November 27, 2018
Tucked away in a nondescript industrial zone in Calgary’s Bonnybrook-Alyth area in the city’s southeast is the largest distiller in Alberta. The area surrounding Alberta Distillers was once flush with grains like barley and wheat waving in the Chinook winds. Those grains were more than just adjacent farmers fields; they were for many years used in this distillation process. Today, the horses and the combines are gone, replaced by quonset huts and brick warehouses, but the scent of distilled grains still wafts over the neighbourhood. The aroma is a combination of sweet and toasty, and if you look up as you inhale, you’ll see you’re surrounded by towering grain storage bins that have existed here since day one.
Alberta Distillers: Part of Calgary’s history
This is a heritage site in Calgary; the spot where the province’s first and oldest distillery sprang from those fields in 1946, conceived by oil magnate Frank McMahon, who was dubbed, “the man who did the most to open up northwest Canada's wilderness—and convince oilmen of its treasures,” in a 1957 TIME magazine article.
In the beginning, the operation was known as Alberta Distillers & Featherstone, but after running into some trouble making their products, McMahon turned to B.C.-based distiller George H. Reifel, who’d spent many years working his distillery craft in Japan after prohibition made him persona non grata at home in Canada.
Makers of Premium Alberta Spirits
Alberta Distillers has grown significantly since those days. Today they produce spirits like Alberta Premium and Dark Horse Canadian whisky, Alberta Springs whisky, Alberta Pure and Banff Ice vodkas and more, and their products are found at Co-op Wine Spirits Beer stores.
Strolling around through the massive distillery, it’s easy to see Alberta Distillers are pros at what they do. The distillery floor is immaculate, and 2-storey tall fermenting tanks dominate the cavernous space. Climbing up a set of stairs, it’s possible to peer inside these steel behemoths and watch as the contents bubble and dance their way to becoming whisky and vodka.
Leading the tour is Greg Wynnyk, Production Superintendent at Alberta Distillers’ parent company, Beam Suntory. As he weaves his way along the floor, it’s clear he’s passionate about his work.
“I love the opportunity to practise biochemical engineering on a large scale and to produce a product the general public gets to enjoy. For me it’s about art and science; there’s a lot of science involved to get it right, and it’s definitely an art form too.”
Precious Liquids Age on Site
Across the property the barrelling hall is where some of the precious liquids get stored so they can age. Inside, the smell is a pungent mix of caramel and whisky that gives a visitor a big hint about the work that’s going on here.
Adjacent, a massive rack house is where the barrels are stored until they’re aged precisely. Stacked floor to ceiling, there are over 450,000 barrels on site in several houses, and the smell of whisky is almost overwhelming; we can only stay a few moments inside before seeking fresh air.
Nearly a Quarter Century of Local Partnership
For almost a quarter of a century, Alberta Distillers has been providing quality products to Co-op customers.
“We have been working closely with Co-op Wine Spirits Beer since they opened in 1995, and I think we both realize the importance of the “Made Local” concept,” says Simon Mooney, Key Accounts Manager at Beam Suntory Canada. “Co-op is an integral part of the Calgary community and so is Alberta Distillers; we both strive to serve the community and its people and provide the best of what we do. Co-op has been a long-time champion of our award winning brands and that relationship continues to this day.”
The grains used in many of Alberta Distillers spirits are local too; since Alberta is known as one of the finest quality grain producers in the world, it only makes sense to access this high quality resource. While they no longer originate from those fields next door, these great grains combined with the experience and know-how has led to Alberta Distillers being announced as the 2017 Canadian Distiller of the Year.
Find many of the fine Alberta Distillery products at your local Co-op Wine Spirits Beer.
Father’s Day is just around the corner. Rather than hosting another basic cookout this year, throw him a party as special as he is.
However you choose to refer to it—May long, May two-four, Victoria Day weekend—May long weekend is the first official marker of summer.
At Co-op Wine Spirits Beer, we know you want quality products and are also looking for the best value.
This Valentine’s Day will be less fabulous dinner out in a packed restaurant and more cozy evening in at home.
While we may not get to spend the holidays physically together, we can at least share the moment virtually.
There is nothing quite like the perfect cocktail to set the mood for the holidays.
Co-op Wine Spirits Beer Sommelier Coordinator Katherine Mindach has some advice for cooking with alcohol:
There’s something about the holidays that lets us all feel like we can indulge.
Thanksgiving may look a little different this year. If you’re able to get together with family this year or you’ve got a safe bubble you’re...
At first glance, a distillery named after one of the monsters of the Mesozoic might seem a bit strange.
