would keep sending us different yeast for us to try, and settled on the one [1] that is now, the Saint Arnold yeast.  But then the Amber Ale, I needed something that was light, and probably this is the only beer that I have never, that I was never happy with, which is part of the reason we killed it, a few months ago was Crystal Bitson [sp], and we wanted to do a wheat beer, and the thinking was, we wanted to do something lighter, we wanted to do something where we would use the same yeast, because  01:02:31  we didn’t want to be running multiple yeast then - - you know, Winmer Hepenvisen [sp] was very popular in the northwest, so, we thought, Okay, this would be a great lighter beer, it never took off, I was never excited about it, we changed Crystal Bitson [sp] name to Texas Wheat, that crated a small bump, but then it still continued to be our slowest seller.  And so, we, finally we killed it, and replaced it with Weed Wacker - -  and back then, we would also, we named the beers, what they were the style of the beer, because education was so important, and people didn’t know what they were so we very much, you know, our first [1st] beers were Amber Ale, Crystal Bitson [sp], which was a filtered Wheat Beer, Brown Ale, - - Christmas Ale, which is to some extent was a fantasable [sp] name, but it was also our first [1st] seasonal, and it’s a style of beer that people like to brew at Christmas, a little heavy heavier. - - Then we had, October Fest, Spring Bach, Summer Pilz, which was originally actually Summer fest actually.  But we got into some legist, some litigation with Sierra Nevada that, because they had a beer named Summer Fest, which, in the end, they agreed we actually had the right to use it, but they paid us to change the name essentially, and actually I think that’s worked well for us.  I am, I am on good terms with Ken Grossman.-- And Winter Stout, so, they were all named the style of beer - - at that point.  So, our fantasable [sp] name was Lawn Mower, and that was when we, we’d kind of, we had a, a lot of different beers, but I, I wasn’t happy with the Crystal Bitson [sp] as our light beer, light bodied beer.  So, I wanted to do something else light bodied, and that’s when we developed, Lawn Mower, as a Kölsch, and it’s was funny, I went out and, I, you know, all the beers that when we developed the recipes.  We would do the test brews, and then we would get it to where I was happy with it, and then we would bring people in, and do some blind tasting, just to make sure I wasn’t way off base. So, that was kind of our market studies that we would do - - and - -on Lawn Mower, when I was working on the name, people would invite me over to parties, and I would show up - - with questionnaires for people; I didn’t get invited back to those parties, I don’t understand why?  Kidding on that but anyway, I would go to bars, and, and do this, and I would hand out these questionnaires, and, and I wasn’t giving people a beer just saying; describing kind of what the beer was or saying; hey, what do you think this is going to be, and I had five [5] names on there.  I had - - Golden - - Select, Kölsch, - - Blond, and - - Fancy Lawn Mower Beer. And I had each person rate, you know, one [1] to five [5] what they thought, you know, how much they liked the name?  What they thought the quality of the beer would be?  And if you just went on names, Golden would have won.  Lawn Mower people rated either a five [5], or a one [1], but when people were handing the questionnaires back, all they wanted to talk about was Lawn Mower.  It was like, what, you know, Oh, I really liked it, or what - - why that name, what is that name, what does that mean?  So, I could, I could tell that one [1] kind of had a kind of hook to it.  So, that was the first [1st] time we named a beer something other than just what the style was, and we have kind of gone with that ever since.  Anyway, we had a lot of fun with it.  You know, we didn’t do a IPA for years, even though I wanted to, because our water quality just, really wasn’t conducive to it, and once we put reverse osmosis in, and could make our beer with really soft water, that’s when we started brewing Elissa.  And, you know, we’ve continued we, we are about to come out with our first [1st] beer that doesn’t use our Saint Arnold’s label with it, Santo - - which Carlos Hernandez who did that - -  big mural, commissioned him to do, the label for us, and that’s sort of a funny story on its own, because we wanted to rename Brown Ale.  Because I didn’t want to, I had no intention of discontinuing Brown Ale, but it’s, it’s, now that Texas Wheat’s gone, it’s our slowest seller.  - - Carlos came up with this great label Santo; looked at it, 01:07:06   and said, I love this label, that’s not the right label for Brown Ale though, I don’t know, that’s just not the liquid that I expect to be in there.  So, it’s the first [1st] time we have ever had a label, and then have to come up with a beer for it, so, its I, I imagine that in some way this is how big breweries do things all the time, but for us it was very backwards.  And - - but it was fun on its own, doing that, and we ended, and I’m very excited about the beer that we did come up with, which is a Black Kölsch, which isn’t a style that exist, but it’s the best name we could come up with for what, what it is,  - - so it’s light bodied, but dark colored, so, we, we are always trying to come up with new different things.  We try to come up with some stuff, you know, we are probably not known for brewing extreme beers, it’s not what Saint Arnold’s is about.  But we like to do them, personally, and - - you know, like to show people that we can do them, and do really good ones too, so, we kind of go back and forth on what we’re doing.  So. I have got eighty [80] barrels coming from my cousin’s winery in Napa.  They will be here in two [2] weeks, and we will start doing a lot of barrel aged stuff.  NIKO TONKS:         So, is, is that’s where the - - things like the Divine Reserve come in that, that series?  BROCK WAGNER:     Yeah, it’s kind of, that was just sort of a creative outlet for us, it’s turned in to a monster that I had, I, if you told me that it was going to become this thing that it is today.  I would have laughed at you several years ago, but.  [Laughter]   You know, that, that’s the funny part about business sometimes, especially a business like this, it’s - - it takes on a life of its own, it’s like it does have to some extent Its own personality, and it becomes, it’s almost like it becomes, it’s our responsibility to Shepard this thing that, that in the public mind is theirs, it’s not, not ours, and you have to be very conscientious about how you do that.  NIKO TONKS:         So, a, a that’s the end of my list of questions, and I was wondering if you had anything else that you wanted to add, that we didn’t, we didn’t talk about?  BROCK WAGNER:     No, I mean, this is obviously topics that I could sit around, and especially if I had a beer in front of me, talk about for several hours. So.  [Laughter]  NIKO TONKS:         We should have scheduled it for the afternoon not the morning.  [Laughter]   BROCK WAGNER:     Yeah, but, nope I enjoyed it. NIKO TONKS:        Great, well thanks a lot, and I appreciate it.  [End of Audio]  01:09:33 
 
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Title:Saint Arnold Brewing Company Interview
Description:Oral history interview conducted with Brock Wagner by Niko Tonks at Saint Arnold Brewing Company in Houston, Texas, on behalf of Foodways Texas as part of the Craft Brewery Project.
Country:United States
State:Texas
City:Houston
Date:2013-02-13
CreatorWagner, Brock (interviewee)
Tonks, Niko (interviewer)
Source:Foodways Texas Oral History Collection
Language:en
PublisherDolph Briscoe Center of American History
Subject:Oral history
Foodways
Brewing industry--Texas
Original Format:MP3