Love of beer is main ingredient in family business

Different families bond over different hobbies. Some are brought together by sports, movies, music or food. But the Dufresne family unites over a pint of beer.

The Huntington Beach residents love the libation so much that they decided about a year and a half ago to start a microbrewery. On Sept. 7, Four Sons Brewing will open to the public in their hometown, joining 13 other craft beer makers currently operating in Orange County. Barley Forge Brewing Co. in Costa Mesa is expected to open in September as well.

"We've always wanted to do something as a family," said Duke Dufresne, who retired from aerospace firm Northrop Grumman last year to commit to the brewery. "We thought about opening a restaurant and starting a franchise, but all of that was too difficult. We finally realized that we didn't know anything about the restaurant industry, but we know about beer."

The Dufresnes had been home-brewing 10-gallon batches for about seven years and figured they were ready to make the leap into microbrewing.

"Every weekend we'd be at my brother's house just hanging out and helping him brew a batch," said Deven Dufresne, 29, the eldest son of Duke and Dawn Dufresne. "It just seemed logical that we should do something that we not only love, which is the craft beer industry, but also have knowledge in."

Before coming up with the name Four Sons, the family was planning to name the brewery after a hockey team. "We're pretty big hockey fans," Deven said.

"We went through everything, from the penalty box, center line, center ice, blue line or slap shot," Duke said. "But we figured the name should be personal. We thought about calling it the Family Brewery, but we settled on Four Sons," after Deven, Derek, Dustin and Drew.

The family has invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in the enterprise, but Duke wouldn't disclose the exact amount.

"Thankfully, people do love craft beer, so we're hopefully making our money back one day," Deven said. "It might take a little while, but it's not a big deal to us. We don't mind."


Starting five

The Four Sons Brewing facility is tucked away in an unassuming industrial park near Gothard Street and Ellis Avenue.

The exterior is nothing to write home about, but a few steps into the brewery is a large walk-in refrigerator holding dozens of kegs on the left and several industrial fermenters and brewing kettles on the right.

Next to the fridge is the bar area, where 16 taps will be available for the five core beers the brewery will produce during its first year.

The flagship brew is a coconut amber ale called Going (Coco) Nuts, which won first place at Taste of Huntington Beach this year. A raspberry blond ale is called Not So Dum, a rich chocolate coffee stout has been dubbed Nightmare on Gothard Street, an India pale ale is known as Land of Hopportunity and a double IPA is named The Great One, for hockey legend Wayne Gretzky.

Deven said the Dufresnes plan to raise banners at the brewery similar to those hanging from the Staples Center rafters for each new beer they brew.


Learning experience

Though the Dufresnes knew about brewing beer for their own consumption, they had to learn how to produce beer for the masses.

Four Sons reached out to established microbreweries in Southern California, including Noble Ale Works in Anaheim and El Segundo Brewing Co.

"That's kind of how the whole beer community works," said Rob Croxall, president of El Segundo Brewing. "You want to know everybody and you want to try to help people put out the best product that they can. The more quality craft beer out there, the more it benefits everybody."

Croxall said he and Deven Dufresne were co-workers six to eight years ago at Northrop Grumman. They reconnected about a year ago when the Dufresnes set out to start their brewery. Deven and Derek Dufresne still work at Northrop.

"We helped them with the brewing process, the facility set-up and things along those lines," Croxall said. "If there's something to screw up facility-wise, I've done it. So I want to give them pointers on how to avoid all that."

Deven said El Segundo Brewing allowed Four Sons to brew at its facility while the Dufresnes learned the ropes.

"That was huge because we needed to know how this system works, with all the automated controls and everything," Deven said. "They taught us step by step on what to do."


If you go

What: Four Sons Brewing grand opening

When: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sept. 7

Where: 18421 Gothard St., Huntington Beach


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