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The taste of something local becoming popular among wineries and breweries in the Big Country

THE BIG COUNTRY, Texas (KRBC) -- Drive through the Big Country, pass the farm lands, through the downtown areas and you will fine a vineyard or brewery sprinkled here and there.

As more and more of these are popping up in our neck of the woods, we take a look at how the taste of something local is becoming more popular.

Texas ranks 46th in nation for breweries per capita. Texas also ranks as number 3 for wine, with more than $13 billion dollars in economic impact.

Right here in the Big Country, that desire for quality wine and beer is growing.

We take you to different parts of the Big Country, showing you how these owners started from the ground up, creating a wine or beer culture in their respective cities.

Inside ths 45-feet tall building, brick walls and vintage wood, holds a very special brewing company in the city of Cisco.

"This building has roots into the 1800s," co-owner of Red Gap Brewing, Ryan Dekok said.

Now, re-purposed as a brewery, Red Gap Brewing is bringing many to its doors, bringing people from beyond the Big Country.

"Texas is way behind as far as the other states go and so there's a lot of room for growth, now we're seeing that growth in the last five years. I think it's just like anything. I think this generation wants more quality. They're willing to pay for it. It's not just a beer. It's an art," co-owner of Red Gap Brewing, Jason Mahon said.

 Mahon said the idea for his brewing company came from a trip to Fredericksburg, and while Cisco is not that, he saw the city had potential of becoming something similar.

"When someone comes in, I want them to feel welcomed. When they step through the doors, maybe they feel like this is the place they never had down the street from them. To have a place where maybe the stresses of life are kind of lifted off of them only for an hour," Mahon said.

"I love the flavors that come together whenever a beer starts in creation, and then from there, it goes there's a pencil and a large piece of paper and you erase a lot of things and then finally comes to brew day when you get to make it happen and then a couple weeks later you get to taste it," Dekok said.

Co-owner Ryan Dekok said it is a really cool experience.

"I think that we were made in the image of our creator, who likes to create and I think that making a beer is my opportunity to express creation and being artistic in that manner," Dekok said.

The Colorado-native said he feels a connection to the place that he hadn't really felt outside of the mountains of Colorado until he came to Cisco.

"Most of our customers are somewhat new to the craft beer market and it would be our honor to help take them from something that was just familiar to them, to now that's something that they get to enjoy just like a fine delicatessen," Dekok said.

Over in Coleman, an 80-year-old piece of land has been turned into a vineyard by Stephen Watson. What got him into the business? Research, followed by earning a viticulture certification at University of California, Davis.

"It was a complete guide on like how do you grow to like, how do you make wine and kind walked you through all the costs and kind of a business plan of what you were going to incur," owner of Watson Vineyard, Stephen Watson said.

The Army veteran, found his niche while serving in Iraq, learning the ins and outs of growing grapes, but it was not easy. Wine has a particular process and requires lots of patience.

"Back in 2011, we planted our first vineyard. I wasn't a farmer, I didn't really know what I was doing. I lost the entire crop. That was the year of the 90 days of 100 degrees," Watson said.

Finally, Watson got his first harvest.

"We won a gold medal with the international Lone Star Wine Competition, we won a silver medal with the Houston Corked Event and we just had the Texom, which we ended up getting the bronze medal with that one," Watson said.

Another thriving winery is the Winery at Willow Creek going six years strong in the Key City.

"If you're not a wine drinker. We try and make you feel comfortable and teach you about wines and start you off on the beginner wines," Brian Scalf said, owner of The Winery at Willow Creek.

Co-owner Brian Scalf said their biggest draw to the winery is actually the creek; hence the name.

"And then our customer service is another thing. We try and focus on them so they can be comfortable in a place they may not be comfortable in," Scalf said.

One thing these owners can all agree on is the growth of a boozy culture is definitely expanding in Abilene and beyond.

"Alcohol culture is a good thing that's come around in Abilene and more people are getting into it. Not necessarily because more breweries are opening but because more customers are coming out. Instead of having your just high-profile, they can come in and see something that people right here in Abilene are doing and they enjoy it," Scalf said.


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