Tito Beveridge wanted to turn his hobby—producing vodka in a still made from two Dr Pepper kegs cinched together with turkey-frying rigs—into a business. But he faced state and federal laws that allowed only companies, not individuals, to distill spirits. In 1997, the aptly named Beveridge challenged the laws and won, receiving the first license for a microdistillery in Texas and the first for a U.S. citizen since Prohibition.
Since then, Beveridge’s 16-gallon pot still has turned into a 26-acre operation southeast of Austin that distributes close to 900,000 bottles of vodka a year. Home brewers, encouraged by Beveridge’s success, have upgraded their pot stills and rented warehouses. Now, making small-batch whiskey, vodka, gin, rum, and bourbon is following the farm-to-table movement and turning sipping local into a huge trend.
The craze caught another break on September 1, 2013. That’s when Texas Senate Bill 905 went into effect, allowing distilleries to sell their specialty product on-site, an act that had been illegal since the 1920s. But many area distilleries have gone beyond selling their wares. They offer tours of their production facilities and tasting opportunities, too. It’s a good time to be a lover of liquor in North Texas.
JEM Beverage Co. Distillery
Evan Batt and John Straits opened JEM Distillery in Pilot Point in 2011. The two friends are devoted to “quality over quantity.” A portion of every bottle of whiskey sold goes to support Texas wildlife
Hooch: Western Son Vodka, Brazos Gin, Red River Texas Bourbon Whiskey, South House Moonshine—all in several flavors
Tours: Yes. Check the website for a calendar of concerts held at the distillery.
Former Marine Quentin Witherspoon makes bourbon and rum in Lewisville, where he was born and raised. “All of our rums are based on a recipe I perfected while living in the Dominican Republic,” Witherspoon says. “Our Bonfire cinnamon rum makes a wicked piña colada.”
Hooch: Witherspoon’s Single Malt, Bonfire Cinnamon Infused Rum, Witherspoon’s Texas Straight Bourbon Whiskey, Witherspoon’s River Rum
Trinity River Distillery
Fort Worth is home to this small-batch whiskey distilled from select corn, barley, and rye, and aged in new charred American white oak barrels for approximately two and a half years. Co-founders Mark Lusignan, Ben Alexander, and Don Alexander dedicate each bottle to
the brave cowboys of the Chisholm Trail.
Hooch: Texas Silver Star Spirit Whiskey, Texas
Silver Star Texas
Tours: Coming in Nov.
Julia and Lee Fuqua, known for their line of Fuqua wines, have ditched their wine casks and switched to distilling fine vodka in Dallas. “We’ve only been making it for six months and have already won bronze, silver, and gold medals,” Lee says. He’s experimenting with an exotic vodka blend made with black
Hooch: Duckworth Vodka, Duckworth Vodka aged in French oak barrels
Firestone & Robertson Distilling Co.
In 2010, Leonard Firestone and Troy Robertson founded the first legal distillery in North Texas in Fort Worth. The wild yeast that will be used in their yet-to-be-released straight bourbon is sourced from a pecan nut.
Hooch: TX Blended Whiskey (which won Best American Craft Whiskey along with a Double Gold award in 2013 at the World Spirits Competition in San Francisco)
Herman Beckley and Marshall Louis have continued their long history of home brewing by becoming the first legal bourbon maker in Dallas since Prohibition. “Our original yeast came from the Mexican Paintbrush, the city flower of Garland,” Louis says. “The corn in our mash comes from the Panhandle.”
Hooch: Herman Marshall Texas Bourbon, Herman Marshall Texas Rye,
Herman Marshall Texas Single Malt