Garrison Brothers Distillery Donates $300K to Texas Bartenders, Hospitality Nonprofits, and First Responders for Coronavirus Relief

Funds raised via Operation Crush COVID-19 dispersed to 53 Texas bartenders, Southern Smoke Foundation, Texas Restaurant Association Education Foundation

AUSTIN, TEXAS  (May 26, 2020) — On April 2, Garrison Brothers Distillery launched Operation Crush COVID-19, a fundraising campaign to help American communities recover and rebuild from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. One way Garrison Brothers was able to raise these funds was by pivoting the forthcoming release of an eight-year-old, top-shelf bourbon called Laguna Madre to be gifted to donors who contributed $1000 or more to the cause. Since then, the initiative has raised over $300K and has an ultimate goal of $2 million. Veteran-led disaster response organization Team Rubicon received $100K from the philanthropic effort. Today, Garrison Brothers announced three more groups as beneficiaries, including 53 individual bartenders, Southern Smoke Foundation’s Emergency Relief Fund, and The Texas Restaurant Education Association’s TX Restaurant Relief Fund. 

“Good bourbon can change the world. It’s been inspiring to see our community come together to support those in need during these uncertain times,” said Dan Garrison, founder and proprietor of Garrison Brothers Distillery. “The first $300K Operation Crush COVID-19 raised has been dispersed to four worthy groups, and we’re going to continue our efforts until we achieve our ultimate goal of $2 million. It’s an ambitious number, but Theodore Roosevelt once said to ‘dare greatly,’ and we do that every day.”

Two Texas hospitality nonprofit organizations each received $23.5K from Good Bourbon for a Good Cause, Garrison Brothers Distillery’s 501(c)3 public charity. Houston-based Southern Smoke Foundation allocated the donation to their  Emergency Relief Fund, providing assistance to individuals in the food and beverage industry who are in crisis.

“Since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, the Southern Smoke Emergency Relief Fund has distributed $1,551,306 to 891 people,” said Southern Smoke co-founder Chris Shepherd. “We’ve received more than 24,000 applications, so we still have a lot of work to do. We’re able to continue this work thanks to organizations like Garrison Brothers who are supporting us. We will make it through this, and so will our industry. We’re fighting to keep it alive, and we’re fighting to keep its people alive.”

Austin-based Texas Restaurant Association Education Foundation (TRAEF) allocated the donation to its TX Restaurant Relief Fund, an initiative providing immediate financial support to Texas’s independent restaurateurs and their employees.


“This crisis has once again shown how our industry and our customers band together to support each other,” said Dr. Emily Williams Knight, president & CEO of the Texas Restaurant Association. “Restaurants are the core of our communities, and the generosity of individuals and organizations like Garrison Brothers who rally them are helping to ensure that they survive this challenging time. On behalf of those independent restaurateurs and their employees who will benefit from these funds via the TX Restaurant Relief Fund, thank you!”

Nonprofit organizations were not the sole beneficiaries of funds raised via Operation Crush COVID-19. Bartenders who participated in The Bourbon Take Over of Texas each received $1000 as well. The Bourbon Takeover of Texas is Garrison Brothers Distillery’s annual mixology event, pre-qualifying bartenders to compete in a statewide bartender competition, The Garrison Brothers Bourbon Brawl. The competition was originally supposed to take place from March 26 through May 7, but has been tentatively rescheduled to October.


“Receiving this grant was a pleasant, but much needed surprise,” said Nigel Walsh, bartender at Reserve 101 in Houston. “Now I can catch up on bills I’ve been late on for the past three months. I live with my girlfriend and her 4 year old daughter, so a couple weeks of day care and a full fridge is a huge deal to us.” 

Caitin Hood recently learned that her position as lead bartender at Sway Rock Rose in Austin changed from furloughed to eliminated, and the restaurant’s doors remain closed with no prospect of opening in the near future.

“The hospitality industry is experiencing unprecedented hardships, and it will take years if not decades for it to fully recover,” said Hood. “I’m nervous to think of what’s to come for the restaurants and how the job market will look in the coming months and years, so I’m using this grant to expand my side business, Bitters and Bubbles, which offers private and virtual mixology classes, as well as scratch-made syrups for cocktails at home.”

Garrison Brothers Distillery plans to continue their fundraising efforts until their goal of $2 million is met. Anyone interested in making a contribution to the fundraising efforts can do so at A bottle of an eight-year-old, top-shelf Garrison Brothers bourbon called Laguna Madre will be gifted to those who contribute $1000 or more.



