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The five-tool player is an elusive, yet coveted type of baseball player every team aspires to have. It’s the type of player that can hit for average, hit for power, as well as run, throw, and field well. These types of players are rare (think Jose Altuve).

A brewery can also be a five-tool player in the craft beer world. These places are ones that have 1) a nice beer variety, 2) an attractive space, 3) room for growth, 4) great people involved in the project, and 5) location, location, location. Texas Leaguer Brewing Company in Missouri City checks off all of those tools.

To understand Texas Leaguer is to understand the love of baseball these fine folks have. Everything is baseball-centric with the name of the brewery, beer names, the brewery’s nickname, and even the décor all relating to the love of the game. But baseball is just the beginning for what sort of experience one can expect at Texas Leaguer Brewing. Let’s examine by doing an in-depth analysis of this five-tool player in the Houston craft beer scene.

Tool #1 – A Nice Beer Variety

As owner Nathan Rees said to us, “everybody drinks IPAs.” Obviously, this is a blanket statement with some truth to it as the style tends to be one of the most popular among craft beer drinkers nationwide. However, what can separate a good brewery from a great brewery is how the beer selection appeals to the target audience – in this case, Fort Bend County beer drinkers.

What Texas Leaguer has done is develop a starting lineup of four staple beers that are easy drinking and mass appealing.

  • The Airmail Blonde is their easiest drinking beer with a slight bread flavor balanced out by a sweetness that finishes crisp and smooth with no bitterness.
  • Knuckle Bock is a darker bock beer that should please any fan of Shiner Bock. Designed to be mildly sweet, this beer is a must have for anybody looking for a caramel-sweet flavor from a German-style brew.
  • 2-Hopper IPA is a dry-hopped IPA that utilizes El Dorado and Cascade hops, giving the beer a fruity and floral taste with a slight bitterness that is pleasant and not overpowering. According to Nathan, this has been their top seller thus far.
  • 6-4-3 Belgian was our standout favorite of all that was on tap. This Belgian pale ale has all of the characteristics of a sweet Belgian beer with a rye-flavored spiciness. Also, the beer had a slight bitterness that made it finish crisp and clean. Plus, at only 5.0% ABV, it’s the type of beer we would enjoy all day long.

In addition, they have their Farm System beers that are small batch releases that either have short-term availability or are special releases. On tap during our visit were Chin Music, a rye pale ale that is their submission for the Houston Daisy Chain project and 6-4-3 with Apricots. Chin Music is one of the better Houston Daisy Chain offerings we’ve had as it was spicy, hoppy, and clean. 6-4-3 with Apricots was good and the fruit addition created a tart bomb, but we were still partial to the traditional 6-4-3 Belgian. Plus, an outstanding addition to the team is the Little Leaguer, a house-made root beer that is one of the best brewery-made sodas we’ve ever enjoyed.

Tool #2 – An Attractive Space

An industrial park may not be everybody’s first choice for a brewery, however we love it because of the utility of the space. For one, the high ceiling allows for you to feel comfortable among the large fermenters that line the inside of the space. Plus, the space is perfectly setup to allow for expansion with an entirely unutilized area near the bathrooms that is being tentatively earmarked as a future indoor taproom.

Lovingly called the “TXL Beerpark”, the taproom is filled with long tables and benches designed to have groups of people interact with one another. Plus, with it being opening weekend for the Astros, a huge projection screen was setup to enjoy the matchup with the Rangers inside the Beerpark.

A bonus of the open concept of the brewery is the ability to admire all of the brewing equipment inside of the area. The 20 BBL brewhouse is in full view for all visitors to observe, so any brewery aficionados or first-time visitors who have never seen brewing equipment are in for a treat.

Keep in mind, it still is spring in Texas, which is a fine time to enjoy the outdoor patio area. You’ll find a cornhole game to play in addition to picnic tables outfitted with umbrellas to give a little shade to anybody wanting to spend time outside. We ended up sitting outside and the size of the umbrellas made it pleasant and enjoyable.

