Yellow Rose nears Kickstarter goal in bid to open Houston's first whiskey tasting room

Texas Editor /

HOUSTON -- It takes a crowd to build a tasting room.

Yellow Rose Distillery in Houston is nearing the end of its Kickstarter campaign to raise $25,000 to build out a bar where whiskey enthusiasts can have a glass or two after touring the distillery. 

“The process of building this distillery was building a community,” says Ryan Baird, Yellow Rose’s co-founder. “We had a lot of people coming in, saying, ‘Hey, how can I help. What can I do?’”

So far, Yellow Rose has raised $23,000 of its goal in the campaign that ends Wednesday. Prizes and thank-you gifts for investors include glasses and t-shirts as well as whiskey-barrel tables and distilling classes.

Texas state regulations were changed last year to allow distilleries to sell alcohol for on-site consumption, and the idea for a tasting room took hold. Yellow Rose even hired longtime bartender Houston Farris as its resident mixologist earlier this year.

The money would also be used to help build out the 10,000-square-foot distillery, including the addition of barrel and bottling rooms and larger distilling equipment.

Houston, while better known for its oil-and-gas fortunes  and its heat, has a thriving cocktail scene, with some of its top bars -- Anvil Bar and Refuge is an example -- frequently touted as one of America's best. Alba Huerta, a former Anvil manager, has just opened Julep, which judging by its spirits list means business.  

Yellow Rose is upping the city's spirits game from another angle. Founded in 2010 in Pinehurst, just north of Houston, Yellow Rose released its first whiskeys two years later. It now produces four lightly-aged whiskeys, with two of them---the Outlaw Bourbon Whiskey and the Straight Rye Whiskey---winning a Best in Class award at the American Distilling Institute and a double gold award at the San Francisco Artisan Spirits competition, respectively.

Baird and his co-founder Troy Smith made the move into town earlier this year to open what they say is Houston’s first legal distillery since Prohibition. A soft opening is planned for early September, and if Yellow Rose can raise the funds, the tasting room could be open six weeks later.

For Baird, the distillery’s upcoming opening is a significant milestone since he and Smith---longtime friends who had been distilling in their garages for fun---gave up their corporate day jobs to pursue their hobby full-time. “I’m really excited about what we can build and being part of the Houston community,” he says.