Garrison Brothers Distillery Tour

Garrison Brothers Distillery, located on a ranch in Hye, Texas, produces a wide range of Texas bourbons. Tours are available for those who want to see how it's done. Read on to learn more about the distillery!
Garrison Brothers Distillery
1827 Hye-Albert Rd
Hye, TX 78635
(830)-392-0246
https://www.garrisonbros.com
Tour / Review
Date of Visit: January 2020 (updated June 2024)

Please enjoy our Garrison Brothers Distillery Tour Review!

Garrison Brothers Distillery In Hye, Texas

Blink at the wrong moment on Highway 290 from Johnson City to Fredericksburg in the beautiful scrubby landscape of the Texas Hill Country and the tiny town of Hye, located 60 miles due west of Austin, will remain hidden. Keep the spy in your eyes because it would be a shame to miss out on a visit to Garrison Brothers Distillery. Founded in 2006, this semi-secluded distillery was the first, and is the oldest, legal whiskey distillery in Texas.  Rain or shine, these folks roll out the welcome mat with Texas-sized enthusiasm.

Garrison Brothers Distillery Parking, Gift Shop and Whiskey Shack - Garrison Brothers Distillery Tour Review
Garrison Brothers Distillery Parking, Gift Shop and Whiskey Shack
Welcome To The Ranch

Garrison Brother Distillery is located on a ranch. There’s no pavement, but there is ample parking. The distillery is open for business Tuesdays through Saturdays (as of June 2024). Tours are offered daily during regular business hours. The cost is $10 per person/$20 on Saturday, and reservations can be made online. For tour times and reservations, check out  www.garrisonbros.com  to plan a visit. Tours generally last 1-2 hours. 

Gift Shop & Visitor Center - Garrison Brothers Distillery Tour Review
Gift Shop & Visitor Center – Garrison Brothers Distillery Tour Review
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Our Garrison Brothers Distillery Tour Began In The Gift Shop

Upon arrival, follow the sign for “Guest Check-In”, although it’s likely you’ll be greeted before you find your way inside. The gift shop is the starting point. Check in here if you made a reservation or make your inquiry here if you didn’t.  The distillery proper is just up the hill about 1/3 mile behind the gift shop. We met our guides Toni and Meghan in the gift shop and promptly made our way up the hill.

Bull

Before the tour began, Toni started with the mandatory housekeeping business: This is a working distillery, watch where you step, of course you can take pictures, no, you may not video, and for goodness sake, don’t touch anything. And last, but certainly not the least, please ask all the questions you like. 

Frootbat - Making hard to find liquor easy to buy

The Lay of The Land

With housekeeping completed, we spent a few more minutes walking outside around the distillery buildings getting a feel for Garrison Brothers’ spread. This area consists of the Cookhouse, the Stillhouse, and Rickhouse Uno. Close by are 3 barrel barns, with a fourth in the works at the time of our visit in 2020.

Frootbat - Making hard to find liquor easy to buy

Collect That Rain Water

One final item/s to note were several rain water collection tanks dotting the area.  Currently there are a total of 13 tanks varying in size from 1,500 gallons to 60,000 gallons with a total capacity of 188,000 gallons.  With Texas Hill Country only receiving about 34 inches of rain per year, water management is extremely important.

Rainwater Storage
Rainwater Storage
The Cook House and Fermentation

Our first stop inside was the Cook House. Cooking expert, Justin, took over tour duty and began to explain what takes place in here. Mashing(cooking) and fermenting is what it is all about under this roof. Garrison Brothers Distillery operates pretty much the same as most distilleries do in this particular step.

Cookhouse and Fermenters - Garrison Brothers Distillery Tour Review
Cookhouse and Fermenters

A few things are worth noting. First, Justin explained that currently only 1 mashbill is used for Garrison Brothers’ line of products: 74% white corn, 15% wheat, and 11% malted barley. This is reminiscent of Maker’s Mark in Kentucky. Second, similar to Kentucky, much of the Texas hill country sits on limestone beds. Garrison’s uses well water for their mash. The limestone acts as a natural filtration system removing undesirables, mostly iron, while adding certain desirable minerals.

