We'll Drink to ThatNov 01, 2021 ● By Joshua Baethge
There was a time not long ago when there were no breweries or distilleries located near Frisco. Over the past two decades, however, changes in laws and an increased consumer demand have created an explosion in the industry locally.
There are now more than 50 breweries throughout North Texas, with new operations set to open. The spirits scene is also gaining steam with nearly 20 distillery operations calling the Metroplex home today.
As a result, local breweries and distilleries are striving to forge their own identities while building solid followings. Some offer behind-the-scenes tours of their operations. Others are akin to large warehouses that feature small dedicated tasting areas. Meanwhile, a growing number of the places also serve as venues favored by patrons not only for the beverages but also for their food, live music performances and special events.
It is this eclectic mix of options that some say has prompted the industry to flourish, especially in North Texas. For the most part, beer and spirit consumers are looking for more than the same bottle of whiskey or can of beer they can purchase seemingly anywhere else. It also helps that locally produced products of all sorts are in demand.
Learn what several breweries and distilleries located within a short drive of Frisco are doing to make their mark on this burgeoning scene.
3111 Loy Lake Road, Denison
903-337-0495 | ironrootrepublic.com
Ironroot Republic co-owner Robert Likarish recalls seeing his first distillery in Spokane, Washington, more than a dozen years ago. He’d previously visited wineries and breweries, but not a distillery. “My first reaction was like being in Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory,” he says. “It was just gorgeous.”
Likarish’s father, John, worked in the copper industry, so that may be part of what attracted him to the place’s copper still. He saw the operation and thought it might be something fun to do himself one day.
A few years later, Likarish was preparing to finish law school. He worried that work in the legal profession would be difficult to find so, instead of taking the bar exam, he pursued his distillery dream. He broke the news to his family and, much to his surprise, learned that his brother Jonathan, a Fort Worth engineer, also wanted to join the business.
The brothers connected with a California cognac distillery, which ultimately had a major impact on what Ironroot Republic would eventually become. Rather than making spirits in the Kentucky style as most American distillers do, they learned a French-inspired process, the philosophy behind which is to make products that convey the “flavor of that land.”
Denison made for a perfect setting for the brothers’ venture.
The name Ironroot pays tribute to viticulturalist T.V. Munson, who resided in Denison and is credited with having helped save the European wine industry, which in the late 19th century was devastated by fungus and insect attacks. Bushels of grape hybrid rootstock that Munson developed were sent to France and grafted onto ravaged grapevines there, ultimately saving the industry. It is why Denison and the French town of Cognac became sister cities in 1992.
Ironroot Republic utilizes local varieties of corn to make whiskey and brandy. This also fits perfectly within its philosophy as corn is plentiful in the area. Most strains also originated in Mexico, which is ingrained in Texas culture.
Robert Likarish soon discovered that most local varieties of corn have not been distilled. This gives Ironroot Republic’s sprits a distinctly unique, local flavor. The Likarish brothers say they enjoy having the leeway to experiment and develop their own flavors. When they find a variety that works for them, they partner with local farmers to grow it.
When the brothers realized they needed help running Ironroot Republic's day-to-day operations, they turned to their mother, Marcia. Even their father assists from time to time. The company is a family affair, turning out spirits that are unlike those found anyplace else in the world.
Western Son Distillery
217 W. Division St., Pilot Point
940-324-0008 | westernsondistillery.com
Western Son Distillery began in a small Carrollton warehouse in 2011. It was founded by a group of investors with liquor-industry experience who believed there was a growing demand for domestic spirits.
For the first few years, the company tried several different offerings with varying degrees of success. Over time, it became clear that what people were clamoring for was its vodka.
According to a report this year by the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, vodka continues to be the leading spirit category in the U.S. Last year, Americans purchased nearly 77 million, 9-liter cases of the beverage, accounting for nearly one-third of the spirits industry.
Western Son Distillery carries nine flavors of vodka to satisfy nearly every taste. Its original vodka remains its flagship item, made with 100 percent American corn and ten-times distilled to achieve a cleaner, smoother taste. Other popular flavors include blueberry and watermelon.
In 2015, with a singular focus on vodka, Western Son relocated to a facility in Pilot Point. The move not only expanded its production capacity, but also allowed the operation to better capture the hospitality vibe it wanted – something not as easily accomplished at its previous location.
