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Jennifer Edwards prepares to use the taps at her upcoming brewery.

Image: Lauro Rojas

Houston’s beer scene is undergoing a renaissance with new breweries cropping up all over the city. 4J Brewing Company has been a talking point, ever since 2015 when co-owner and founder Jennifer Edwards first announced her plans to open a brewery in her native Spring Branch. Now she's finally poised to open—excellent timing as we’re nearing the dog days of summer and Houstonians will undoubtedly be flocking to breweries for a sip of some crisp, refreshing suds.  We sat down with Edwards to learn what else we can expect when 4J debuts this summer.

What led you to open a brewery?

My dad started home brewing around 30 years ago and his dad actually home brewed as well. Most recently, 10 years ago he got back into brewing.  He had a couple of friends that would help him, but they had babies and a family, so they started doing their own thing. That’s when he asked me and my other sisters to come help, but I was the one that really loved it and started to pick it up with him. We brewed every Friday or Saturday night and it was a “drink some, make some [situation];" it was daddy-daughter. It was our fun time to hang out. When I would visit from college, or even when I moved back, we would do that together. It was a fun time. He loved to explain it to everybody and get into the technical side of it. I still have my original notes that I dove straight into, reading and researching everything, as did he, it was fun for us.

I guess you can say brewing was in your blood all along.  But before this what was your career?

I graduated from Alabama in marketing management and all of my professional experience is in finance accounting. I was a financial analyst for Wells Fargo, then I got laid off, after which all of this sprouted. It was a blessing. It was such a great job and honestly, I wouldn’t have taken the jump if I hadn’t been laid off.  I’ve always known I wanted to make my own company but didn’t know what or when or how to go about it.  The timing was perfect.

Why in Spring Branch?

Location is the hardest thing, especially if you don’t know whether you want to be in the city or out, the pricing, that sort of stuff.  My parents actually own the surrounding buildings and they offered me a space, after the previous tenant had left, so that was the easiest part. I grew up here; my mom went to Spring Branch High School so she’s been in the area forever. I went to Memorial so we’ve been in the area a long time. We weren’t thinking it was an untapped market, now we’re seeing it so, but at the time we had the spot so we went for it.

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The menu is ready for opening.

Image: Lauro Rojas

How’d you come up with the 4J name?

My sisters and I—there’s four of us—we’re all named with a first name that starts with J. So Jessica, Joanna, Jackie and I’m the fourth, Jennifer.

Do you food vendors lined up for the grand opening?

Yes we’ve been contacted but nothing is concrete as of now because we don’t have a set date yet. I have them listed down, but I haven’t done an official set up with anyone.  But that’s the idea once we open, to have a rotation of food trucks. So it’s in the works.

What beers will you have in your lineup?

There’s pale ale, stout, blonde and amber, stout being my favorite. Our most popular is the blonde—could be the weather and it’s hot out and the blonde is nice, light and refreshing to drink. Especially if they’re not big craft beer drinkers, they’ll tend to stay with the blonde.

How long did it take you to refine your starting lineup?

Since at least 2014 we’ve messed with it a lot. We’ve been changing it because we keep changing our system and it keeps growing. So we keep tinkering with the recipes.

Here’s the million-dollar question: When will you be opening?

It’s just a matter of getting the equipment to come in, and then it’s brewing on it. Which is a long process.  Hopefully by week's end we’ll have started brewing, if not by next Sunday. Add three or four weeks to that and we’ll have our first beer. Now if I wanted to have all four beers ready to go for the opening then it would be in August or September. If I wanted to do a slow release of each beer, then I could do it as early as July, doing a special release every few weeks.

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