Tool #3 – Room For Growth

As we mentioned, the space is setup for a future taproom expansion. The area is large enough to accommodate a large amount of people, have room for a bar build out, as well as having plenty of space for more table seating. With it being on the opposite side of the cold room, one can envision installing taps on the other side to setup a new bar with little major construction.

The other aspect of growth that we see is being able to add more fermenters to the Beerpark without making the space feel cramped. Already, the Beerpark is lined with large 40 BBL fermenters, but as Texas Leaguer continues to acquire new retail accounts (by Nathan’s account, it’s around 150 retail locations in and around the Greater Houston area), they will need to add equipment to accommodate the growth. Being able to do so in that space without sacrificing seating is a huge upside to the location.

Plus, the brewery 100% self-distributes their beer. All 150+ accounts are being served by the staff internally, meaning they are putting in a lot of work and could serve even more accounts in the future if a distribution deal is signed. That currently hasn’t happened, but if growth continues at such a rapid pace, it may be necessary to accommodate the growth.

Tool #4 – Great People Involved in the Project

The two masterminds behind Texas Leaguer are owner, Nathan Rees and head brewer, Doc Rebeck. When you look at the amount of work put in by both men to get this project up and running, it’s easy to see how Texas Leaguer has become a go-to brewery for people in Fort Bend County.

Since inception, both men have worked tirelessly to get the brewery’s name out into the public with many in the Houston craft beer scene realizing what great beer is being produced in Missouri City. Pint nights are starting to pop-up throughout the surrounding area and everything is being spearheaded by two people.

The willingness to talk about the beer, future plans, and the focus of the brewery is what made our visit to the Beerpark so great. Nathan spent a great deal of time speaking to us about what they want to do each year (i.e. getting Good Dog Houston to come out to the Beerpark for Astros Opening Day) as well as their business to date. The focus to grow organically and expand in a controlled manner was encouraging, especially after seeing other large breweries (i.e. Green Flash) try to grow too quickly and fail.

Tool #5 – Location, Location, Location

For a while, it seemed like Fort Bend County was cursed when it came to breweries with the closures of Fort Bend Brewing and Texian Brewing over the past few years. However, the area is home to roughly 750,000 people and currently is only represented by a handful of breweries with Texas Leaguer being in a prime position.

There currently is no full production brewery or brewpub within a 12 mile radius in any direction of Texas Leaguer (disclaimer: technically Ruba Brewing is within that radius, but beer releases are rare and sparse). This gives them an advantage as they are, many times, the only choice available to people wanting a local neighborhood brewery in the Sugar Land/Missouri City area. Accessibility to Texas Leaguer is easy with routes from Beltway 8, Highway 59 South, or Highway 90A.

Plus, with Fort Bend County being the fastest growing county in the Greater Houston area, they are in a position to capitalize on the growth of the surrounding area as more craft beer related bars and restaurants continue to open. Texas Leaguer seems to be the only brewery that will be in the Sugar Land/Missouri City area for a while meaning they should continue to capture the craft beer scene in the county for a long while.

We were thoroughly impressed with what Texas Leaguer is doing for the area and their expansion plans. Currently, they have taps available throughout most of the Greater Houston area stretching throughout the inner city as well as the outer suburbs. If you get a chance to try one of the Texas Leaguer beers, do so, and enjoy what they are putting out to the Houston craft beer community.

You can keep track of what’s going on a Texas Leaguer through their website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages. Texas Leaguer is located at 13503 Pike Rd, Missouri City, TX 77489. The Beerpark is open every Friday and Saturday, but hours may vary, so check out the Facebook page for the most updated info on openings, especially as baseball season is gearing up.

The post Missouri City’s Five Tool Player – Texas Leaguer Brewing appeared first on SHADEtxCraft | All About Texas Craft Beer.