Garrison Brothers Distillery is a small farm and ranch located in the beautiful Texas Hill Country that authentically produces straight bourbon whiskey and only straight bourbon whiskey. Garrison Brothers introduced the first bourbon whiskey legally made in Texas in 2010 and has since developed a rabid fan base. They currently have a waitlist of more than 17,000 people hoping to land a spot on bottling days, and their Cowboy Bourbon™ normally sells out within hours of its release. Garrison Brothers is the first legal bourbon distillery in Texas history and is one of the first distilleries in America outside of Kentucky to produce authentic, handmade bourbon whiskey. The business was founded in 2006, though rumor has it they may have started production a little earlier.

Every expression of Garrison Brothers bourbon is made from a sweet mash bill and barrel-aged in the intense Texas climate. The extreme heat creates multiple aging seasons in a year, resulting in a darker, richer, and fuller bourbon; bolder than almost any other bourbon on the market.

At the San Francisco World Spirits Competition in 2020, the Garrison Brothers team was awarded a double gold medal for its Balmorhea Double-Barreled Bourbon, a silver medal for its Single Barrel Bourbon, and a bronze medal for its Small Batch Bourbon. Garrison Brothers was voted Best Craft Whiskey Distillery in America by readers of USA Today in 2017.

Garrison Brothers is a proud and active member of the communities of Blanco, Fredericksburg, Hye, Johnson City, and Stonewall. The distillery and its barrel barns are open to the public for tours in Hye, Texas. Anyone interested in learning more about Garrison Brothers Bourbon or in taking a tour of the distillery should visit or follow @garrisonbros on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


In association with the distilled spirits community, GOOD BOURBON FOR A GOOD CAUSE is the beneficiary of marketing and promotional events conducted for philanthropic purposes. Funds of GOOD BOURBON FOR A GOOD CAUSE are distributed to charitable organizations in Blanco and Gillespie counties of Texas and also to charitable organizations that serve current and former American military personnel nationwide. The types of charitable causes that are supported include, but are not limited to:

  • Organizations that help current or former American military veterans and their families
  • Organizations that help former American military personnel get back to leading a rewarding life
  • Organizations that help American veterans recover from debilitating medical, mental health or psychological challenges
  • Organizations dedicated to conserving and preserving nature, wildlife, green spaces, or historical landmarks and historical sites
  • Other charitable organizations that the board of directors determine to be within the intent and spirit of the formation of this corporation

To date, the nonprofit organization has raised and contributed over to $500,000.

Chris Shepherd launched Southern Smoke in 2015 after learning his friend and former sommelier Antonio Gianola was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Since then, Southern Smoke has donated $763,000 to the MS Society, making it the largest third-party fundraiser in a five-state area.

In 2017, Southern Smoke shifted its focus to provide assistance to people in the food and beverage industry affected by Hurricane Harvey and distributed $501,000 to 139 people in need. Recognizing a need, the Southern Smoke Foundation created an Emergency Relief Fund for people in the food and beverage industry in crisis. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, the Southern Smoke Emergency Relief Fund has distributed $1,392,973 to 785 people (as of May 8, 2020).

To date, Southern Smoke has distributed more than $3 million—both directly to people in need via the Emergency Relief Fund and to organizations that represent the needs of people in our industry. As Chris says, Southern Smoke was created to “take care of our own.”


Team Rubicon serves communities by mobilizing veterans to continue their service, leveraging their skills and experience to help people prepare, respond, and recover from disasters and humanitarian crises. Built to serve, Team Rubicon has launched the nationwide #NeighborsHelpingNeighbors initiative in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, providing assistance such as delivery service for food-insecure populations, coordination and logistics support for those in temporary quarantine, as well as individual volunteers inspired by action to help their neighbors leveraging the safety guidance. To date during the COVID-19 pandemic, Team Rubicon has helped local, state and federal partners deliver food, water and shelter; run testing sites; staff call centers; and transport cruise ship passengers who have completed their mandatory quarantine at home.


Established in 1994 by the Texas Restaurant Association (TRA), the Texas Restaurant Association Education Foundation (TRAEF) is a 501(c)3 not for profit organization focused on providing the necessary resources to help restaurateurs confront educational and labor challenges with the latest innovations in education, technology, and training. It is the workforce development arm of the TRA.

The Foundation’s mission is to provide educational opportunities to build and maintain a strong professional foodservice workforce in Texas. The organization’s flagship program is Texas ProStart, an industry-based, two-year high school culinary arts and restaurant management curriculum. Texas ProStart is currently in more than 150 Texas high schools, reaching more than 15,000 students annually. The Foundation has partnered with KidsFit to bring students real-world culinary experience and encourage restaurants to offer an expanded menu with options that are child-friendly yet healthy. In collaboration with Feeding Texas, the TRAEF is working to expand training preparation for a variety of populations to find a career in the restaurant industry.


Bryan Gonzales | 512-797-8579 | |