Summer is the season of the gin & tonic, but gin is great in many more cocktails and summer sips; the French 75 or the...
Canada Day is right around the corner, but the coronavirus pandemic is still in the back of our minds, and physical distancing guidelines are in...
Hidden in a low key industrial area in Calgary’s Bonnybrook-Alyth area in the city’s southeast is the largest distiller in the province.
Spring is a time for rebirth, regeneration and of course for kicking back and enjoying the outdoors.
Alberta’s first craft distillery is showing no signs of slowing down.
You’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but if you wanted to judge a bottle by its label, the bottles from Bridgeland...
It seems every few years there’s a drink that’s so on trend it starts showing up everywhere.
The Irish know how to celebrate! While Canadians do pour a few drinks on Canada Day, our national occasion pales in comparison to the worldwide...
If you or anyone in your family is a die-hard football fan, you’re likely already planning for the biggest game of the year.
Sometimes even the warmest sweater layered under a cozy coat isn’t enough to ward off that chill you get from being outdoors.
When we think vodka, we often think ‘martini’, and for good reason.The martini is easily one of the classiest, sexiest cocktails you can enjoy.
The holidays can be an overwhelming time of year. Between gift buying, trip planning, gift wrapping and holiday gatherings, there is barely any time to breathe.
Let’s admit it—for many of us, one of the exciting things about the holidays is the opportunity to share fun and festive drinks with friends.
As you’re working away at your holiday shopping list, there’s always a few folks who are hard to buy for.
If you’re tasked with making a dish for a holiday potluck, you might be wondering if you should bring the same old tired spinach dip.
You have to admit there’s something especially festive about the idea of baking cookies around the holidays.
Are you the planner in your family or at the office? If you’re just not up for being the host or the organizer again this...
The holidays are just around the corner and in today’s globetrotting society, so many of us live far away from our families and friends.
If you’re the type of person who throws awesome holiday parties you’ll want to make sure your supplies are in order.
Looking for a little something different? Want a beverage that feels a little festive this holiday season? Fallentimber Meadery has some extra special offerings that...
The colour blue has had a long and fascinating history. While blue is one of the primary colours, and the top ‘favourite’ colour of people...
Plenty of us take a vacation, then try to recreate that magic when we get home.
For some people, just the mention of the word gin is enough to elicit groans, shudders and memories of the drink that earned the nicknames,...
Like many folks in Calgary’s burgeoning brewing and distilling industry, Ross Alger started out making his own libations at home.
There’s not that many times in the year when you can enjoy a bright green cocktail without turning some heads, but St.
Whether you’re whipping up a few drinks for you and your date after a Valentine’s Day dinner, hosting a single ladies night in, or you’re...
On January 25th, Scots around the world will celebrate the 260th birthday of legendary poet Robert “Robbie” Burns.
Do you take sugar in your coffee? How many? One? Maybe two or three? Would you drink your coffee with six, or even ten sugars...
The holidays are for dressing up – how about dressing up our drinks for the festive season too?
When we think of cognac, brandy and port, sometimes we think these are outdated libations, served in the 60’s and 70’s at lavish retro cocktail...
The holiday season is a time to celebrate, and celebrations usually include some great mixed drinks.
There’s something about brown liquor that makes you feel all warm inside.
As the weather gets crisper and the leaves begin to turn, it’s time to prepare gratifying seasonal drinks that’ll warm you from the inside out.
You’ve probably never really noticed them dotting landscapes, hugging fence lines, or edging yards and parks before.
Thanksgiving is the perfect time to get together with family and friends, and while there’s always lots of catching up to do, once that’s over,...
There are two kinds of vodka people: the purists who seek out the finest, clearest, crispest, near-flavourless vodka for making the perfect chilled martini, and...
Bryce Parsons is on a mission: to rid the world of awful gin memories.
Alberta’s burgeoning spirits industry is an amazing thing. Thanks to changes in liquor laws a few years ago, more and more Albertans have been able...
We all know how refreshing a cold cocktail can be on a hot summer’s day.
It might seem unusual to draw parallels between working a drilling rig in Alberta’s oil patch and distilling liquor, but as it turns out, they’re...
There’s no doubt about it – it’s hot! Typical piña coladas and shaken margaritas are always a great way to quench that summer thirst, but...
The Calgary Stampede is many things; officially it's a chance to take in the rodeo and celebrate community spirit through shows, rides, events, and pancake breakfasts.
If you're struggling with what to get your dad as a Father's Day gift this year because he's one of those dads who has everything...