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Until last year, the Spring Branch area of Houston was a complete craft beer desert. The Branch craft beer bar changed that, but the one thing that was lacking in the area was a brewery. Enter 4J Brewing. On March 24th, two and a half years after being originally granted Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) brewpub license approval, Spring Branch finally had a brewery.

The 4J story, like most other breweries, is one that was the product of leaving another career behind. A financial analyst by trade, owner/brewer Jennifer Edwards turned an initial family homebrewing hobby into what is now the self-made business of 4J Brewing Company. However, what is unique about 4J is the owner, herself. Jennifer is one of the youngest brewers in the Greater Houston area and one of the few female head brewers in the state of Texas. Make no mistake, she’s not having to go at this alone as this brewery is a family affair with the name deriving from the four J’s in the family. All of the children that make up this family are women with names that start with the letter J. The 4J name originated with the family ranch that is owned in Lee County and continues with the brewery of the same name. On Saturday, three of the four “J’s” were in attendance, in addition to other family members like Jennifer’s mother and father.

Small is the new normal for breweries in Texas as many newcomers to the scene are starting with modest brewhouses and small taprooms to cater to the local community before starting to branch out to larger areas. 4J is no exception with a small two-barrel brewhouse and a taproom designed to be a cozy space for any visitor to the brewery. Astutely, Jennifer has made it clear that the primary focus of the brewery at first is to stay completely in-house until production can be scaled up to allow outside accounts and keg sales. Can or bottle sales are not currently in the immediate plans, which is refreshing for a brewery starting up as many seem to feel the pressure of growing too quickly. 4J appears to be concentrating on perfecting the beer recipes and gauging consumer tastes before making that next leap into more growth.

On opening day, 4J had four beers for the grand opening celebration. Fortunately, the event was a ticketed event that was limited in capacity. Another refreshing plan of the brewery was to limit the number of attendees on the first day since the space is small and the beer supply is limited. A recent trend of soft/grand openings is to announce the date and allow anybody to show up. This often has led to enormous crowds, unbelievably long lines waiting for beer, and a general crowded feeling that sullies the experience. 4J did the opposite by allowing a reasonable, yet modest, number of people to purchase tickets which created a friendly environment for all visitors. Also, it kept beer lines short and supplies plentiful throughout the day. With our ticket, we were given four 16 ounce pours and none of the beers ran out, while allowed us to sample all four of the different beers on tap.

Our initial choice was the pale ale. As a more malt-forward pale ale, we have a difficult time being objective about the brew as most of the pale ales we typically sample are hop-forward with a citrus or pine flavor. This pale ale was low in hop volume and reminded me of Samuel Adams Pale Ale with the sweet notes balanced by a slight splash of bitterness.

Sticking with the lighter theme, we chose the blonde ale for our second beer. This blonde ale was executed well with a honey sweetness that engulfs your mouth at first sip. The crisp taste and nearly non-existent hop flavors made this beer perfect for us as it warmed up outside. We spent a majority of our time at the brewery outside enjoying the Texas spring weather, but as it got warmer, outside this beer tasted better to us. No doubt, this beer is going to be a summer favorite as we can drink several of these on a hot day.

Our third beer was our standout favorite – the amber ale. Amber ales are a style that are usually one of the most basic and easy beers to make. However, they are also one of the most difficult styles to get right as there are so many mediocre amber ales out in the market. The 4J amber ale was stellar with a nice red hue, a caramel sweetness, and a balanced hop profile that makes this beer easily the best execution of a style by the brewery. At 7.2% alcohol by volume, this beer packed a punch, so drinking a few of these can sneak up quickly on your equilibrium.

To finish out the day, we sampled a pint of the stout. We enjoy a good stout regardless of the time of year and how warm it is outside, so tasting this beer on a warmer day was still pleasant. The roasted malt gave off hints of coconut and chocolate and provided a fuller mouthfeel as the beer warmed. We purposely drank half of it while it was cold and half of it while it was warm to see how the flavor profile changed. Undoubtedly, the release of a rich dark chocolate taste was more intense as it warmed with the sweetness being more prevalent straight out of the keg.

