The Crabbie Goat Distillery will open its doors July 1
South Peace News
It’s been a dream four years in the making, but for a Valleyview couple the reality hits home July 1 when they officially open The Crabbie Goat Distillery.
Jamie and Cheryl Gordon own the business. Both were born and raised in the Valleyview area and continue to build a strong foundation locally with the opening of the business.
Crabbie Goat will be selling flavoured moonshines, whiskey, vodka, gin and brandy [distilled wine]. Production capacity at the business is 750 bottles of 40 per cent alcohol a week or 1,000 bottles at 20 per cent.
The idea to open the distillery came from several ambitions. Jamie had what he describes as “a heart condition” and almost lost his life about five years ago and was told to slow down. The work involved in setting up the distillery [including the preparation and planting of the orchard] isn’t exactly slowing down, but when a true passion is involved it doesn’t seem like work.
For Cheryl, the inspiration came from her grandfather, Floyd Swanson. She says she made an excellent crabapple liqueur.
The land where the couple resides just north of Valleyview was purchased, which already included hundreds of natural saskatoon bushes.
“So we knew the land was fertile,” says Cheryl.
They have traveled to various craft distilleries across British Columbia and Alberta to learn from the other owners what works for them and what challenges they face. Cheryl has also taken Distilling courses from Olds College.
Work began on the orchard with clearing the land – it was all bush – and planting crabapple trees, mostly 6-7-foot stock.
Cheryl took a horticultural course to familiarize herself with the plants so she could care for the properly.
They are trying to bring innovative ideas to the orchard such as their crabapple trees which are planted four feet apart, then the limbs tied down. It changes the hormone structure of the tree so they bear more fruit and put less energy into the growth.
And harvesting is easier, which is a bonus.
This year, they have planted 9,000 strawberry plants and 500 haskap bushes. Haskap is a member of the honeysuckle family. They are commonly used for wine but the Gordons will use them to flavour moonshine.
Other various bushes are also growing on site.
In the future, says Jamie, they have 80 acres where they can plant triticale [a hybrid between wheat and rye] which they use for whiskey, to make the operation totally self-sustaining.
The Gordons are focusing on selling their product locally at first before expanding – hopefully – into American markets. Why American and not Canadian?
“It’s hard to go across the Alberta border,” says Jamie.
Alberta distillers have long had issues with exporting their product to the east so the Gordons will focus on southern markets.
Meanwhile, they are very pleased that local stores and restaurants are willing to market and sell their product. They will also have products in AGLC’s liquor connect, so if you would like to try some of their products just ask at any Alberta liquor store and they will be able to order it for their shelves.
The Crabbie Goat is also receiving support from the M.D. of Greenview, who wants to promote their business as “an anchor” for agriculture tourism.
The Gordons want their business to be a destination which means they will offer more than the selling of liquor products.
They have a tasting room, where customers can sit and enjoy a handmade fruit or meat pie along with a cocktail or fresh berry milkshake, or pick up a jar of jam, salsa or other preserves made from their fresh garden fruit or vegetables.
“We really want it to be a true farm to plate experience,” says Cheryl.
Children can even enjoy visiting and watching the goats on site for their enjoyment.
The Gordon’s daughter, Shelly, operates the pie and tasting room and their son, Connor, tends to the orchard alongside two employees.
Check out The Crabbie Goat’s website at crabbiegoat.com or their Facebook page for product information, prices and hours of operation, or visit them in person at 22249 Township Road 704, just on the edge of Valleyview.