by Eau Claire Distillery
In picturesque, historic Turner Valley, Eau Claire Distillery is being built to serve demand from the next revolutionary beverage-community movement: artisanal, small-batch craft spirits. From where glacial Rocky Mountain waters flow into fertile Alberta farmland, its gins, vodkas and whiskys will bottle local flavour from small-farm ingredients into limited hand-crafted batches.
Under the watchful supervision by Eau Claire Distillery founder David Farran, Distiller Larry Kerwin, and aficionado Brad Stevens, advanced, new distilling equipment from Germany is being precisely installed into a historic Turner Valley movie theatre, a 1923-building near aptly named “Whisky Row,” a notorious prohibition-era strip created during the early Turner Valley oil boom.
With keen interest and support from Albertan farmers, barkeeps, restaurateurs and retailers, Eau Claire Distillery is making significant steps towards the dream to become Alberta’s first pure-craft distiller. Eau Claire expects its first artisanal spirits to be available in select retail locations and drink-menu listings in popular spots next month.
This is a journey company president Farran knows something about. He was the first vice president at Alberta-based Big Rock Breweries, the grandfather of the niche craft-beer movement.
“While recent in Canada, the craft distillery movement started with success a few years ago in the United States, and is slowly taking hold North of the border, starting with B.C. and Ontario and now with us in Alberta” says Farran. “ We could not resist feeling we are so well equipped here in Alberta. With our world-famous malts, grains, potatoes, Rocky Mountain waters and maverick spirit, creating our own line of premium craft spirits here makes perfect sense."
Enter Eau Claire Distillery, a name of great historical significance in Alberta, meaning ‘clear water’. Less than an hour from Calgary, Alberta, next to the Sheep River, Turner Valley was selected as a distillery hub for its rich history and immediate proximity to the rural farmers of world-class malting barley, rye, wheat, potatoes, -- ingredients many high-brow and big-name beverage companies come to Alberta to procure.
In addition to its direct from the farm suppliers, Eau Claire has a special connection to the land through their own, unique stable of plough horses. A number of products will be made with ‘horse farmed grain’ using agricultural methods dating back to the settlement of Alberta.
Distiller Kerwin, whose career has included positions at Big Rock, Molson’s, Carling O’Keefe, Okanagan Springs, Sleeman, and Sapporo, is enthusiastic about this new opportunity to work so closely with local farmers and historic practices.
“We are very excited to be part of the growing farm to table movement, where we can bring you first class, hand-crafted spirits made from local grains and produce, and you’ll know exactly where it came from, through our wonderful relationships with local farmers. We have everything right here – fresh farm ingredients, a perfect climate, Rocky Mountain water and a huge depth of expertise. The ‘100-mile’ philosophy is a priority easily accomplished here.”
Eau Claire’s principles include hand-crafted, hand-bottled spirits with complete transparency and traceability about its ingredients and producers.
“Much like the ‘farm-to-fork’ philosophy, we have a ‘grain-to-glass’ philosophy,” says Farran. “We believe today’s sophisticated consumer cares about unique niche flavours and where and how the spirit was produced.”
“There is Scottish whisky, Russian vodka, and English gin,” says Kerwin, “Yet we believe we can create superb, hyper-local variations that surpass these known offers and appeal to a discriminating crowd. People will taste the difference.”
“Certified craft product means we apply rigour when procuring local ingredients and all our products are handcrafted in small batches, using traditional artisanal methods.