No visit to the Stock Show is complete without a taste and tour of Acre Distillery right here in our backyard in downtown Fort Worth!
Acre Distillery Fort Worth Texas – small, local, uncompromising.
Fort Worth’s Acre Distillery had an unlikely start. It wasn’t supposed to happen. It did only because an award-winning Fort Worth brewer, JB Flowers, after years of brewing great local beers decided to leave his post at Rahr & Sons Brewing Co. He wanted to become a distiller but he didn’t have the capital or a distillery close to home to work at. No way he was going to work in Dallas.
So JB made a call to old boss who had sold his stake in Rahr and Acre Distillery was born in downtown Fort Worth on the location of the original Keg Restaurant in the heart of what once was the “Acre“ neighborhood, also known as Hell’s Half Acre one of the wildest, most out of control, obnoxious “red light” districts of all the western frontier towns of the late 1800s.
The old Keg building had been abandoned for many years before the distillery came along. The building had to go through a complete retrofit to bring it up to code. Once that was accomplished the distillery equipment was installed and commissioned. All this took a year. The Acre Distillery opened to the public in December of 2015.
In the three years that the Acre Distillery has been open to the public it has garnered several awards and honors. The Acre has been singled out as “One of the 10 Best Craft Distillery Tasting Rooms in America” by Vinepair.com. In addition, the Daily Meal included the Acre as one of “Eleven Cocktail Experiences Worth Traveling For”. (Included in the list was The Ritz Hotel in Paris, Hotel Tressamo Lake Como, Italy, and several other notable establishments in other parts of the world). Finally, the Acre has been nominated by the readers of the Fort Worth Star Telegram, for a Worthy Award as one of the Three Best Cocktail Bars in the city.
The Acre Tour & Tasting which takes place at the Distiller’s Table in the Acre production area consistently receives Five Star ratings from happy customers. The tasting involves seven different spirits produced at the Acre – vodkas, whiskies, gin, flavored spirits and rum. In addition to tasting new and interesting spirits, during the tour guests learn how various spirits are made and the importance of American white oak to the aging and finishing of whiskeys. Guests receive an Acre whiskey glass to take home as well as a 15% discount on retail bottles they purchase. It is one of the Acre’s more popular offerings.
Hell’s Half Acre – In the beginning little consideration was given to the history of the location selected for the new distillery. As the new owners became more aware of the location’s pedigree (or lack thereof) research on its past became an entertaining past time and passion. And while the history of Hell’s Half Acre isn’t glamorous, some of it is down-right interesting and entertaining. More than that the history of the Hell’s Half Acre neighborhood contributed in many ways to Fort Worth’s later character.
For example, the current Acre Distillery building is located on the original site for the college that later became TCU. The founders of Add Ran College originally purchased land in the late 1860s between 9th and 14th and Jones and Calhoun St. in Fort Worth for the college campus. They soon realized what kind of a neighborhood was developing around their Church of Christ sponsored site – saloons, dance halls, brothels and gambling halls. A decision to sell the land and move the campus to a more tranquil site at Thorpe Hill near Granbury was hastily made before construction on a campus began.
Despite opposition from the more respectable and religious elements in the Fort Worth of the 1870s and 80s, The Acre developed into an important generator of city funds mainly through fines levied against proprietors and customers alike. The post-civil war cattle-drives from San Antoine up the Chisholm Trail to the meat packing plants in Kansas City passed through Fort Worth. Fort Worth was rest stop on the way up the famous Chisholm Trail. At any given time there would be thousands of cattle resting and feeding on the open range north of and below the court house and hundreds of cowboys in the establishments of the Acre whooping it up.
The arrival of the Texas Pacific Railroad in 1876 added to the growth of Fort Worth as well as to the wildness of the Acre neighborhood. Fort Worth was the end of the line. If you were on the train when it arrived at Fort Worth you got off at the T&P station which was very near the Acre. Passengers which might include buffalo hunters, gold prospectors, gamblers, gun slingers, con men, criminals fleeing other jurisdictions, as well as respectable folks stepped off the T&P and walked straight into the Acre neighborhood where they likely got an eyeful of the wild west up close.
It wasn’t a pretty picture and other than its famous part time residents of the 1890s, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. The activities and shenanigans of the Acre carried on until 1920 when Prohibition put the final nail in the Acre’s coffin.
We like to think that our business model at the Acre Distillery reflects the tug of war between virtue and vice that was the hallmark of Fort Worth’s early days. The Acre opens at 10:00 each week day morning at which time locally roasted Avoca coffee and lunch are served (our virtuous activity). Later in the day we slide into less virtuous endeavors, selling a number of award-winning spirits produced at the distillery.
These fine spirits include Acre Texas Single Malt Whisky, made from 100% Texas barley, grown near Amarillo, malted in Fort Worth, and distilled, aged, and bottled at Acre Distillery in downtown Fort Worth. Other whiskeys include Acre Longhair Jim Straight Bourbon, and Acre Rye Whisky which has not yet been released.
Acre Two Minnie’s Gin and Acre Meander Wooded Gin have won back to back silver medals at the Los Angeles International Spirits Completion. Both these gins are small batch premium gins made the old way which involves a maceration (fancy word for soaking) of fine botanicals from around the world in a mixture of grain neutral spirits and water. After 24 hours the maceration is complete. The result is an intense medley of world class botanicals and grain neutral spirits which is then re-distilled. The second distillation yields a small batch premium gin rich in botanical flavors and aromas not found in most commercial gins.
Acre Ginger Peach Tea Vodka and Acre Blackberry Sage Vodka are two of the best-selling Acre spirits. Both vodkas are blended with black tea, natural flavors and sugar. These flavored vodkas make great mules (add Ginger beer, small amount of lime juice, and mint), and other refreshing cocktails.