Local Look: Tony Formby
Posted on 8/23/18
Tony Formby: The Spirit Behind the Spirits at Acre Distilling
Tony Formby, managing partner and owner of Acre Distilling, is a business man who enjoys a good Old Fashioned (or as they call it at Acre, an Old Acre) and has a zeal for learning new things.
Formby graduated from college with a degree in history, setting his sights on law school as the next step in his post-graduation plan. When he failed to pass the LSAT (three different times) and law school was no longer an option, he recognized business as a good alternative and co-founded a tech company that commercialized the first touch screen. That job eventually moved him from where he grew up in Vancouver to San Francisco and a collection of other metropolitan areas before he met a local girl who convinced him to settle in Fort Worth.
Soon after moving to the Metroplex, Formby had done well enough for himself to retire early.
That didn’t last long before he connected with the guys at Rahr & Sons Brewing. (He didn’t even drink much beer before he invested in the brewery!) As he learned more about the process behind brewing beer, he came to enjoy beer. After a few years at Rahr, he retired…again.
Five years later, two of Formby's former brewers from Rahr talked him out of retirement… again. A couple of friends dreamed of taking the knowledge they already had to the next level: distilling spirits like bourbon, gin, and rum. Formby was back in business.
Acre Distilling purchased a downtown Fort Worth building in a neighborhood once known as The Acre. That’s how locals referenced what historians call Hell’s Half Acre, a red light district of the old west known for drinking, gambling, gunslinging, and other less reputable pastimes made famous by names like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
Formby’s love for history shines when he tells the stories from those days on the tours he gives at the distillery. Tours are $15 per person and happen Thursdays through Sundays. (Check their calendar for times and availability.) In addition to a brief history of Hell’s Half Acre, those who take the tour learn about the distilling process and have the opportunity to taste seven different spirits (many award-winning) distilled and aged on the premises: bourbon, gin, rum, and vodka, for starters. Even if you can’t swing the tour, enjoy a specialty drink, like the Old Acre, made with Acre spirits at their bar.
When Formby realized Texas A&M Law School was nearby, he set up a wireless network that “Wi-Fied the heck out of the place” and partnered with Avoca Coffee Roasters to sell coffee to sleep-deprived law students. Once again, his story came full circle… even though law school didn’t work out for him.
Formby originally called Avoca because he didn’t know anything about coffee. Just like he didn’t know anything about brewing beer or distilling spirits. Now he knows the fine details of all of those beverages and has successful local businesses.
The only thing Tony Formby hasn’t run is a winery, but he claims that’s not in the cards. His third retirement will be his last.
So he says.
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Location Mentioned: Acre Distilling