By the thousands, bottles are filled, capped and loaded onto trucks at a non-descript Southeast Austin warehouse. They are all filled with the equivalent of Texas gold.
Like every time I walk in here, I'm like, 'Oh my God, this is so awesome,' Tito Beveridge said.
This Texas pioneer went digging for oil but ended up hitting the jackpot above ground.
I had these visions of J.R. Ewing and 'Dallas' and all that stuff and,ya know,that I was going to be this multibillion dollar oil man, said Beveridge, the owner of Tito's Handmade Vodka. And, by the way, Beveridge is his real name.
Instead of oil, Beveridge ended up creating a new industry in the Lone Star State.
I had been making flavored vodkas for my friends as Christmas presents. My friends had been telling me to sell it, but coming from a stranger, it just hit me different, Beveridge said.
The only problem?No one had ever legally distilled spirits in Texas. And everyone he asked said it could not be done. Beveridge was relentless with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, asking tobe shown where in the state code it said that he could not distill liquor. Finally,he was given the great news:There was nothing in the code to prohibit his distillery. All Beveridge needed was federal approval. Two years later,in 1995, Beveridge got that approval.
At first, word of a Texas vodka didn't excite retailers. Beveridge was salesman, distiller, bottler, and label maker.
I'd sit out here with my dog and,ya know,sleep on a cot and sit there and cook and made a hundred cases, and I was (gluing)on paper labels. My big goal in the beginning wasif I could make like $1,200a month, Beveridge said.
Beveridge has obliterated that goal,selling several hundred thousand cases each year in all 50 states and Canada while helping launch a cottage industry.
The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission says there are now 21 active distiller permits in the state. They range from Central Texas to the Hill Country, spreading north to Dallas and south to the Gulf Coast. Vodka, rum, bourbon, and specialty blends are among the mix.
At Twin Liquors in Austin,spirits like Beveridge's -- Savy Vodka, Paula's Texas Orange and Texas Lemon, Grams Texas Tea, Deep Eddy Sweet Tea Vodka, and Treaty Oak Rum -- are front and center on store shelves. This locally-owned liquor chain has been instrumental in the progression of Texas spirits.
There has been this proliferation of of locally produced spirits that have really been focused in the Austin area. I mean the epicenter has really been Austin for Texas spirits, said David Jabour, Twin Liquors president. His company has even helped prospective distillers give their product the retail bump they need. Like when Jabour recommended a vodka made in Dripping Springs be sold by that name.
According to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, the Austin-Round Rock area ranks 31st in the nation for retail package sales. And Texans spend more than $4 billion each year on liquor, making the Lone Star State the nation's fourth largest consumer of distilled spirits.
One of the new kids on the block can be found in the Hill Country town of Hye. Garrison Brothers Bourbon Distillery has been aging its rich carmel-colored beverage for the pasttwo years. When KVUE visited owner Dan Garrison,a small group of helpers was bottling the first large batch of bourbon. Even thoughGarrison isturning out only 4,200 bottles right now, he sees the economic impact distilleries can have on Texas.
Garrison says Texas spirits are a huge industry, lots of jobs. Economic impact is unfathomable. I mean we pay $2.60 to the state every single time we sell a gallon of our bourbon. That's a lot of state revenue.
This former tech company marketing director isn't just following the trail blazed by Beveridge.He sees the economic impact beyond the drink itself and the hurdles still to be conquered.
We did 10,000 visitors last year,10,000 tourists through here,and we did that unstructured, said Garrison. People would just show up at the front gate. And in 2008,it was illegal for you to come out here and try any of this bourbon. I had to go to the Legislature back in 2009 and convince them to permit us to give out a half-ounce sample to every visitor that came out.
As interest in Garrison Brothers Bourbon and all Texas spirits continues to grow, local distillers say the sky is the limit.
Texas Distilleries with Current Permits
Brenntag Southwest Inc.
D.E.W. Distillation Llc
Delos Vodka Llc
Dripping Springs Vodka
Fifth Generation Inc
Garrison Brothers Distillery
Graham Barnes Distilling Inc.
Railean Distillers & Importers
Ranger Creek Brewing & Distilling
Rebecca Creek Distillery
South Congress Distillery
Spirit Of Texas