After nearly two years of work and planning, the Ironroot Republic Distillery opened its door to the public in Denison on Saturday, with hundreds attending the grand opening event. Ironroot is the first distillery in Texoma , and another component in the growing fermentation sciences industry in the region.
Robert Likarish said the idea of starting a distillery came to his brother, Jonathan Likarish, and him after visiting a distillery in Washington.
“As soon as we walked in, we fell in love with the copper stills,” said Robert Likarish, who felt there was a warmth and life to them that was lost in other forms of alcohol production. “There is just something about the copper that for us is primal.”
To Robert, there has always been a level of appeal and mysticism that comes with distilled spirits over other forms of alcohol production. He said part of this comes from the rebellious image that comes with moonshiners.
Robert Likarish, who has a law degree, decided to go into distilling with his brother upon graduating from college. Jonathan, has a degree in biomedical engineering.
“I thought, ‘You know what, I don’t want to be a lawyer,’” said Robert Likarish “So I went to my brother and said ‘Let’s do it; let’s start a distillery.’”
Despite the change in trade, Robert Likarish said his degree has helped in setting up the business, especially in acquiring its location on Loy Lake Road.
“It is kinda ironic that he went into law and I went into engineering,” said Jonathan Likarish. “It ended up working well for us.”
It took the brothers two years to decide on Denison as the location for Ironroot. The idea came after Robert received a call from a professor at Austin College, his alma mater.
Robert Likarish said the Denison businesses and brewing community has been welcoming and supportive to what his brother and he are trying to do. He said others in the industry, like 903 Brewers in Sherman, have helped along the way by giving advice and trading tips and ideas.
“I truly believe it has to do with the history and heritage of Denison going back to T.V. Munson,” he said. Munson, who lived in Denison in the late 1800s and early 1900s, helped save the European wine industry by developing hybrid grape rootstock that was resistant to a fungus that had ravaged European varieties.
“Denison was one of the few places we approached that knew where we were going and were supportive from the get go,” said Jonathan Likarish.
Jonathan Likarish said it wasn’t uncommon for the fermentation sciences to form a “symbiotic” relationship with each other, ranging from building off each others markets to brewers using old distilling barrels.
At Saturday’s festivities Denison Development President Tony Kaai commended the brothers for their entrepreneurial spirit, and said he hopes they could be a good resources for future entrepreneurs who decide to start business in Denison.
Kaai said distilling is a major part of the craft brewing industry, which brought in $10 billion in the United States with 350 breweries throughout the country. Along with local brewers and winemakers, Kaai said distillers like the Likarish brothers help fill multiple facets of the fermentation sciences industry and make it a potential alcohol tourism destination.
Kaai said the DDA may offer the distillery future incentives for marketing it as a tourist destination. Robert Likarish said he has plans to offer distillery tours alongside the sale of spirits.
Beyond tourism, Kaai said the presence of the distillery could help attract new residents to the region.
“It is a really cool business for the area, and really attractive to young professionals,” said Kaai. “It creates a vibe that the city has not had in the past.”
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