Brock Wagner ’87. Photo by Jeff Fitlow

Though he didn’t realize it at the time, Brock Wagner ’87 made Texas craft beer history in 1993 when he and Kevin Bartol ’81 started Saint Arnold Brewing Co. with $900,000 and a passion for making really good beer. Today, it’s the state’s oldest and arguably its most beloved craft brewery, with Wagner shepherding a new generation of brewers on their own paths to success.

“One of the cool things is that you have people leave and become competitors and yet we’re all still friends,” says Wagner. “It’s a craft beer thing.” Nicholas Walther ’03 is one of those people who learned how to brew when he began working an entry-level job at Saint Arnold in 2008.

Nicholas Walther ’03. Photo by Adam DeTour

“I knew that Brock was a Rice alum,” says Walther, who made sure to wear his class ring to the interview, adding with a laugh, “I don’t even know if he noticed it.” Less than a decade later, Walther launched Turtle Swamp Brewing in Boston with partner John Lincecum. Let’s look at the two founders’ production paths so far.

Brewer

Brewery

College

Major

Transformative experience

WAGNER

Saint Arnold Brewing Co.

Lovett

Economics and managerial studies

Learning how to homebrew from his RA at Lovett

WALTHER

Turtle Swamp Brewing

Hanszen

Religious studies

Bartending at Valhalla

Photo by Tommy LaVergne

Started brewing in

Brewery opened in

Brewery named for

1984

1993

Arnold of Metz, the seventh-century French bishop who famously advised parishioners to drink beer instead of the foul local water

2008

2017

The colonial name for the lowlands between Forest Hills and Jackson Square, where early Boston breweries set up shop thanks to the swamp’s surprisingly crystal-clear water

Photo by Jeff Fitlow

Signature session

Current capacity

Most divine reserve

Fancy Lawnmower

100,000 barrels per year

Pumpkinator, based on Walther’s original recipe for Divine Reserve No. 9, which was first brewed in 2009; Pumpkinator took top prize at the 2017 Great American Beer Festival. “Winning the gold medal for that beer was especially satisfying,” says Wagner, who’s not a fan of pumpkin beers.

Nik’s Bitter (But Never Angry)

3,000 barrels per year

Skwäshbuckle Imperial Porter, a rebranded version of Walther’s Divine Reserve No. 9, ideal for warming up during those blustery Boston winters. “But it’s essentially the same beer,” says Walther, who used 100 pounds of local squash grown by New England farmer Jim Buckle.

Year-round beers

Comes in

12

Cans and bottles

7

Cans and growlers

Photo by Adam DeTour

Historical underpinnings

 

 

A very good year — 2017

After moving out of its original warehouse off Highway 290 in 2008, Saint Arnold located to a former food service facility that’s more than 100 years old.

Named Mid-Size Brewing Company of the Year at the Great American Beer Festival

Turtle Swamp opened in Boston’s Jamaica Plain neighborhood, “the original hub of beer in New England — and early America too,” says Walther.

Opened the brewery and taproom

Photo by Adam DeTour

What’s Next?

Wagner’s adding new brews such as Orange Show (a blonde ale brewed with blood oranges) and opening an addition that will contain a restaurant, outdoor deck, beer garden and grassy area.

Turtle Swamp is gearing up to brew 10,000 barrels per year while becoming a neighborhood destination for families and tourists alike.

 

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