Saint Arnold Brewing Company Beer Pays Homage to a Legendary Name

If you’ve never heard of Grand Prize beer, that’s understandable. After about 30 years of producing it, the brewery that made it, Gulf Brewing Company, was sold in 1963. According to the Texas State Historical Association, the brewery building was leased to Minnesota-based Hamm Brewing Company. It was a short-lived arrangement, as “Hamm and its assets were taken over by Connecticut-based Heublein, Inc., in 1965. In February 1968, a welder’s spark started a fire that destroyed most of the facility, and in June the remaining five-story Grand Prize Brewery brew house was demolished.” 

Grand Prize beer wasn’t made again — but now a Houston brewery has laid claim to the name for its own interpretation. Saint Arnold Brewing Company, located at 2000 Lyons, is making a version that is classified as an American lager and sold as six-packs of 12-ounce cans. It has 100 calories, 2.7 grams of carbohydrates and an alcohol percentage by volume of 4.2%. It sounds eminently quaffable with a bit of sturdiness — perfect for Texas summers. It’s also being distributed in Louisiana, and available on tap in some bars and restaurants, including the obvious choice of Grand Prize Bar at 1010 Banks in Montrose. 

Saint Arnold Brewing Company founder and brewer Brock Wagner
Saint Arnold Brewing Company founder and brewer Brock Wagner. Courtesy photo.

“The recipe is our own creation,” explained Lennie Ambrose, Saint Arnold’s chief marketing officer. “We decided that a light American lager was a style that we were interested in making and went through an arduous tasting process with our research and development, sales, marketing and brewing teams — and, of course, the owner, Brock Wagner. We sampled both test brews and current commercial examples. We tasted a lot of good beer, as well as some bad beer, and then really honed in on the direction we wanted to go. We wanted to really nail something that was super-high-quality and would be a hit for regular light beer drinkers and someone who regularly drinks Art Car too.”

Saint Arnold recently won a “grand prize” of its own: the Great American Beer Festival’s Brewery of the Year award in the category of brewers that produce 15,001 to 100,000 barrels annually. (It also won Brewery of the Year in 2017.) 

In conjunction with the release of Grand Prize, Saint Arnold is hosting “The Grand Prize of Texas Beer” giveaway. One winner will receive a weekend in the Texas Hill Country that includes a hotel stay, a VIP experience at the Texas Craft Brewers Festival, a private, curated Saint Arnold beer dinner for two and a Burch Barrel grill fire pit. The entry form is available online; must be 21 or older to enter. 

Gulf Brewing Company was owned by Hughes Tool Company, owned by the legendary Howard Hughes, and a famed Houston brewmaster at the time named Frantz H. Brogniez. Grand Prize was a large-production version of a Brogniez family recipe that won the grand prix — or, grand prize — at a 1913 competition in Belgium (hence the name Grand Prize). According to a press release, at one time Grand Prize was the biggest-selling beer in Texas. It was sold for about three decades, from the 1930s through the early 1960s. 

“We feel like in our own way we share Howard Hughes’ pioneering spirit, opening a craft brewery in Texas thirty years ago,” said Wagner via a press release. “We pride ourselves in being independent, Texas owned and putting quality above all else, all of which were part of the ethos of the original Grand Prize.”

“As we learned the history of the original Grand Prize beer, everything about it felt iconic and quintessentially Texan,” says branding and design manager Jeremy Johnson. “Like Saint Arnold, Grand Prize is Texas.”

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