Rather than start with just any old mash to make its new line of whiskey and gin, indie beermaker Real Ale Brewing Company turns to the complex brews already cooking up just a few doors down. Head distiller Davin Topel makes his Texas Hill Country Signature Whiskey and Single Barrel Whiskey from the early stages of Real Ale’s Devil’s Backbone Belgian Tripel and its Real Heavy Scotch Ale. What’s more, the company’s Grain to Glass Gin springs from Real Ale’s White Belgian Wheat Ale. With a few other flourishes along the way (like 10 different botanicals added to the gin including the unlikely bottlebrush leaf), the end results are spirits that taste like few others out there. The whiskey, for instance, has “a slight smoky profile without it being a big peat monster in your mouth,” says Topel.
Real Spirits breaks tradition even further by embracing the boon that a typical Texas summer lends to the aging process. No dinking around for four years in a tiny barrel for this booze; Topel has found that 18 months of Texas heat does the trick. “In other states, when the temperature dips below 45 degrees, there’s not much action happening,” he says. “Whereas here in Texas, we have two seasons: summer and January. The rest of the year the whiskey is constantly changing its character in the barrel.”
That’s a locally sourced barrel, in case you were wondering. And at 53 gallons, it lends this liquid gold more complicated (in a good way) flavors than the smaller containers used by the rest of the industry. To bring the whole process full circle, Real Ale uses Topel’s drained whiskey barrels to age its Mysterium Verum line of beers.
For the moment, you can only buy the three initial Real Spirits products at the company’s taproom in Blanco. Eventually, the company plans to distribute to select bars and restaurants, and potentially to retail outlets, as well. But there’s no rush here, which is fitting for a product that’s been in the works since 2014. “A lot of new distilleries need a cash return right away,” says Topel. “But at Real Ale, the beer keeps the lights on, so that lets us invest time into this.”
By Steve Wilson • Photographs courtesy Real Spirits Distilling Co.
For more information, visit realalebrewing.com or call 830-833-2534.