By Colin Saunders
The sound of live music and savory aromas from nearby food trucks fill the air around the Aggieland Micro District on Friday and Saturday nights. Located in the industrialized part of College Station and set off from the rest of the town, the new Micro District is home to Rio Brazos Distillery, New Republic Brewing Company and Perrine Winery. The locally owned craft alcohol producers are located within 100 feet of one another.
The New Republic Brewery has been in the location the longest, since 2010. With contract musicians and food trucks on weekends, patrons can tour the brewery, play games like corn hole, or just hang in the brewery’s “backyard” set up while enjoying craft beer. New Republic started the hangout spot as a way to provide a unique atmosphere for friends and family to enjoy good beer, live music, and street foods, explains Dean Brundage, partner of New Republic Brewing Company.
Dean says he started home brewing in 2003 as a way to drink good beer with his friends. With the help of three others, the New Republic Brewing Company opened in 2010 and made its first sale in 2011. Since then, the brewery has expanded, moving from where Rio Brazos Distillery currently resides, a mere 50 feet away.
The Aggieland Micro District is a great opportunity for people to enjoy the alcohol of their preference in a casual environment while supporting local companies, says Dean. A typical Friday and Saturday night draws a crowd as diverse in age as the types of alcohol available, Dean says.
Craft beer drinkers go to the store and buy a beer they know and a beer they want to try, Dean explains. He wants people to “know” his beer when they go to the supermarket, he says.
Nathan Barkman, owner of Rio Brazos Distillery, opened on the site in 2013. Nathan explains that he uses the old process of pot distillation to create the flavors he desires. Nathan says he was taught how to produce whiskey with a pot still and sticks to that method to create the Rio Brazos whiskeys. “We make whiskey in Aggieland. By Aggies. By hand,” Nathan says.
Nathan has experimented with brewing his own beer and producing his own wine, but enjoys the process of whiskey making the most. “I’ve always liked the idea of making things,” he says.
“I want a select group, especially Aggies, to make it a part of who they are,” Nathan says. He isn’t interested in providing just another cheap bottle of whiskey on the shelf, but rather a choice that people stick with and make a part of their lives, he explains.
Beth Perrine Leopold and her husband Rick opened the original Perrine Winery on Harvey Road in College Station as a fun venture for retirement, Rick says. The winery grew quickly, and a second location was needed for expansion, so the Leopolds opened a second Perrine Winery between the brewery and whiskey distillery.
Beth says she likes the location of her winery because it allows for a new customer base and provides the casual atmosphere her customers seek out. The Aggieland Micro District offers something for everyone, she says. Whether it is the choice of alcohol, live music, local food trucks, or tours of the facilities, Beth says the Aggieland Micro District is a grand place to spend a weekend.
All three of the alcohol producers confirm that they share a common interest – to produce craft alcohol for the people of College Station. The goal is to expand to markets outside of College Station, but the trio is committed to keeping their Aggie customer base. “I love this town; I love these people,” Nathan says after explaining that the community has significantly helped in the alcohol trifecta’s success.
Beth says the Perrine Winery participates in wine festivals from Houston to the East Texas region and has won numerous awards. The second location was necessary because demand has grown too large to produce at one location. While red wines typically sell the best, “Zombie Walk Wine,” a white wine, has been their best seller, she says.
Sometimes small is better. As a small winery, it is easy for Perrine to experiment with new wines, explains Beth. Nathan agrees, saying he is able to test new ideas for his whiskeys because of the size of his facility. It’s good for customers, too: customers often are treated to custom creations when they visit.
For a few hours on Fridays and Saturdays, the public is able to meet the owners of all three locations.
With either a taproom or a bar near the entrance of each building, visitors can see and tour the facilities while gaining a greater understanding of how each of the three alcohol creations are crafted.