The Saint, the newest taproom and music hall in Midtown, opened its doors April 28 for a meet-and-greet with local brewers and live performances by folk acts One Man Banjo and Six Mile station while they sampled a 24-tap selection of local beers.
The Saint is an extension of the St. James Brasserie, located a few blocks east, and currently houses wine barrels for the Brasserie’s gueuze and barrel-aged beer styles. Owner Art Farley and Matt Watterson, a head brewer for Brasserie St. James along with his brother, Josh Watterson, spoke with Reno.com about the necessity of a barrel house, expanding the St. James brand, and what patrons can expect from The Saint.
Question: How many barrels are currently housed in the barrel room at The Saint?
Watterson: There are about 60 in here. We've got another 50 or so that are slated to be filled at Brasserie. As far as capacity goes, there should be close to 250 or so by the time this room is filled. Eventually, there will be some larger wood vessels called "foeders" that will fit inside the room. As for right now, it's a raw space; it's a barrel house, so it'll just be the storage facility more or less for these wine barrel-aging beers, as well as some small packaging (operations). We'll bring over our small bottling line to run out these small boutique batches.
Question: What type of beer do you age in these barrels and what does aging do for the beer?
Farley: We typically gravitate toward more traditional Belgian styles like lambics. Mostly what we put in wine barrels is so we can impart some acidity and let them slowly, gradually, sour -- mostly everything in here is sour. We've done some whiskey barrel aging, which is usually more favored towards darks, like imperial stouts, and that's to impart more of a vanilla flavor or give it a richer, fuller (taste).
We're doing our 1904, which is an American bright beer. We age in a white wine barrel, which gives cool grape, vinous characteristics. It rounds out the fruits and gives it a nice tartness.
Question: How long will you age a beer in this room?
Farley: We'll do blends of traditional gueuze style, which is a blend of one-, two- or three-year lambics. So, three years is about the max we'll put anything in a barrel. Beer is more delicate than, say, whiskey -- the alcohol level's not as high, so you got to be careful. It's really easy to get infections in beer.
Watterson: (For) the first release of lambic, we decided we'd go with a straight release of a single vintage of lambic. From that vintage, we've started to build a gueuze program. It's the same beer, we brew it the same every time, but as it continues to age, you'll see a big roundness in acidity that gains inside the barrel. It adds layers of complexity, and then blending it back with the younger barrels imparts all these different flavors that you're looking for in a traditional Belgian style.
Farley: Sour beers are something we all love, and they're picking up steam. This was originally in the brewery across the street, but that whole wall that we had (for) barrel aging our sours got eaten up by some big distribution tanks in there so we could start getting our beer out to other areas.
Question: Is there still a plan to implement an in-house distillery here at The Saint?
Farley: That's our original plan, there's a slight possibility that it might get derailed by the fact that we just keep growing with barrels and the beer is always, obviously, going to be our priority. Josh (Watterson) and myself have an interest in craft spirits, so it's up in the air right now. Our focus really right now is growing the beer brand and getting into other markets. We're opening Colorado soon, we're opening New York soon, we're in talks with maybe opening Hawaii.
Question: Why was it necessary to open a second location so close to the original Brasserie?
Farley: It was two-fold. We need a proper beer hall where the beer is the focus, and we need a barrel house so we can keep barrel-aging beer. I have a thing for old buildings, and I don't ever seem to stop doing projects.
I feel like I succeeded on my initial goal with Brasserie, but it did have some effects that I didn't foresee, which is that it is a brasserie -- and it's the restaurant portion of the meaning of that word more than it is the brewery meaning of that word. So, people think of it and love it as a restaurant, but that kind of made the whole beer-hall thing go backseat to the restaurant. That was part of it; and also we just sort of ran out of room on the production side.
Question: What importance do you place on the venue aspect of the bar and its inclusion of live music?
Farley: Live music is definitely a huge part of it, but it's second to the fact that we are a beer hall and bar first. Live music is like weather; you don't know it's going to rain tomorrow; you don't know that there's going to be a band that's right for your venue tomorrow. That's why venues are sort of tricky, that's why to me it's more of a complement to what we do and not what we do.
Don't get me wrong, we (have) got a really good sound system. We spent some money and we made sure the sound in here is top notch because that's one of my complaints in some of the venues … the sound's just not great. The sound in here is amazing -- it's going to be a first-class venue.
Question: How do you see The Saint fitting in with the culture of Midtown, and what kind of clientele are you trying to attract?
Farley: It's really exciting what's going on in Midtown, but I also think in order for this to be a really, truly vital urban redevelopment core, we need people who are over 30 to be hanging out down here at night. And Brasserie does get that, we have a great, really varied-aged clientele for dinner, but the bars around here are really young. And that's cool, but we want more people to come down here, we want the suburbs. Reno's got plenty of population, but it's spread out too far. I want to bring more people into the middle so it can thrive from the middle.
With floor space for 200 occupants; a rotating selection of beer, wine and craft cocktails; and an outdoor patio area complete with a drive-in themed mural (painted by Reno’s Erik Burke) that will screen movies for guests in the summer, The Saint is set to cater to a variety of entertainment options and tastes.
The grand opening will take place on May 31 with a ticketed performance by local band Moondog Matinee at 7 p.m. More information can be found on The Saint’s Facebook page.