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Career Move: Blackland Distillery has a legal spirit

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Blackland Distillery

The Foundry District

2616 Weisenberger St.

Fort Worth 76104

682-268-5333

Dick Clark + Associates provided interior design work and Philip Newburn from Philip Newburn Architecture was the architect on the project. CG Northern served as the general contractor. The location will open on March 20.

www.BlacklandDistilling.com

It takes a lot of preparation to be a winner in the courtroom.

The same is true in the kitchen – and the distillery business.

Markus Krypeos knows well about all three. He has been a successful lawyer, is a culinary chef, and now, at age 41, is seeking the same success in a different field as the distillery he founded, Blackland Distillery, is set to make its debut in Fort Worth on March 20.

Located just west of downtown in The Foundry District at 2616 Weisenberger St., Blackland incorporates a modern, tech-focused approach to the traditional distilling processes, producing new tastes in its small-batch spirits, which include vodka, bourbon, gin and rye whiskey.

“I loved practicing law and it has helped me tremendously in starting the distillery, but my true passion has always been food, wine and spirits, and I wanted to pursue this opportunity,” Krypeos said.

The 6,500-square-foot distillery will be open to the public on Wednesdays through Sundays from 5 p.m. until midnight. Its cocktail lounge, bar and tasting room will offer 10-15 custom cocktails made with Blackland spirits.

The space is modern with horseshoe-shaped, stone-topped bar, stained wooden bar stools, booths and tables, club chairs, concrete floors, stucco walls, chandelier lighting, original commissioned artworks from visual artist Magdiel Lopez, and an outdoor terrace/lounge.

Krypeos, a Fort Worth native, was a partner with Pennington Hill LLC. He is also a certified sommelier (wine expert) and a culinary school graduate with a focus in classical French cuisine.

“I have a diverse background. Blackland Distillery is truly a culmination of my entire life,” he said.

Rather than traditional distilling methods that focus on old-world techniques and extensive aging processes, Blackland distills its spirits using high-tech hardware, computerized pot and column stills, and stainless-steel mash tuns. All its grains are sourced from Fort Worth-based TexMalt, which partners with local Texas farms to grow, produce and supply high-quality malted grains.

Bottles of Blackland Vodka, Blackland Gin, Blackland Bourbon, and Blackland Rye Whiskey will be for sale at the distillery beginning March 20. Expanded distribution to local and regional restaurants, bars and liquor stores will begin this summer.

“I want Blackland to be a distillery that when people hear or say our name, they think sophistication and quality,” Krypeos said. “Sometimes you can visit a craft distillery and people will give you a pass on the taste because you’re an entrepreneur or local or trying to do it the right way from grain to glass. All of those things are commendable, but at the end of the day, if you’re not putting out a great tasting spirit, then what’s the point?

“You shouldn’t get points just for trying. People are spending their hard-earned money, and I want them to leave feeling like they got what they paid for.”

Blackland’s head distiller is Ezra Cox, who has more than 20 years in the craft brewing and craft distilling industries. He most recently was lead brewer at Legal Draft Beer Co. and has also held positions with Revolver Brewing, Bishops Cider Co. and Cowlitz River Distillery.

Krypeos said he raised the money to start Blackland through his own savings and private investments.

“I’ve lived in Fort Worth all of my life and people know me, my core values, my passion for spirits, and my competence level overall,” he said.

Krypeos said attending culinary school is the best decision he’s ever made. After all, he said, what is distilling but a kind of cooking?

“Everyone should do it. And I had great instructors at the Culinary School of Fort Worth. At the time, I was a 30-year-old litigation attorney and attended classes at night, so I’m sure I was a handful for them, but it was a great time to go because I wasn’t 18, and I wasn’t afraid to push the boundaries and try new things in the kitchen,” he said.

“I love molecular gastronomy. I love the science of food and technological cooking methods that create new flavors.”

That, he said, is why there is fully automated, state-of-the-art equipment at the distillery. He said they are trying to push the boundaries and distill differently than traditional craft distilleries.

“In the last 15 years, we’ve seen this renaissance in the culinary world and similarly in the craft beer and craft winery industries. Now we’re seeing people push the envelope with new spirits and flavor profiles,” Krypeos said.

“With all of that said, quality is still our top priority and certainly my palate and culinary background have been incredibly helpful in creating our spirits. We love traditional spirits and we’re simply trying to remaster the classics in a new and exciting way.

“Distilling is cooking. You begin by cooking grain to extract starches, pitch yeast for fermentation, and then distill, making various cuts depending on the spirit and the flavors you want. It’s temperature-based, but there are so many decisions a distiller has to make, such as base grain choice, which botanicals to use for gin, how clean and/or filtered you want your vodka to be, how creamy, spicy, clean your finished product will be. I would be lost without my culinary degree.”

He does not continue to practice law, though he jokes about the legal battles it takes to get a business of this kind underway.

“I feel like I practice law every day in trying to get the distillery up and running, but no, my litigation days are behind me,” he said with a smile.

And while he doesn’t see any more expansions of his talents in the near future, well, never say never.

“I think my wife has reached her limit with me,” he said, chuckling. “We have an 8-year-old daughter and a 5-year-old son. There’s no time for anything else. But I do have phase two on the horizon, so ask me again next year.”

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