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Saint Arnold SantoThe Saint Arnold Brewery famously dumped 11,000 gallons of their new year-round brew, Santo, after that first full production batch didn’t quite live up to their standards. So they started over again, brewed two different batches that were closer to what they were after, and decided to let their fans have a say in the outcome. The normal daily 3:00 brewery tour was moved to 6:00 pm, and two versions of Santo were on tap, dubbed X and Y. I got to the “Newery” on Lyons early enough that I was able to take my tour glass along with a purchased Santo pint glass to the taps and get 9 oz pours of each.

Saint Arnold is calling Santo a “Black Kölsch” – a pushing of style boundaries in the vein of their other Kölsch beers, Fancy Lawnmower and Weedwacker. Kölsch beers are traditionally a light golden color, so the idea of a black variety sounds a bit contradictory. But Santo is brewed in the same fashion as its cousins with the exception of the dark malt, and where the difference between Lawnmower and Weedwacker lies in the yeast, so too does the difference between the two versions of Santo – each batch was pitched with a different type of yeast, yielding subtle differences in flavor, which, in the end, is what we were here to vote on.

Santo X and YLeft, Y, right, X

Handed a 9 oz tour glass upon entry to the cavernous second floor mead hall, I first purchased a Santo pint glass – having forgotten previously purchased pint glasses and, really, just wanting a Santo edition to mark the occasion – so that I might get a draft of each batch straightaway. The smaller tour glass on the left is filled with Batch Y, while the larger Santo pint glass on the right holds Batch X. At first blush, they’re the same. They’re both Black Kölsch brews, so it’s not exactly the difference between an IPA and a Pilsener. But I drank each slowly, about a third glass at a time, maybe 3 oz. Eventually I could tease out some slight differences. Batch X made me think of the time I recently tried a brown ale after going on a serious IPA binge – the ale tasted like flat soda. That is to say, Batch X ultimately had a thicker, slightly sweeter mouthfeel. Batch Y, on the other hand, though again, only nominally different, had a lighter, crisper mouthfeel, more like the other Kölsch beers in the Saint Arnold repertoire. I went back and forth several times to confirm my suspicions, and that’s about as fine a distinction as I could cut. With my last two tour tokens, I headed for the taps and asked for a Brown Ale and a Lawnmower to see how well my ratiocinations comported with reality.

Fermenting TanksAt about 7:00 pm, Brock Wagner took the first group on a tour of the brewery and I went along with my two beers, wondering if any additional insight might be gleaned from our eminent guide. We were led through the brewing process, through the mash tuns and fermenting tanks, and on the bottom floor of the brewery, Wagner wrapped up and took some questions. As mentioned, the two drafts of Santo were pitched with different yeasts, which Wagner further elaborated as Kölsch and their own proprietary Saint Arnold yeasts. Perspicacious drinkers of Saint Arnold offerings will notice that these are used in Lawnmower, which is an ale yeast anyways though fermenting at lager temperatures, and Brown Ale respectively. Thus, given my earlier assessment, I could only surmise that Batch X was the Saint Arnold yeast, and Batch Y was the Kölsch yeast. I threw my lot in with Batch Y and the clean, crisp taste I found more in line with Santo’s Lawnmower and Weedwacker relatives, while Batch X lost out with its reminiscence of brown ale – though admittedly a splitting of hairs. I’m just one voice, however. The will of the masses and the powers that be remain to be seen.

The few lingering souls at the end of the tour began to pepper Mr. Wagner with a variety of questions running to fermentation times and hop varietals. But one intrepid tourist, perhaps unaware of certain impending releases, suggested that some of the Divine Reserve series be released year-round. Brock responded that the soon-to-be-released (Oct. 13) Pumpkinator will be a seasonal incarnation of Divine Reserve #9, and next year will see the permanent addition to the lineup of Divine Reserve #11, a Double IPA “we’ll probably end up calling ‘Eleven’” – in the finest Spinal Tap tradition, “ours goes to 11.”

I won’t wax loquacious the way I did the first time around, but I must say I like the name. It hits just about every note interested parties wanted to hear while remaining simple in the spirit of other Saint Arnold names. It nods to the beer’s divine heritage without diluting the prestige of the Reserve series name, and it even has a certain alliterative affinity with Elissa, the standard, or single, IPA in the Saint Arnold armory. Many people called for some reference to the Bayou City, but the brewery calls Houston home – every release is ascription enough. I don’t know which Santo version will emerge the victor, or even if “Eleven” is the final decision on the name for the Double IPA, but I’m excited to see what the future brings.

Post from jack | around
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