Initially, the brewery plans on being open every other Saturday, so keep a lookout on their social media pages for news on their next opening. It’s definitely worth venturing out and trying 4J Brewing. The friendliness of the Edwards family will make you feel welcome and Jennifer is a wealth of knowledge on their brewery, their processes, and someone who loves to talk beer.

You can follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Also visit their webpage to learn more about the brewery and the history behind the 4J name.

The post Spring Branch Celebrates 4J Brewing’s Opening appeared first on SHADEtxCraft | All About Texas Craft Beer.

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What better way to kick off Mardi Gras Galveston 2018 than celebrating the opening of the second full production brewery in the city of Galveston. This one is particularly special as Devil and the Deep Brewery is within a stone’s throw of the famed Galveston Strand and is located on one of the main streets leading into the heart of the city. Plus, for selfish reasons, we’re thrilled to have a brewery two blocks from where we work our day jobs.

Devil and the Deep is the culmination of four partners’ vision to create a brewery in Galveston that can serve tourists visiting the Strand as well as locals who are seeking island-brewed craft beer. We had the privilege of being able to attend a sneak peek of the brewery right before Christmas, so we had an idea that the end product was going to be stellar as the same staple beers served during the sneak peek were also full production beers on opening day.

By design, Devil and the Deep offers beers that are light, refreshing, and easy drinking. This allows more people to sit around, socialize, and get to know one another in their indoor beer garden environment. Most of what will be produced now and in the future will be beers that any beer drinker can enjoy, not just the craft beer fanatic. A huge draw to the brewery is the large indoor climate-controlled seating area that will allow the summer beach goers the opportunity to get out of the heat and enjoy some brews. Plus, the area is designed with family friendliness in mind as games like cornhole can be played inside while bringing your (well-behaved) canine friend to enjoy the space with the family.

On opening night, the brewery had three core beers on tap: their Belgian Rye, Blonde Ale, and Brown Ale. The Blonde Ale is an approachable selection to start out with as the sweet flavor and balanced hop to malt profile allows any beer drinker the opportunity to enjoy this one without needing to venture outside of their taste buds comfort zone. For something a little more full bodied, the Brown Ale creates a more nutty malted flavor that still has a sweetness that is pleasant for anybody looking for a more complete flavor profile while staying low in alcohol content. Perhaps their best beer, though, is their Belgian Rye. The rye provides a hint of spiciness to the pale ale, allowing the citrus flavor to be amplified and making it a pleasant beer to drink all day long. By far our favorite beer, this one has a slightly higher ABV than their other beers (6.4%), but still isn’t overpowering.

Despite not having a kitchen on-site, the brewery has struck a partnership with Sharky’s Tavern next door and they serve delicious pizza that you can bring to the brewery. This allows them to save space in the brewery for future expansion of brewing equipment, while providing options for food that support local business in the area.

In these early days of the brewery, hours of operation are going to be Fridays from 3:00 PM to midnight, Saturdays from noon to midnight, and Sundays from noon to 10:00 PM. As they move forward, they will be gradually increasing both the days and hours of operation.

Admittedly, SHADE is excited about this brewery as it’s in our hometown. But more importantly, we’re thrilled to see the Galveston County brewing scene continue to grow and be able to support another full production brewery. Mardi Gras is the perfect time to try them out since the area is vibrant and party-oriented. However, their location and beer quality should allow them to thrive and sustain year-round as they will cater to a crowd that wants island-brewed beer.

Want to check them out? Come down to Galveston Island and visit the Strand and their location at 2425 Postoffice St.

The post Devil And The Deep Kicks Off Mardi Gras Galveston appeared first on SHADEtxCraft | All About Texas Craft Beer.

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