When Jennifer Royo — marketing manager and part-owner of No Label Brewing Co. along with her husband and his parents — told me to look for silos, I thought finding the Katy brewery would be a cinch.
I didn't know that Katy had been built on rice farming, and that there, towering silos are as abundant as the sky. I found the brewery, though, right where she said I would — just off the railroad tracks on Highway 90, inside an enormous converted silo that had been (mostly) hand-painted by herself, her husband and his parents.
The family bought the building last October after Brian Royo, Jennifer's husband, was gifted a home-brewing system that evolved from a hobby into something of an obsession. What sounds like every wife's worst fear (Brian quits his construction management job and begins brewing full-time Oct. 29) has instead become a family affair. Brian's parents worry over paperwork and accounting while Brian acts as brewmaster and Jennifer handles marketing. All four own equal shares in the burgeoning company.
It took the foursome six months to get the massive space up-to-code and habitable. They're still brewing on a pilot system, perfecting their staple offerings while they wait for a final federal license to start selling. Until then, they've been holding tastings on Saturdays and giving the stuff away for free to a growing crowd that brings dogs, kids, and grills.
Brian, 32, and Jennifer, 28, are both University of Houston grads and avid Cougar sports fans, so the company has also been getting its name out at U of H tailgates.
The brewery isn't so much the realization of a dream as the product of Brian's roll-with-it attitude. "I can't say I've always wanted to be a brewer," he tells CultureMap. "I have always liked beer, though. I've always enjoyed different beers besides the big three."
The name "No Label" was an equally laid back decision. As Brian tells it, it was thrown out as a suggestion after an afternoon of drinking for inspiration and ripping the labels off beer bottles.
"We wanted something that represents the family," he says. "My parents are from Panama, Jennifer's family is from Pennsylvania and I'm from here. We've all got different interests, different musical tastes, and it just seemed to fit."
"We also hadn't thought of anything better when it came time to sign the papers."
And so, No Label Brewing Co. was born. Brian and Jennifer say they've received considerable support from other local breweries including Saint Arnold's and Conroe's Southern Star, and are currently offering three beers: a hefeweizen called "El Hefe" or "The Boss" for Jennifer (it's her favorite), a dark American amber called Ridgeback after the couple's dog, Haley, and an American pale ale called Pale Horse, from the Johnny Cash song.
Although all three are well-crafted, satisfying beers, we'll have to side with the boss and proclaim the hefeweizen as our favorite. Seasonal brews are forthcoming, as are a few "secret beers" Brian wasn't about to divulge. His 15-barrel brewhouse should arrive by December, taking up the space once used to weigh rice trucks and now used as a makeshift bar, and allowing for considerably more variety and a lot more beer.
The Royos say their Saturday tasting crowds are getting significant enough to cause concern — they've got to save enough beer for Monsters of Beer, the culminating Oct. 17 event of Houston Beer Week at Midtown's 13 Celsius.
Come see them for a good cause or, if you can't wait, go out for a tasting from 1 to 3 p.m. any Saturday — and bring your friends, they've got plenty of room.