Houston’s oldest craft brewery has quietly launched a new venture that could bear some tasty results. Speaking on this week’s episode of CultureMap’s “What’s Eric Eating” podcast, Saint Arnold Brewing Company founder Brock Wagner and brewmaster Aaron Inkrott shared news that the company has been testing recipes for its first-ever whiskey.
Working on a still at Gulf Coast Distilling, Inkrott and the Saint Arnold brewers have been slowly developing recipes by experimenting with different grain bills, yeast strains, and other elements necessary to make Saint Arnold’s whiskey. Currently, the barrels are aging at Gulf Coast's facility in East Houston.
“We’ve been working on different washes that we make at the brewery and take over there,” Wagner says. “We’ve been very focused on fermentation and the basic wash recipe, plus playing with different barrels, chars, and toasts. We seem to be zeroing on what we really like and starting to do a little bit of scaling on that.”
“The amount of variables we came up with were dozens,” Inkrott adds. “We’d get encouraged as we made big steps, [such as] determining what yeast strain we want to use. Then picking three or four recipes that had potential on the small scale and scaling them up. Finally, tasting the shine that’s coming off the still. It’s all very exciting.”
Wagner says that Saint Arnold has product that’s been aging for about a year. Saint Arnold has yet to determine how much time the whiskey needs to age before it will be released.
“Like I’ve always said with beer, we don’t tell the beer when it’s done, it tells us. It’s going to be the same with whiskey,” Wagner says. “It’s not ready yet, but I can easily see it being ready in two years from when it was put in the barrel. We’re not planning on selling it or marketing anything until we’re really excited about what we have.”
As for whether Saint Arnold will produce other spirits like vodka or gin, Wagner acknowledges they have some other ideas, but he’s not ready to disclose that yet. “I could tell you, but I’d have to kill you,” he jokes.
Listen to the whole episode for the rest of the conversation, which covers a wide range of topics. They include: Inkrott’s recent promotion to brewmaster, Saint Arnold’s decision to cease production of its Superfine craft seltzers, and the struggles medium-sized breweries have faced since the start of the pandemic.
Prior to the interview, co-host Felice Sloan joins CultureMap food editor Eric Sandler to discuss the news of the week. Their topics include: the imminent reopening of Little Pappas Seafood, Nashville hot chicken restaurant Hattie B’s plans for Houston; and what this year’s Houston Restaurant Weeks donation total means for the event’s future.
In the restaurant of the week segment, Sloan and Sandler share first impressions of Maize, the new Mexican restaurant that recently opened in the Energy Corridor. They find much to like about chef Fabian Saldana’s menu but note a few potential areas for improvement, too.