Santo is a beer brewed by St. Arnold Brewing Company, first introduced in October 2011 and distributed continually since. St. Arnold's likes to call it a Black Kolsch while acknowledging that there's no such style. What they mean is that it's essentially a Kolsch with a bunch of added malt.

Quick Facts

Brewer: St. Arnold Brewing Company
Beer Name: Santo
Beer Style: Kolsch(ish)
ABV: 4.7
Introduction Date: October, 2011


As mentioned, the beer is much darker than a normal Kolsch because of the additional malt, especially the addition of black malt. It's by no means a "dark" beer, just a translucent brown. It smells pleasantly malty. It tastes how you'd expect, with the exception of an extra bump of sweetness. With a less balanced beer, that could be gross, but in this case it's nice. It's by no means an exceptional or adventurous beer, but it's nice and drinkable.

Rereading the above paragraph, I realize that as far as beer reviewing goes, that's some weak shit. Where's all of the floral rambling about caramel and toast and roast and mouth-feel and fruity esters? Let me attempt to be clear; It's not that Santo doesn't deserve that treatment, it's that it doesn't need it. It's not the sort of beer that inflames the passions of mind or mouth. If I rambled about the esoteric minutia of the malt profile, or the types of hops used, it'd be a waste. It's a solid fucking year-round beer. It's not so dark and thick that you'd avoid it when it's hot, but it's also not so light and thin that you'd demand something more substantial when it's cold.1 It's balanced. It's pleasant. It's drinkable. It's a solid session beer. Why should I go on about it?

The Rest

Santo was originally supposed to be released Sept. 1, 2011, but that was delayed. According to a press release from St. Arnold's, the delay was caused by a quality issue. Apparently, they loved their 10 gallon test batch. They scaled the recipe up to a 3,700 gallon batch and had 3 going at once. When they filtered the first and tasted it, it "was good, but it was missing that spark that separates a good beer from a great beer." Subsequently, they dumped 11,000 gallons(!) and started another batch with a tweaked recipe. They apparently liked the result as they went ahead with the release the following month.

Santo is distributed with some rather fetching packaging designed by Houstonian artist Carlos Hernandez. It's a vivid red background with a Day of the Dead themed skull wearing a crown. It's one of the only St. Arnold's packaging designs they make available on merchandise. I am not ashamed to admit that the first time I saw Santo in a retail setting, I went "Oooh!" and made a bee-line for it based solely on the packaging.

1. Ok, well, to be fair I mean when it's Texas cold.

Selected References