Houston’s first black-owned brewery opens this year. It was a long way to go.

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One morning last September, Jonathan Brown and Carl Roaches Jr. were busy brewing a batch of beer in Brown’s garage in Pearland. Sacks of grain lay on the ground. A large pink and green balloon reef took up space in one corner, a remnant of an Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority birthday party that Brown’s wife had thrown.

The garage doesn’t look like a brewery, but it’s where Brown and Roaches, along with their partners Devon Daniel and Miguel Rodriguez, have operated For the Culture Brewing for three and a half years.

They mainly made beer for private events to grow their clientele while looking for a location to open a brewery. The road to finding a brick-and-mortar location was “very brutal,” Roaches said, but by the end of 2021, they had something locked.

When they finally open later this year, For the Culture will be Houston’s first black-owned brewery. The umbrella company, Craft Culture X, is a joint venture with a majority women-owned brewery, Ovinnik Brewing.

The project adds much-needed representation in an industry that is still very white and masculine.

For Culture Brewing Co-Founders Carl Roaches Jr. and Jonathan Brown


Annie Mulligan, Houston Chronicle / Contributor
For Culture Brewing founder Carl Roaches Jr. brews beer at his partner Jonathan Brown's garage brewery on Friday, September 24, 2021.

For Culture Brewing founder Carl Roaches Jr. brews beer at his partner Jonathan Brown’s garage brewery on Friday, September 24, 2021.


Annie Mulligan, Houston Chronicle / Contributor

Annie Mulligan, Houston Chronicle/Contributor

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“None of us grew up on craft beer,” said Brown, whose aha-moment beer was La Fin du Monde from Canadian brewery Unibroue. For Roaches, it was Allagash wheat beer. “Oh, is that what beer can taste like?” he remembers thinking.

Around this time, in 2009 and 2010, they started learning about different styles of beer, falling deep down a rabbit hole that would eventually lead them to brewing their own.

As a black man, Brown noticed he stood out when walking into a beer hall. Roaches remembers times when the dining room staff assumed what kind of beer they wanted to drink.

With For the Culture Brewing, they hope to bring real representation to the beer industry. Too often, breweries have used their culture instead, Roaches says, citing a beer called Sexual Chocolate that previously had “a voluptuous African-American woman” on the label.

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“It’s not representation,” he said. “You just use our bodies.”

Seeking to be the change he wanted to see in the industry, Brown bought a homebrew kit and began experimenting, at first just with a large pot on a stovetop. In 2018, the team was able to purchase a small but functional three-ship system.

Brewing from the wheeled steel contraption with their garage door open earned them some attention in the neighborhood. The other day, they had to explain what they were doing to a city councilor who lives in the same neighborhood. “I thought you were boiling crawfish,” he replied.

For the Culture specializes in heavier beers, like Belgians, Porters, and Stouts, but they’ve diversified their offerings over time. They do a few IPAs and a lager infused with hibiscus and elderflower. Last fall, they were excited about a chocolate milk carrier that they brewed with chocolate straight from Mexico.

They didn’t know anyone in the industry or even how to brew beer when they started, but they found their footing with the help of brewing consultant Michael Ferguson and the Texas Craft Brewers Guild.

Access to knowledge is difficult as a minority-owned business. Access to capital is even more difficult.

For Culture Brewing founder Carl Roaches Jr.

For Culture Brewing founder Carl Roaches Jr.


Annie Mulligan, Houston Chronicle / Contributor
For Culture Brewing founder Carl Roaches Jr. adds water to a batch of beer at his partner Jonathan Brown's garage brewery.

For Culture Brewing founder Carl Roaches Jr. adds water to a batch of beer at his partner Jonathan Brown’s garage brewery.


Annie Mulligan, Houston Chronicle / Contributor

Annie Mulligan, Houston Chronicle/Contributor

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With just the four partners and their own savings, it took the For the Culture team years to find a location for their brick-and-mortar brewery. Roaches doesn’t speak fondly of the process, saying hyperbolically that it was hard to find a place “where you don’t have to sell your organs” or “where you wouldn’t find a corpse in the back.”

The price of commercial real estate is prohibitive, and every time they got close to a deal, something happened. In one case, they discovered that the seller was in a real estate dispute and did not have full rights to pass title to the building. In another, an owner backed down after learning how many changes needed to be made to the space to open a brewery.

And while Texas is as pro-business as it gets, anything alcohol-related comes with additional hurdles.

In the meantime, they had built a following on social media, with many people eager to open them, asking what was taking them so long. They were able to make money from For the Culture merchandise, but that was just a drop in the ocean.

Finally, in August 2021, the team was approached by another brewery with a similar schedule to them: Ovinnik Brewing, run by Janine Weber and Jen and Chris Mathis. They were further along in the process than For the Culture, having already found a space and secured enough funding for construction, but they were looking for a buffer for their first years of operation.

The resulting partnership, Craft Culture X, will bring the two breweries together under one roof. They will have a dozen taps, with an equal share of their own beers as well as a few For the Culture-Ovinnik collaborations.

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The Culture Brewery founder Carl Roaches Jr. pours beans into a garage brewhouse located in his Parker Jonathan Brown's Pearland garage on Friday, September 24, 2021.

The Culture Brewery founder Carl Roaches Jr. pours beans into a garage brewhouse located in his Parker Jonathan Brown’s Pearland garage on Friday, September 24, 2021.


Annie Mulligan, Houston Chronicle / Contributor
Jonathan Brown sanitizes a container in his garage and part-time brewery in September 2021.

Jonathan Brown sanitizes a container in his garage and part-time brewery in September 2021.


Annie Mulligan, Houston Chronicle / Contributor

Annie Mulligan, Houston Chronicle/Contributor

Construction began in January at 7201 Wynnpark in the Lazybrook/Timbergrove area. They hope to be officially open by late summer or early fall of this year.

Roaches says the breweries’ visions have aligned nicely: two groups that are significantly underrepresented in the beer world are coming together.

Even before the joint venture took shape, the team saw its name, For the Culture, as more than fair to the black community. “It’s for women, it’s also for the LGBTQIA community,” Roaches said.

While waiting to open Craft Culture X, they spread this message wider. Last fall, Roaches was a speaker at the Craft Brewers conference in Denver, teaching operators how to make their breweries more inclusive, avoid cultural appropriation and be a real presence in their communities.

Brown says he wants For the Culture to be a role model for other people of color, so they can say, “I want to be in beer too. I can do it.”

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