Once a small hand-bottling operation, Western Son now boasts seven automated lines churning out hundreds of bottles per hour. On any given day, there are about 125 people working at the distillery, including distiller Vinny Messina.
Western Son Distillery has also expanded to two Pilot Point campuses: One is dedicated to its nationwide distribution operations, while the other has production, bottling and most importantly, a tasting area that spokesperson Erin King says is designed to be an experience families can enjoy. There are craft cocktails, as well as live music and food trucks on most weekends.
“It has a very low-key, casual vibe,” King says. “It’s become a little bit of a local hangout.”
Lockwood Distilling Co.
506 Lockwood Drive, Suite A, Richardson
469-399-1599 | lockwooddistilling.com
Lockwood Distilling Co. is both a working distillery and a dining destination. While food is an afterthought at many places specializing in spirits, Lockwood boasts an eclectic menu originally designed by Chef Justin Box, who formerly was at The Cedars Social in Dallas. Items from Lockwood’s kitchen include a Smoked Bologna Sandwich, Shrimp & Grits and an Angus Ribeye.
Make no mistake: Lockwood is a working distillery with a production line in plain view of guests and products going out its back door regularly. Its array of spirits includes rye bourbon, rye whiskey, bourbon cream liqueur, rum and vodka including an especially popular hibiscus-flavored vodka.
The Richardson hotspot is the brainchild of co-owners Evan and Sally Batt. He worked in the liquor business while she navigated a career, first as a teacher and then in real estate. Evan Batt says that working with his wife for the past two years has been a great experience. “It probably wouldn’t work for everybody, but we get a real kick out of working together.”
Lockwood Distilling Co. opened in the fall 2019 – just months before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. The timing could have doomed many businesses, however Evan Batt and his team made the best of the challenging situation. Take-out orders became a primary focus and the liquor-distribution side of the business expanded earlier than planned.
The pandemic has also helped Lockwood become something of a local live music destination. At the height of the COVID lockdowns, musicians performed on the patio as people picked up their takeout orders. Many customers sat in their cars enjoying the music while socially distanced. The musicians stayed when on-site dining resumed, which has helped reinforce the sense of community that the Batts had hoped to create from the beginning.
“I think we learned very quickly that the biggest thing we underestimated was how neighborhood-centric we were,” Evan Batt says. “It’s been so awesome to see familiar faces daily and being a meeting place for the community.”
In fact, Lockwood Distilling Co. has been so successful that a second location is set to open early this month on Magnolia Street in Fort Worth’s Near Southside District. The Batts hope the facility will have a similar neighborhood vibe as the Richardson location. “There’s a lot of cool stuff coming to our area, and we get to be part of the early regime here that sets the tone,” he says.
721 Anderson St., McKinney
214-856-7996 | tuppsbrewery.com
The story of TUPPS Brewery begins with a Christmas present. About nine years ago, founder Keith Lewis asked his wife for a homebrew kit for Christmas. When he found the box under the tree, he knew it was going to be an adventure, but had no idea where it would lead him.
After powering through a couple batches of brew, he graduated to brewing in a crawfish cooker in the garage. Then it was on to a home brewing system he found on Craigslist. Soon, his kids (who were college-age and older) also became interested in the beer-making process. The family started checking out local breweries and, as they continued exploring, Keith Lewis began wondering why his brood shouldn’t also try their hand at the game.
“We basically put a business plan together, talked to a bunch of buddies, raised a bunch of money, and it’s all history,” he says.
When TUPPS opened in 2015, it produced around 350 barrels of beer that year. Production increased to 1,800 barrels the following year, and to 2,800 the year after that. By 2020, production topped 10,000 barrels. This year, TUPPS is on pace to brew 13,000 barrels of beer – the maximum amount Lewis believes they can handle at their current location.
Before diving headfirst into the world of craft beer, Lewis worked in the semiconductor industry – a job that involved long hours and a lot of time away from home as he worked with customers around the globe. He recalls thinking that there had to be a better way to earn a living. That made starting a brewery a relatively easy decision.
His goals were modest at first: He wanted to get the brewery open, establish a reasonably vibrant tasting room, and sell beer to local bars and grocery stores. Little did he know that within a couple of years, he would be shipping his product to locales including Austin and San Antonio. TUPPS products later made their way into eastern and western Texas as well as Oklahoma. Earlier this year, its products began shipping to Houston.
