The craft beer craze is catching on to the north side of Houston. A few businesses have sprung up in Spring, serving up local brews.

Now residents can stop by 11 Below Brewing Company for a Saturday open house complete with samples of suds – or pop into Hop Scholar to try out a few craft beer varieties and fill up a growler to take home.

Soon, Tomball will also have an attraction for craft beer lovers – Fire Ant Brewing Company. The facility is starting construction in September and is slated to open next year.

11 Below Brewing Company

Jeff Handojo and two longtime friends Brandon Moss and Bryce Baker turned a love of homebrewing into a business venture earlier this year.

“After a few years of brewing and tweaking recipes, you start to believe you’re making a good product,” Handojo said. “Once we started down the path, it snowballed.”

As residents of Spring, the three business partners wanted to set up shop close to home. “There was nothing out here,” Handojo said. “We definitely wanted to grow on the north side of Houston. If you live in Cypress, Spring or Klein, the closest brewery is in Conroe.”

Besides, the market was prime for development, he added. With a growing number of craft beer lovers, opening a brewery between Spring and Cypress seemed like a logical next step.

The trio started selling beer on location, at 6820 Bourgeois Road, in March. Every Saturday, the brewery hosts an open house from noon to 3 p.m. and there are regular Thursday happy hours.

There are three beers on the menu – a blond 7 Iron, amber Oso Bueno and red India Pale Ale, Color Blind.

“Our goal is for people to come in from out of state and for people in the city to say, ‘You have to try 11 Below,'” Handojo said. “We want to be known as a destination.”

In the meantime, he said the brewery has plans for slow, smart growth. “We’re so new and we all have big eyes and big dreams but we’re moving forward cautiously,” he said.

Hop Scholar Ale House

Spring residents Todd Hayden and his wife Corey wanted to build a brewpub where they could introduce craft beer to the uninitiated and enjoy their favorite varieties with connoisseurs.

The two both worked as veterinarians – and Todd had developed a brewing hobby thanks to a side business. He owned a screenprinting business in college.

“I had all this stuff, and I was going to sell my equipment and get rid of the junk in the garage,” he said.

Instead, Hayden ended up offering to print T-shirts for Southern Star brewery in Conroe.

“It gave me a reason to be in the brewery without being in the way and they took me under their wings and taught me how to brew,” he said. “The rest is history.”

He was hooked on the brewing process and in love with the idea of supporting local brewers.

“I loved craft beer but there was nowhere to drink it on the north side of town,” he said. “I opened Hop Scholar to be a neighborhood bar. It turns out we kind of hit it out of the park.”

The bar opened a year ago. Hayden built out the interior himself, crafting long tables that would encourage guests to sit and talk.

“We serve beer from all over the place,” he said. “We serve the best beers from Europe and you can find local beers here too.”

Hop Scholar does not serve food yet and encourages patrons to order take-out and enjoy it with a pint of their favorite brew.

“It’s a small locally owned place,” Hayden said. “It’s a community space, where you can enjoy craft beer and talk. You’ll walk in here and see your neighbors.”

He expects to see more businesses embracing craft beer in the area. “There’s no doubt that more craft breweries are opening,” he said. “We have plenty of room to grow into more craft beer.”

Fire Ant Brewing Company

A new brewpub is opening soon in Tomball – Fire Ant Brewing Company.

Co-owner Bruce Kissinger said it all started with a group of friends taking homebrew to tailgates for the Houston Texans.

“It was really just for fun,” he said. “Then about two years ago, we got a bigger brew system. We started working on our beers and perfecting them.”

The response at the tailgates was overwhelmingly positive and soon Kissinger and his friends – Kurt Hohnholt and Carl Hohnholt – began discussing opening a business.

“We talked about it for several years,” Kissinger said. “It’s been a work in progress for some time – just figuring out how to get here. It didn’t happen over night.”

He said the team spent a couple of years researching the market and putting a plan together.

“Going from homebrewing to a commercial business is a big jump,” he said.

Construction began on Sept. 1 on the location at 304 Market St. in Tomball and the plan is to finish by the spring 2016.

“We’ll brew on one side – and the other side will be a pub with food and beer,” Kissinger said. “We’re doing something a little different than most breweries.”

He hopes that area residents will come out to try the products. There are currently eight flavors in the signature series and seasonal brews in the works.

“Our beer is just really good,” he said. “We’ve focused on really straightforward beer. Our beers are consistent and tasty.”

Kissinger said that more and more people are willing to try craft beer.

“The industry is just exploding,” he said. “Craft beers just have more flavor to them than mass-produced beers. Everybody is just really into it. You can see breweries popping up everywhere.”

11 Below Brewing Company:

Fire Ant Brewing Company:

Hop Scholar Ale House: