News / Edmonton

That's the spirit: Local liquor distillers taking off in Edmonton

Local businesses are ready to take on the heavy hitters.

Strathcona Spirits owner Adam Smith poses at the distillery Monday.

Tim Querengesser / Metro Order this photo

Strathcona Spirits owner Adam Smith poses at the distillery Monday.

A distillery boom that's hitting Alberta is built on a sense of camaraderie and a shared goal of taking on multinationals.

Edmonton’s first two distilleries opened within days of each other in December, joining more than a dozen that have popped up across the province since the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission eased regulations for distilleries in 2013.

Adam Smith, who owns Strathcona Spirits at 10122 81 Ave., said he's received invaluable help from other distilleries.

“It’s kind of one of those situations (where) a rising tide floats all boats. There’s so much market available to small distilleries now, there’s so much interest in supporting things that are happening in the community,” he said.

“Ninety-eight per cent of the market is the multinational alcohol groups in spirits and beer. We just need to eke out a tiny, tiny percentage of what they’re doing.”

Smith hopes to carve out a customer base through community partnerships, especially in the local arts scene. Indeed, he formerly ran a music venue called Baby Seal Club in the building that now holds the distillery.

Smith supplies eight stores and three restaurants with Badland Seaberry Gin – made with berries picked in Edmonton – and Single Grain Vodka, made with wheat grown 20 kilometres south of the distillery.

Shayna Hansen and her husband Kris Sustrik at Hansen Distillery, 17412 111 Ave., do off sales and cocktails in their front room, and the heavy work in the back.

The couple makes vodka, gin, rye and moonshine, largely using locally sourced ingredients.

Hansen’s family has a long tradition of distilling, going back to her great grandparents, but she’s the first one to open a proper distillery.

Like Smith, the pair has benefited from kinship in the distilling community.

“We go around and like to meet everybody. And when people come into our store we tell them about the other distilleries, and hope that they can go and visit them as well,” Hansen said.

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