Boozy News

Craft beer gets company: Houston's first distillery opens amid the brewery craze, bringing the hard stuff

Craft beer gets company: H-Town's 1st distillery opens amid breweries

11 Yellow Rose Distilling September 2014 glass of whiskey
The Tastes Like Freedom uses blended whiskey and cinnamon simple syrup.  Photo by Eric Sandler
3 Yellow Rose Distilling September 2014 equipment
Houston's only licensed pot still.  Photo by Eric Sandler
2 Yellow Rose Distilling September 2014 equipment
Still, vodka column and mash ton.  Photo by Eric Sandler
10 Yellow Rose Distilling September 2014 pouring a glass of whiskey
How about a taste? Photo by Eric Sandler
9 Yellow Rose Distilling September 2014 bartender at bar
A look at Yellow Rose's tasting room.  Photo by Eric Sandler
7 Yellow Rose Distilling September 2014 barrels
The whiskey is aged from one to eight years.  Photo by Eric Sandler
8 Yellow Rose Distilling September 2014 bottles of whiskey
A selection of spirits.  Photo by Eric Sandler
6 Yellow Rose Distilling September 2014 man pouring grains
All of the corn comes from Texas.  Photo by Eric Sandler
11 Yellow Rose Distilling September 2014 glass of whiskey
3 Yellow Rose Distilling September 2014 equipment
2 Yellow Rose Distilling September 2014 equipment
10 Yellow Rose Distilling September 2014 pouring a glass of whiskey
9 Yellow Rose Distilling September 2014 bartender at bar
7 Yellow Rose Distilling September 2014 barrels
8 Yellow Rose Distilling September 2014 bottles of whiskey
6 Yellow Rose Distilling September 2014 man pouring grains

Houston has no shortage of great craft breweries. From Saint Arnold to Karbach to Buffalo Bayou to 8th Wonder, their names are almost as familiar to local beer drinkers as Budweiser and Miller. Texas wines have also grown in popularity as people push to eat and drink where they live.

The still-nascent crafts spirit movement now has a Houston entry, too, thanks to the folks at Yellow Rose Distilling

Being Houston's first distillery meant taking some extra time to work through the City of Houston's permitting process, but curious drinkers can now visit the facility, which is located on North Post Oak near I-10.

 All of the spirits are made from corn that's grown in Texas and delivered to Houston in 2,000 pound sacks.  

The business began in 2010 when two neighbors, Troy Smith and Ryan Baird, decided they were tired of their corporate jobs. "We've got to get out of what we're doing," Baird tells CultureMap he said at the time. Realizing that Smith had developed an interest in brewing, Baird recalls encouraging him to explore the craft. "If you can make something, I can sell it," he told his buddy.

With so many breweries entering the market, the duo shifted their focus to bourbon. Baird drafted a business plan and recruited Randy Whitaker, a former classmate at the Rice University's Jones Graduate School of Business.

"It was a bit of a rough start at first," Baird concedes, but notes that "it's been fun, because we've had a lot to learn." For the first three years, all three worked full-time jobs and spent evenings and weekends nurturing Yellow Rose. They started to find success with a best in class award for their Outlaw Bourbon at the American Distilling Institute and a double gold for their Straight Rye Whiskey at the San Francisco Artisan Spirits. They added Howdy Stranger vodka to the mix last year, which they've dubbed "the friendliest vodka in Texas."

All of the spirits are made from corn that's grown in Texas and delivered to Houston in 2,000 pound sacks. The spirits are created in a 650-gallon pot still before resting in a fermenter. The whiskeys are barrel-aged for one to eight years depending on the type of spirit and the size of the barrel. 

Another perk of the facility is a tasting room where people can sample a half ounce of each spirit for only $7. They're held Thursdays and Fridays from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Those who like what they taste can either purchase bottles to take home or try the spirits in cocktails created by local bartender Houston Farris. No bourbon and Coke here — the law prevents the distillery from selling anything that's not made in-house. Therefore, Farris has created three cocktails that use syrups he makes and fresh juices. Try the Tastes Like Freedom, which combines cinnamon simple syrup and lemon juice into Yellow Rose's blended whiskey for an apple pie flavor. 

With interest in bourbon and whiskey at all time high, Yellow Rose seems poised for success. Now you can taste what all the excitement is about.