Something's a-brewin' in Huntington Beach, and it's not a storm. It's a new family-run brewery backed by four brothers, set to open to the public on Sunday, September 7. Aptly named Four Sons Brewing, the new watering hole will join 13 other breweries in Orange County. Three major elements setting Four Sons apart from the rest include radical varieties, an elevated atmosphere, and a close-knit family with names all starting with the letter D.
With the taste of Four Sons' Going "Coco" Nuts Coconut Amber still lingering on the tips of our tongues months after their big Taste of Huntington Beach win, we strolled into their 2,625-square-foot production space and tasting room desperate for another sip. Sure, it was 10 a.m. on a Wednesday, but it was five o'clock in Dakar. Plus, as we all stated at one point or another during our sit-down, "It's never too early." The second oldest brother, Derek Dufresne, hopped down from his post at the shiny new Premier Stainless 10 barrel brew system, greeted us with a smile, and poured us tastes of their favorite flagship beer, a crisp Double IPA dubbed The Great One, along with a rich Nightmare on Gothard Street Coffee Stout. Their four flagship beers feature the aforementioned coconut amber and DIPA, along with a refreshing Not So Dum Raspberry Blonde and Land Of Hopportunity American IPA—all priced at $5 or $6 a pint.
Retracing the countless steps through the brewery takes us back nearly eight years ago, when Derek opened his first homebrewing kit, gifted to him by his parents, Duke and Daune, on his 20th birthday. He put his kit to good use, and over the years taught his three siblings the art of the microbrew.
Less than a year ago, Duke, who worked as an aerospace engineer at Northrop Grumman, decided it was time to plan his retirement. Simultaneously, The Ds, as they're affectionately called, ruled it was time to take their hobby to the next level.
"We decided to focus on what we know, which is beer," says Derek. The ensuing months saw hundreds of thousands of dollars in investment money, collaboration, experimentation, piles of permits, blood, sweat, tears, and finally several delicious beers, and now the time has come to open the doors to thirsty brewhounds. Though the timeline may seem fast, Derek says it's been a long, yet amazing year for the family, who all work full-time elsewhere—for now.
Thanks to their range of professions, each brother brings a unique skill set to the bar. The eldest Dufresne, 30-year-old Deven, masters the business side of things. His byline dominates the Four Sons blog. Derek, 28, has rightfully earned the title of head brewer. Both older brothers followed in their father's footsteps and work as aerospace engineers at Northrop, and are dads themselves. Drew, 26, is the creative mind and hand behind the Four Sons logo and stunning signage. And last but not least, Dustin, 24, packs a palette that deliciously lends itself to Derek's creations. The two collaborate on flavor combinations when Derek's not in aerospace and when Dustin breaks from culinary school at the Art Institute of California, Orange County. But they all work together on any and everything.
Explains Derek of his brews, "All of these recipes came from my garage." As homebrewing interest within the family grew, The Ds would meet at his house every weekend, pitching recipe ideas, brewing them, tasting them, then reflecting on and improving them. Of the flavors, Dustin says, "Most of the ideas I've had for the beers come from things that I've learned in culinary school or working in restaurants."
If Four Sons' award-winning coconut amber isn't proof enough of their unique brews, other blends include habanero and pineapple, a vanilla bean hefeweizen, an IPA with a touch of grilled peaches, and a boozy twist on the aam ka panna, an Indian drink flavored with mangos, cumin, and mint. Their experimental concoctions are inspired by one of the family's favorite local breweries, Bottle Logic Brewing in Anaheim. Launching with five beers total, the sons plan to slowly fill up all 15 taps.
A new challenge is to properly schedule brewing around holidays and other special occasions. It's a bit too late for an Oktoberfest brew, but they're planning a holiday Doppelbock offering, flavored with cinnamon and nutmeg, as well as a limited release pumpkin beer.
Situated in an industrial complex near the corner of Gothard and Ellis, the former flooring warehouse has undergone a substantial makeover in the past year. "We're kind of going for something a little classy but not too stuffy," Duke says of the sophisticated yet homey design. Basically, they want guests to forget they're in a warehouse. Skylights, windows, and a large rollup door make for a bright, sunlit space. Guests can sit at the bar, outfitted with a granite countertop, rustic wood panels, and a hops arbor, or have a seat at one of several tall bar tables. One functional design element that will prove convenient for guests are the beer ledges dividing the tasting room from the brewing barrels. When you visit, be sure to gaze up at the hanging flags representing each brew.
The two people ultimately responsible for the D Family—another longtime nickname—have worked alongside their sons throughout the entire process, and they'll be pouring with their sons come opening day and beyond too. Daune has devoted her life to raising her four boys, and Duke retired from Northrop roughly two weeks before the brewery's grand opening. With roots in Palmdale, the family moved constantly over the years for Duke's job, spending a brief year in New York, then settling in HB about seven years ago. Nowadays, The Ds all live within a two-mile radius of the brewery.
"Always a familiar face," says Derek of the brewery, explaining that The Ds want guests to "join our family" and feel at home at their biggest project to date—one for which they've received much help and support from the local craft beer industry, including HB's own Beach City Brewery.
Opening day starts at 11 a.m. and entertains until 9 p.m. All four flagship beers as well as the coffee stout will be poured, two speciality kegs will be tapped, Anaheim's Hobo Co. Pizza truck will sling pies, NFL season's big kickoff will screen on all three flatscreen TVs, and the tasting room will stretch into the parking lot for sips under the sun and stars. Opening day will also give back to the local community, with the proceeds benefiting HB's Friends of the Library.
Dogs are welcome at Four Sons, and the crew will soon be making dog collars and dog biscuits made with their brewing grain. Dog goods and human goods will be available at the brewery gift shop.
A look into the future for the brewery sees growler fills, beer specials during ice hockey season (note: The Ds are dedicated L.A. Kings fans), weekly releases of experimental brews, a brewery expansion, a food truck run by Dustin, an HB beer bus, and a transformation into a production brewery. They're following the "learn as we go" motto paired with "one thing at a time." Cheers, brothers. We can't wait to learn with you.
Four Sons Brewing // 18421 Gothard Street, #100, Huntington Beach, CA 92648 // 714-421-0137