TUPPS remains a family affair: Lewis’ eldest son, Chase, handles its sales and finances. Middle son Chris is the brewmaster and brews every bit of beer produced there. Daughter Katie handles public relations and marketing duties.
“The next crazy thing we are doing,” Keith Lewis says, is constructing a new brewery less than a mile away from its current location, which the family plans to open next summer.
TUPPS’ current location has a large indoor tasting area that includes a stage, as well as a popular outdoor area. The plan for the new facility, which will be located on a four-acre site with a historic 120-year-old grain facility, is to maintain the same laid-back vibe as the original location.
Its taproom will have air conditioning and heating – a welcome addition for staff and visitors alike. Also, foodies can look forward to a full kitchen on site, something the current
TUPPS facility lacks. A stage, to be constructed on a former loading dock, will create a new outdoor area for music and entertainment.
Most importantly, TUPPS’ forthcoming state-of-the-art climate-controlled production facility will be capable of cranking out many more barrels of beer and possibly some nonalcoholic options. “We’ve been very fortunate to have a product that’s been in very high demand,” Keith Lewis says.
To stay on top of the latest beer trends, the TUPPS team frequently travels to other markets to see what is happening at pubs and breweries and regularly networks with other local brewery owners to compare notes and share ideas.
The TUPPS team is always seeking out new ways to utilize hops, grains and yeasts. It has also experimented with making other beverages including seltzer, whiskey and wine. “There are always new things that we want to do,” he says. “I don’t think we are ever going to run out of new ideas.”
Grab a Glass
North Texas is home to numerous breweries and distilleries offering a wide – and tasty – variety of locally made beers and spirits. Several of those featured on this non-inclusive list are located within a short drive of Frisco and host facility tours and tasting rooms to demonstrate how the beverages are crafted, packaged and, of course, best served.
412 N. Oklahoma St., Suite 106, Celina
Food trucks park frequently at Rollertown, which is owned by Ben Rogers and Jeff “Skin” Wade, hosts of The Ben and Skin Show on 97.1 FM the Eagle.
Franconia Brewing Company
495 McKinney Parkway, McKinney
Franconia follows environmentally friendly practices in producing its nearly two dozen beers that are available in stores, retaurants and pubs.
Denton County Brewing Co.
200 E. McKinney St., Denton
DCBC serves beer born and brewed in Denton. Recently featured on the menu was the blonde ale Thriving in Denton and a
barrel-aged wheat beer called Home Grown Here.
5755 Grandscape Blvd., The Colony
More than just a restaurant and live-music spot, Windmills opened earlier this year offering a selection of 14 brews served “tank-to-tap” without any kegs, including a Coffee Porter and a Russian Imperial Stout.
Hop & Sting Brewing Co.
906 Jean St., Grapevine
According to its website, Hop & Sting brews small-batch craft ales and lagers including the limted edition/seasonal Red Velvet Cookie Ale and Galactic Haze, a Belgian-style white IPA that’s available year-round.
ODD Muse Brewing Company
4488 Spring Valley Road, Farmers Branch
Recent offerings featured on ODD Muse’s taplist included the sour Key Lime Cowboy, a pumpkin ale called Ghourdy Spice and a grapefruit IPA dubbed What’s Up With That?
3 Nations Brewing Co.
1033 E. Vandergriff Drive, Carrollton
Located in a restored building in downtown Carrollton, 3 Nations offers 16 different types of draft beer including one new selection each week.
Four Bullets Brewery
640 N. Interurban St., Richardson
Four Bullets promises English Ales including the dark Boxcar Black Porter, Snake Eyes (an oatmeal stout) and a slightly sweet, floral brew called What Are The Odds.
Noble Wolf Vodka
4408 Worthington Drive, Suite 113,
Noble Wolf’s specialty is low-calorie grapefruit-based vodka that is also paleo-friendly and sugar- and gluten-free.
BENDT Distilling Co.
225 S. Charles St., Lewisville
Tours are offered at BENDT Distilling Co., whose No. 5 American Blended Whiskey is composed of five individual whiskeys and crafted in house with local ingredients.
Whiskey Hollow Distillery
302 Obuch St., Valley View
An award-winning, family-owned operation, Whiskey Hollow creates bourbon, whiskey, rum, vodka and moonshine with the “Double Thumper” process that it claims makes its spirits “some of the smoothest on the planet.”
Joshua Baethge is an award-winning writer whose work has appeared in publications large and small across the country.