If you're a local beer lover, there's no doubt you're familiar with Saint Arnold, the granddaddy of Houston's craft beer scene, and you might have already heard a bit of the story behind the creation of their newest beer, Boiler Room. A boiler-room mistake (hence the name) meant a batch of Lawnmower was made with half the proper amount of malt, and brewer Stephen Rawlings decided to experiment with it rather than dump it out. He added a Belgian beer with lots of bacteria, let it sour, then boiled and fermented it.
This fortunate combination of accident and open-minded experimentation led to the creation of Boiler Room, Saint Arnold's first new year-round release since 2012's Endeavor double IPA. The beer was released to bars on March 19, and 22 oz. bombers went on sale in stores yesterday.
So a good story is nice, but what's the actual beer like? We went to the brewery this past week and spoke to Lennie Ambrose, marketing and events director for Saint Arnold, while sipping on some Boiler Room.
The first thing Ambrose wanted to clarify was the story behind the making ofthe beer. Although it's true that it was first conceived when half of the recipe's malt was left on the floor during the making of a wort, that batch was for Fancy Lawnmower, Saint Arnold's classic Kölsch. The brewmasters did not use it for release, but instead crafted an entirely new recipe for the version of Boiler Room on taps and in stores, using a grain bill of 60 percent wheat, along with some lactobacillus bacteria for souring, to create a true Berliner Weisse.
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The result is a sour, lemony beer that is low on ABV (3.7 percent) but high on refreshment. The sourness never comes close to being overpowering, and it quickly gives way to the crisp lemon flavor (with a hint of apples in the body). The beer finishes light and easily, not leaving a strong mouthfeel behind, unlike most sours.
Berliner Weisse isn't a particularly popular style, so we don't have much to compare the Boiler Room to, but as luck would have it I was able to sample some Charlie Foxtrot from Richmond's Texian Brewing later that day. The two don't really compare: the Texian is an Imperial Berliner Weisse, making it a much stronger beer (8% ABV), which allows for more complex flavors, but at the same time makes it a beer less suitable for light enjoyment. I quite liked it, for the record.
I don't know about you, but during the Houston summertime, I like a low-ABV, crisp and refreshing beer best served cold, preferably while sitting in a kiddie pool in my backyard. The Boiler Room is a beer that deservedly will be added to my list, among such classics as Abita Strawberry Ale, Shiner Ruby Redbird, and Saint Arnold's own Summer Pils. This isn't to say it can't be enjoyed at other times of year (it will be available year-round). It reminds me of nothing so much as a shandy, and for my money, that's decidedly a good thing.
Last note for beer lovers: Ambrose clued me in on what the next few releases in the Bishops Barrel series will be. Bishops Barrel 7 will see another release of the imperial stout aged in bourbon barrels, as Bishops Barrel 1 and 3 were. It will be followed by their Old Ale aged in red wine casks, and Bishops Barrel 9 will use the Divine Reserve 5, a strong Russian Imperial Stout, as its base beer. Something else for us to look forward to.