Micro-Brewers and Distillers Craft Spirits of Aggieland

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COLLEGE STATION- Micro-distillers and micro-breweries are becoming an ever-growing business presence in our area.

The tastes of beer lovers and those who enjoy distilled liquors are turning more and more to local craft entrepreneurs.

News 3 talked to some of these distillers and brewers about their Spirits of Aggieland.

It's a Wednesday night at the Blackwater Draw restaurant, bar, and micro-brewery at Northgate across from the Texas A&M campus.

The draw here at the relatively new Draw is locally-brewed beer.

Texas A&M student Fred Delgado says, "You can have a light beer anywhere, but it's a light beer. You can have a micro-brew and have a new flavor, a new taste, something different at all times."

Grad student Carissa Wonkka also supports local brewers.
"People that are brewing local beer with local hops are very important to local economy of Bryan-College Station. That's really nice, but it also is a unique taste and unique flavor, so micro-brews offer that."

Chris Weingart and Chris Steele teamed up on this endeavor, with Weingart's expertise from home brewing, and Steele's experience as owner of O'Bannon's bar down the street.

Steele says, "The craft beer movement in America is growing, and it's something we wanted to get in on. It's...craft beer is at its highest market share for beer sales in the country at this time."

And the two Chrises brew a potpourri of suds on these premises, and sell other craft beers.

Weingart adds, "We hope that when people come to Blackwater Draw they'll actually get immersed in the culture of craft beer. Not only do we support other local Texas craft brewers, we're one of them now. So we want people to sit down and watch us work."

Across town in a non-descript small warehouse, there's another operation going on, distilling of the whiskey kind.

This is where they make Rio Brazos Whistlestop Texas Whiskey.

Co-owner Bo Belt says, "There is a big market for...really all things alcohol. And there is a demand right now for un-aged whiskey."

Belt couldn't pass up the opportunity to work with lifelong friend, Nathan Barkman, who also had a solid business plan after some research.

"And the research was showing us that there was a demand, had been a demand for a long time, for premium, a premium whiskey that was made locally, something that when you buy a bottle, or when you buy a case, you're investing in your community."

Rio Brazos uses Texas corn, barley malt, pure water and a hefty input of cash for its micro-distillery to produce just enough whiskey right now to keep up with demand.

To Bo and Nathan, it's an investment in equipment, relationships, and time. And spirits are high.

In the same group of warehouses in College Station, something is brewing at New Republic where they're celebrating their third anniversary of making craft beers in a space not much bigger than a garage.

"The enzymes in the malted barley mixed with hot water release sugars. Those sugars are what we feed to yeast to create the alcohol and CO2 in our beer."

John Janusky partnered with Dean Brundage to make beers that are based on traditional German and English styles with their own twist and flavors, and have a lot of fun doing it.

And with a 350-thousand dollar investment, can they make good money doing this?

Brundage says, "No. (laughs) But you can drink a good deal of beer, and make a lot of friends. (laughs)"