First Look: 4J Brewing Company
I was raised in Spring Branch (you may hear longtime locals lovingly refer to it as “Dirty Branch“), and my parents still live in the same home which is less than a mile from 4J, so I’m happy to see Spring Branch’s first brewery. The original Saint Arnold location and currently Karbach are just a little outside I what I consider “official Spring Branch”, but I’m sure some folk might have a different interpretation of the boundaries. Spring Branch was founded in the 1830s by German immigrants, so it only seems appropriate that finally, the area has a brewery of their own. Nowadays the area is a “salad bowl” of many cultural backgrounds, most prominently Korean American and Hispanic American, and one wonders if elements of their food cultures will eventually show up in 4J’s brews. The name 4J stands for the first names (Jennifer, Jessica, Joanna, and Jackie) of which Jennifer Edwards is co-owner, along with her mother, making them one of the few woman-owned breweries in the Houston area. They also have a ranch named 4J whose animals will be fed spent grains from the brewery.
4J is a relatively small brewery, located in an industrial park near the intersection of Westview and Blaylock, which is just a few blocks from I-10. Cedar Post Lane is a small street that runs parallel to Blaylock, but you can also access 4J from Blaylock – look for signs with the word “beer” and an arrow pointed towards the brewery. The parking situation is a little tight, there are quite a few spots in the industrial park, but I can see issues if 4J gets really busy – watch out as there are signs that you could get towed if you park at the adjacent nursing home. The inside sports a small bar with a few tables, dart board and small brewhouse. I’m pretty sure 4J would qualify as a nano-brewery based on the equipment I could see. The outside is a large fenced in area of the parking lot that features multiple covered picnic tables and additional chairs. Cornhole and ladder golf are available to play. When I visited there was also a vendor selling brisket. 4J is definitely animal and kid friendly as I saw quite a few puppies and young children. The atmosphere is the same laid-back feel you find at many suburban breweries with a mixture of people of all ages hanging out, playing games and enjoying fresh beer.
Beer is $5 a pint in a plastic cup or for $20 you get a punch card for four pours and a pint glass that you can bring back for future visits. They have had two soft opening events that I missed, but I was able to visit last Saturday which was their first with routine taproom hours (2:00-6:00 on Saturday). Check Facebook to be sure, but their current plan is to be open most Saturdays. Their four core beers were available during my visit – Blonde Ale, Pale Ale, Amber and Stout.
My favorite and a Houston Beer Scene Pick was their Stout, a sweet, roasty American Stout that checked all of the boxes. Blonde Ale was a pleasant surprise, having much more malt heft than expected, providing an enjoyable, grainy caramel malt flavor. Amber Ale also provided a nice surprise with a deeper malt flavor than expected with notes of dark fruit. Pale Ale had a nice caramel malt flavor too, but lacked the hop presence I expect from the style; it seems to follow more of an English Pale Ale profile vs. that of an American Pale Ale. All in all, the selection represented a nice variety; however, I think they probably need to work in a hoppy beer into their line-up. I’ve heard an IPA is on the way, which is probably a good call. With an enjoyable core group of beers and room for expansion (the family owns the entire industrial park), this local boy is very excited to welcome Spring Branch’s first brewery to Houston’s surging beer scene. Prost!