The craft spirit industry has exploded over the last few years and Austin, Texas is no exception. With the number of distilleries increasing every year and people looking to cash in on the popularity it gets increasingly harder to figure out which distilleries are worth the time. Good news: we’ve done the leg work for you!
#1: Treaty Oak
The best distilleries are a bit of a hike outside town and this one is no exception. Treaty Oak is situated on a moderate sized piece of land in Dripping Springs, Texas (out by the wine trail to Fredericksburg and close to the Salt Lick!) and includes not only a distillation facility but a restaurant, a cocktail lab where they try out new ideas, and an outdoor stage where there is live music some weekends.
The fourth oldest distillery currently operating in Texas, Treaty Oak Distillery was opened in 2006 by Daniel Barnes. Born in West Texas and a sommelier by trade, Barnes and his co-founder / father-in-law Bruce Graham decided (over a glass or two of whiskey) to open a distillery in the Austin, Texas area.
Named after the infamous oak tree under which Stephen Austin signed the document detailing the borders of the Republic of Texas, the distillery was founded just south of the city of Austin in Dripping Springs. Like many other craft distilleries, the Treaty Oak Distillery started with spirits that didn’t require aging like rum and gin, but they recently expanded their facility to allow for the production of aged spirits.
Treaty Oak says that they try to emphasize locally sourced ingredients, including the grain and citrus used in their spirits.
Treaty Oak gets our nod because not only is their whiskey delicious, but the size and scope of what their facility offers makes it an excellent destination for a weekend. Bring a couple folding chairs, a handful of cigars, and enjoy the craft cocktails served out of their barn while enjoying some live music.
#2: Still Austin Whiskey Co.
Still Austin Whiskey Co. is the first legal distillery within the city limits of Austin, Texas. Located south of the river just past State Highway 71, the location is a short and convenient drive away from downtown. (Definitely not within scooter distance, though.)
Locally owned and operated in Austin, Texas, the Still Austin Whiskey Co. opened its doors in 2017. Keeping it local, their plan was to try and use locally grown “heirloom” grains to make a craft spirit that would be unique to Austin.
Despite the industrial area they’re located in, the distillery is a great place to hang out and have a drink, offering not only a well designed indoor seating area with a bar but also an outdoor seating area for those cool Texas nights complete with market lighting and a fire pit.
Still Austin is our favorite distillery in terms of their product, making some fantastic infused offerings while also developing their own proper barrel aged bourbon that is absolutely delicious. They might not have the same destination amenities as Treaty Oak but the proximity to downtown and the quality of the product more than makes up for the difference.
#3: Garrison Brothers
If you want to feel like you’re on a ranch in the Texas hill country while sipping a bourbon that was created less than 100 yards away, Garrison Brothers is your destination.
In 2006, founder Dan Garrison found himself wanting to do something else besides software marketing (probably one of the most stereotypical Austin, Texas professions) and was granted the first distillery permit for production of bourbon in the state of Texas. The distillery remains family owned and operated, with Dan Garrison at the helm and his parents, spouse, and children all working in some capacity for the facility.
Since their first batch was released on March 2nd of 2010 (Texas Independence Day), the distillery has continued to grow and the Texas produced bourbon can now be found in most states in the US.
Garrison Brothers regularly holds volunteer bottling events where members of the public can apply to be a bottler for the day, helping the distillery to package their product for sale while “quality control” sampling some of the spirit themselves.
The facility at Garrison Brothers isn’t as sprawling as Treaty Oak or as trendy as Still Austin, instead it’s more typical of a Texas hill country ranch. There’s a cabin where whiskey and merchandise is available (and other drinks as well), and guests are left to enjoy themselves in the many chairs and fire pits that are scattered around.
The facility is located out on Route 290, the road between Austin and Fredericksburg that has the highest concentration of wineries outside California. In my opinion, the best way to enjoy Garrison Brothers is to spend the day at the wineries with the wife so she’s happy, then hit Garrison Brothers just as the sun starts to go down and enjoy the evening atmosphere with a glass of whiskey.