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HIDDEN GEM: Railean Distillery & Buccaneer Bar

What started as a rum distillery in San Leon now produces 14 different spirits, all handcrafted on site.

HOUSTON — Unleash your inner pirate at a Hidden Gem near the beach: Railean Distillery and Buccaneer Bar in San Leon. It’s a place where landlubbers, seadogs and everyone in between can visit – as long as they’re 21 or older.

"We’re just a goofy, not pretentious, fun place," said owner Kelly Railean. "You can do samplings. You can do flights of our spirits. You can do flights of our cocktails. We’ve got a big outdoor patio and deck."

What they've created together is a far cry from what Railean and her husband first dreamed up 17 years ago.

"We’ve survived hurricanes and pandemics and all this fun stuff. At this point, what else can be thrown at us?" Railean laughed.

Today, the distillery hand-crafts 14 different spirits.

"We really do craft everything. We’re not purchasing bulk spirits and doing something to it. We actually use the molasses, the corn mash, the blue agave nectar and, of course, the sugar cane juice to make all our products," Railean said. "It’s the real deal. We’re not just blending here. We actually ferment and distill every product. We’re one of the few distilleries still doing that."

Master distiller Kenny Bradshaw added that if one of the labels says the product is 'hand-crafted,' "It's these hands and Kelly’s hands that handcraft pretty much all of this stuff."

Guiding KHOU 11 through the distillery, Bradshaw shared that the process starts with the raw materials going into a fermentation tank, which turns sugar into alcohol. That typically takes between a week and 10 days.

"Once that’s done, it’ll go into our still and the still is what will turn it into high-proof alcohol," Bradshaw said .

Clear spirits head into special tanks, but everything else gets poured into some of the hundreds of barrels stored at the distillery.

"This is where the magic happens right here," Bradshaw smiled.

That magic takes years before the spirits can be bottled, labeled and sold at the Buccaneer Bar, which offers more than 200 craft cocktails made from those spirits.

Along with a lot of drink options, there’s a lot to take in at the bar: 30 years of loot collected by Railean and her husband and dropped off by complete strangers.

"A lot of neat stuff. A lot of history, actually," Railean said. "A lot of it goes back quite a long time."

Safe to say, you ought to be settin' your sights on exploring these treasures on your next voyage to this part of the Gulf Coast.

Hidden Gems is brought to you by Dairy Queen.

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