Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - Ari­anna Au­ber

Black-eyed peas de­liver pros­per­ity in the new year — but they also can bring, as one Texas farmer found out, a boozy good time. Now, he’s dis­till­ing with them to make vodka at Black­Eyed Dis­till­ing in Fort Worth, which re­cently hosted a grand open­ing cel­e­bra­tion.

Mas­ter dis­tiller Trey Nick­els got the idea for mak­ing the vodka af­ter chal­leng­ing years work­ing on his fam­ily’s land in Muleshoe, a Pan­han­dle town north­west of Lub­bock, and en­dur­ing drought and poor crop yields. He de­cided to put the peas to a very dif­fer­ent use in­stead, mov­ing on from farm­ing, and has found that they contribute a clean taste in Black­Eyed Dis­till­ing’s signature prod­uct, BLK EYE Vodka.

Vodka made from black-eyed peas? Thanks to a for­ward­think­ing dis­tiller, it ex­ists in Fort Worth.

“We knew black-eyed peas were loaded with the starch nec­es­sary to make the fer­mented mash that can be dis­tilled into liquor. We just needed to prove it. So we put the con­cept to the test,” ac­cord­ing to a press re­lease from the dis­tillery.

The vodka is made with a blend of Texas-sourced non­genet­i­cally mod­i­fied black­eyed peas and corn, dis­tilled 22 times in a 21-foot col­umn still and brought to 40 per­cent al­co­hol by vol­ume. Nick­els has no­ticed that black-eyed peas are suited for mak­ing vodka, as corn and pota­toes are, be­cause dis­till­ing them “pro­duces a neu­tral fla­vor that’s also ideal for mix­ing.”

His project is a fam­ily af­fair with his mother, Deb­o­rah Nick­els, serv­ing as the dis­tillery’s tast­ing room man­ager. Nes­tled in a circa-1910 fire­house in Fort Worth, Black­Eyed Dis­till­ing will start of­fer­ing reg­u­lar tours and tast­ings start­ing this week­end, and vis­i­tors will be able to try the vodka, as well as other small-batch spir­its made there,

in cock­tails. They can also take bot­tles to go.

“Op­er­at­ing a dis­tillery in an old fire­house does have at least one ad­van­tage,” ac­cord­ing to Black­Eyed. “That hole in the floor where the fire­men’s pole used to be? It just hap­pens to be the per­fect place to fit our cop­per and steel pot still.”

Black­Eyed Dis­till­ing is lo­cated at 503 Bryan Ave. in Fort Worth, for the next time you’re in that neck of the woods. The BLK Eye Vodka also is on shelves at a cou­ple of Spec’s (High­land Park

and Ar­bor Walk) in Austin.

Bar­be­cue Wife wins big at Sa­muel Adams’ pitch com­pe­ti­tion

The local maker of an all-nat­u­ral Bloody Mary Mix dis­tilled her dream about the business into a co­he­sive pitch that won over the judges and the au­di­ence at the Pop-Up Pitch Room com­pe­ti­tion at South by South­west ear­lier this month. Bar­be­cue Wife owner Cather­ine Stiles took

home both the main prize of the $10,000 business grant and the $5,000 Peo­ple’s Choice Award. The Pop-Up Pitch Room is the brain­child of Bos­ton Beer Co., the brew­ery be­hind Sa­muel Adams beers and Brew

ing the Amer­i­can Dream, a phil­an­thropic pro­gram that fu­eled the cre­ation of the com­pe­ti­tion.

“I’m still in shock and so very hum­bled by

the win. I was both the judges’ se­lec­tion and the Peo­ple’s Choice se­lec­tion, so it was a sur­real day,” Stiles said via email. She was the head of one of five Austin-based food and bev­er­age small busi­nesses that com­peted in the Pop-Up Pitch Room, with each business owner giv­ing two-minute pitches

about their projects. Sa­muel Adams’ Brew­ing the Amer­i­can Dream — which also re­leased a col­lab­o­ra­tion beer at the event with local In­fa­mous Brew­ing — “pro­vides mi­cro-lend­ing, coach­ing and men­tor­ing to food, bev­er­age, and craft brew­ing small business own­ers na­tion­wide and wel­comed Grand Prize and Peo­ple’s Choice win­ner Bar­be­cue Wife Bloody Mary Mix to its na­tional net­work of in­no­va­tive and pas­sion­ate en­trepreneurs,” ac­cord­ing to a news re­lease.

She has been pro­duc­ing the Bloody Mary

Mix since 2015 us­ing the bar­be­cue sauce from

her hus­band’s restau­rant, Stiles Switch BBQ & Brew. The re­sult is a per­fectly bal­anced sa­vory mix­ture of smoke and heat and is avail­able at a va­ri­ety of Austin re­tail­ers, in­clud­ing Whole Foods, Breed & Co and Twin Liquors.


BLK EYE Vodka is a new spirit from Fort Worth that’s made with black-eyed peas grown in Texas.


Cather­ine Stiles, the founder of Bar­be­cue Wife, won a com­pe­ti­tion among small business own­ers in Austin dur­ing South by South­west.

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