Everyone dreams of quitting their job and doing their dream gig, but few people actually have the gumption to pull it off once, let alone twice.
With some movies coming out this season, you might have superheroes on the mind.
Not many families can say their passion is moonshine.
For many Canadians, St Patrick’s Day is an excuse to wear green, while kids cut shamrocks from paper and fashion cardboard leprechaun hats.
Co-op Wine Spirits Beer is more than just a store. It’s an experience. Shop here and you’ll get education, assistance, and great customer service.
The Academy Awards or the Oscars are known as the biggest night in Hollywood.
February may seem like the dead of winter, but it's actually a month of wonderful celebrations.
It's the sporting event that outdoes all other sporting events — with the possible exception of the World Cup of soccer, some might say.
It's resolution time! And if yours is to make smarter choices and maybe cut back on some vices, we've got some ideas when it comes...
The food is picked out, your place is all set up, you even have a sweet playlist ready.
You don’t need to be a pro bartender to make a show-stealing cocktail this holiday season.
What does a gift card, a rare bottle of scotch, and a taster pack of beer all have in common? They all make great gifts,...
Handling all the drinks for your holiday party can be daunting.
Pumpkin, apples and cinnamon is what comes to mind when I think of Fall drinks.
For the fifth year in a row, Co-op Wine Spirits Beer is hosting their World of Whisky Festival that brings together top international whiskies, industry...
There are many ways to serve whisky: neat, on the rocks, or in a fancy cocktail like a Manhattan or Old Fashioned.
The Cider Insider
Alberta Whisky Canadian laws state that whisky must be aged for a minimum of three years.
This week, Canadians will celebrate the 150th anniversary of our dominion formation, when the country established its confederation in 1867.
As the end of our journey exploring Canada’s bounty of alcoholic beverages draws near, we want to go out with a splash.
From gin, to vodka and even that favourite of the tropics, rum, Alberta is producing an amazing variety of spirits.
It’s been 150 years since Canada’s Confederation, and a notable reason to celebrate our great country.
We’ve got the rolling prairies, the towering Rockies and a reputation for being the friendliest province in the country.
For whisky drinkers, there is a distinguished history that is truly Canadian.
A good cocktail is the perfect way to celebrate any holiday and with our nations 150th birthday upon us, I've combed the country for some...
When we think of the Prairies, we think rolling hills, miles upon miles of wheat, soybeans or corn blowing in the wind and a horizon...
There’s more than just scotch at the new World of Whisky store in downtown Calgary.
In this year of celebrating 150 years of our great nation, we will pause and reflect on many things that make our nation great. Like hockey.
Ontario is home to dozens of successful, unique, and award-winning distilleries.
For some, it's the de facto centre of the universe for Canada, but others cast a more wary eye on Ontario, which can often be...
Quebec plays a starring role in Canada’s history (some of Canada’s earliest settlements were Quebec City in 1608, and Montreal in 1642).
Some of the most famous 'Canadian' foods have their origins in La Belle Province.
As we get ready to celebrate 150 years of Confederation, there are great beverages that have marked good times over the years, including the Pop Shoppe.
This unique, artisanal micro-distillery has earned a reputation as a ‘must see’ for tourists and locals alike! Located in Montreal’s Sud-Ouest district, Cirka distillery is...
When the world’s largest ice cubes float past your door each day, you might have a different outlook on life, and cocktails.
There is a long-standing tradition on Canada's East Coast. When there's a celebration to be had, Maritimers throw a kitchen party or ceilidh (pronounced kay-lee).
Canada’s Maritime provinces aren’t just known for their amazing seafood, but also their love of spirits.
Calgary Co-op's World of Whisky store sells some of the rarest and most expensive bottles of scotch in the world.
PUNCH ROMAINE As served in First Class on the RMS Titanic1egg white1 ounce white rum1 ounce white wine1/2 ounce simple syrup1/2 ounce lemon juice1 ounce...
Cinco de Mayo - or the fifth of May – is a celebration to commemorate the Mexican army’s 1862 victory during the Franco-Mexican War.
Calgary is now home to one of the most unique whisky retailers in North America.
It’s the first of its kind on Canada and was nearly three years in the making.
You Can Escape the Winter Blahs
Rum has long been known as the spirit of the Caribbean Islands and Latin America and is one of the most enjoyed and loved spirits...
Sipping on a warm coffee cocktail at the end of your day, or after a great meal is one of life's decadent pleasures.
We love to raise your spirits.There are endless possibilities for enjoying the offerings of the world.
Mixologist and bartenders the world over have been making some of our most beloved cocktails with this juniper infused spirit since the original cocktail era...