Lastly, once mashing is complete, it’s time for fermentation. Yeast is added once the liquid cools to around 78 degrees. Distilleries in general are not climate controlled. According to Justin, should the fermenters reach too high of a temperature in the dogged Texas summer heat, which would  cause the yeast to die, they execute a simple solution, ice. Bags of ice are added directly to the fermenter to maintain proper temperature, keeping the yeast alive and working. Working hard so at the next phase, distillation, there’s plenty of alcohol to retrieve.

Fermenters - Garrison Brothers Distillery Tour Review
Fermenters – Garrison Brothers Distillery Tour Review
The Stillhouse

Our next stop was Garrison Brothers Distillery’s Stillhouse, with Master Distiller Donnis Todd as our guide.  With three stills, two 500 gallon pot stills and one 1000 gallon pot still, running 24/7, this is one very busy space. According to Donnis, the distillate from all 3 stills will be blended together and then barreled.  The proof of the new make that fills the barrels is generally 121-124. This tri-pot duty system pumps out enough white dog to fill about 60 barrels a week.

Stills
Stills

Barrels are filled and stored on site. Garrison Brothers Distillery uses a variety of custom made barrel sizes: 10, 15, 25, 30, and 53.  In the early days for Garrison, barrel aging was problematic. The searing Texas heat caused chaos in the barrel house. Between the leaking, cracking, or even the occasional barrel head explosion, many, many gallons of bourbon never made it out alive. Those days, according to Donnis, are in the past. Working with several different cooperages, Garrison adapted their own specs for barrels. A little thicker stave, for example, helps to keep the chaos to minimum. Also, storing the barrels in single story barrel houses helps to avoid extreme heat fluctuations. Over time, even the angels took a little less, although their share is still an insatiable 13-14 percent!

Bottling – Garrison Brothers Distillery Tour

With distillation covered, Chris greeted us in bottling and showed how old school is still the way to go.  The process starts with a four bottle hand filler, 25-30 volunteers (chosen via an online lottery system), and an extraordinarily elongated and somewhat disjointed garage style work bench. All Garrison Brothers Small Batch Bourbon is bottled over a 2 day period with said volunteers. Breakfast is served, lessons are given, bottles are filled, time for lunch, more bottles filled, and a little bourbon consumed along the way. All bottles are hand filled, corked, starred, dipped, and signed. Very cool. Chris tell us that this event is so popular that Garrison’s has thousands of emails from which to choose each and every lottery. 

However, not all Garrison Brothers bourbon is bottled this way. Barrel picks and other small releases are done by the staff. With the bourbon ready for its new home, it was time to try how all the hard work pays off.  

Bottling Line - All Done by Hand - Garrison Brothers Distillery Tour Review
Bottling Line – All Done by Hand – Garrison Brothers Distillery Tour Review
Rickhouse Uno And Tastings

Our last stop was Rickhouse Uno. This rickhouse is definitely unique. While it houses plenty of aging barrels, it’s the first we’ve seen to also house a gorgeous hand made wooden bar. The bar is used for tastings after each tour and also serves as part of Rickhouse Uno’s event space. Yes, you can actually party with the bourbon.

Tastes are included with the tour, and ours was Garrison Brothers Small Batch 2019. There now is also an option to include a tasting of Garrison Brothers limited releases with a tour, or to just do that tasting alone. The tasting, called the Hye Reserve Tasting, is $50, with a small discount if added to a tour.

Rickhouse Uno Tasting Bar
Rickhouse Uno Tasting Bar

Toni then wrapped up our Garrison Brothers Distillery tour with a little history behind the brand. After the glasses were empty, we thanked Toni and Meghan for their time and for their amazing hospitality.

We made the short drive back to gift shop area where of course a purchase of their Single Barrel Bourbon was made. Garrison Brothers Distillery currently bottles 9 different expressions. Most are sold in stores, though a few are distillery only.

Whiskey Shack - Food, Cocktails & Bourbon - Garrison Brothers Distillery Tour Review
Whiskey Shack – Food, Cocktails & Bourbon
Garrison Brothers Distillery Is A “Must See”

Garrison Brothers Distillery is a must see on the Texas Bourbon Trail.  Come for a tour or come for the tiki-like Whiskey Shack. The people and the ambiance are terrific, and we were introduced to some “damn good” Texas bourbon!


We hope you have enjoyed our Garrison Brothers Distillery Tour Review! Next, why not take a look around with our Virtual Tour of Garrison Brothers Distillery?

Date of original visit: January 2020. Updated June 2024.

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