Last year, Texas Craft Brewers Guild launched an Instagram series called #BehindTheBeer featuring the people behind the scenes working hard to bring you excellent Texas craft beers. As you can imagine, in an industry that has a $4.5 billion-dollar impact on the Texas economy, there are a variety of jobs that extend beyond the brewing process including packaging, laboratory technicians, quality assurance, marketing and much more.
Craft Beer Austin has partnered with the Texas Craft Brewers Guild to expand on #BehindTheBeer with a series of articles featuring each highlighted Guild member.
For this installment, I am excited to introduce you to Jennifer Edwards, Owner and Brewer at the all female owned and family operated 4J Brewing Company.
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Today in our #BehindTheBeer series, we introduce you to Jennifer Edwards, Owner/Brewer at @4jbrewingcompany in the Spring Branch neighborhood of Houston. “My mom and I started the brewery after years of home brewing with my dad, who still helps out and is the official taste tester,” Jennifer said. “The name comes from me and my sisters, Jessica, Jackie, Joanna, where I am the fourth "J" in the family.” When asked about her favorite part of the job, Jennifer said it comes down to “brewing beer for a living and being a part of the brewing industry. Everyone is so welcoming, helpful and encouraging. We are all in it together and help each other out as much as possible.”
Tell us just a little bit about your brewery & what your day-to-day looks like:
4J Brewing Company is 100% female owned and family operated. My dad, Larry, started home brewing years ago and I started helping him. When we decided to take the next step, he just wanted to be the official taste tester so my mom and I opened the business. 4J is named after me and my 3 sisters, Jessica, Jackie, Joanna and I am Jennifer, the 4th “J”. My sisters help out on the weekends and are huge supporters but they all still work full time.
I handle all of the brewing, office, marketing/social media and taproom, etc. My mom, Marilyn, assists with the accounting and helps me on brew days. Monday’s are usually office work and accounting. Tuesday’s cleaning kegs, kegging beer, transferring beer, cleaning tanks and prepping to brew. Wednesday’s and/or Thursday’s I am brewing. During Tuesday-Friday I am throwing in other office work like marketing/social media and miscellaneous to do items, repairs and getting ready for the weekend. My dad helps with any repairs and setting up or constructing new items. Friday/Saturday we are open to the public. Friday 3-10 pm and Saturday 12-10 pm.
What’s your favorite part of your job?
We love meeting our customers and talking with them! We have met so many great people who have come into 4J. New people, friends of friends, our friends and family, even some from our past who have come to support us. We love finding out who our customers are and getting to know them and how they found out about us. When you come to 4J, you are a part of our family and we truly try to make you feel that way.
What did you do before you started working for a brewery? What brought you to this brewery?
Before we opened 4J, I was working in finance and accounting at a bank and then a commercial construction company. My degrees from the University of Alabama are Marketing and Management, so I am very thankful that my professional experience was in accounting so I had that knowledge and mindset when opening 4J. After I graduated from college and while working, I immediately started home brewing with my dad and we were doing it every Friday/Saturday night – called it “makin’ some and drinkin’ some”.
If someone asked you to describe the current state of today’s craft beer climate what would you say?
The current state of today’s craft beer climate is changing and we will see a lot of change in the next few years. Growth is slowing for the industry overall compared to previous years and they are more breweries on the scene with more on the way. We have to make sure we position ourselves with great, high quality beers and a fun, relaxed taproom. We also have to make sure we don’t grow too big to where we can’t afford it. We started very small because we didn’t take on any outside investors or debt. We intend to stay small and grow organically so we can withstand the changing craft beer climate.
What’s the most interesting story behind one of your beers?
We home brewed a stout for years and when we started purchasing ingredients wholesale we realized that grain would be too expensive to have year round comparative to our other beers all being sold at the same price point (Blonde, IPA, Pale, and Amber). I threw together a new recipe and brewed it and it was recently named one of the best stouts to try in Houston by Houstonia Magazine.
What beer other than your own, are you currently drinking the most of?
Wine and vodka. In all seriousness, I love trying new beers. I tend to stick with other local Houston or Texas breweries. I have a soft spot for other small breweries so I try to visit and support them when we can. However, when I am at dinner or out, I love a good glass of wine or a vodka martini…something other than beer for 5 minutes 😉
To keep up with the #BehindTheBeer series on Instagram, simply follow the hashtag and follow the Texas Craft Brewers Guild. If you are a member of the Guild and would like to participate in this series, please check the latest Guild newsletter for details.