What comes to mind when you think of Alberta? Do you picture the Rocky Mountains, taste Alberta Beef, hear the cheers at the Rodeos, or smell the Canadian Chinese dish Ginger Beef? These are the first things that come to my mind, along with taking a sip of Hansen Distillery’s Moonshine.
Hansen Distillery itself is relatively new to Edmonton, but this family of entrepreneur’s history goes back 85 years. When visiting the distillery I fell back into time as Shayna toured us through her family’s moonshining history in the Lounge area. Then Kris showed us the grain to bottling process in the back. After at the bar we sampled their classic spirits and some seasonal favourites.
The first thing I noticed when we walked into the Hansen Distillery was the abundance of history. By the door sits Shayna’s Grandparent’s old car they drove in the 60’s with “Moonshiners” still visibly written across the side. In the corner of the lounge stood a replica Moonshine Shed, where they retired all the original family stills. Shayna walked us through time introducing us to her Great Grandparents, Amanda and Carl Hansen, the first generation of moonshiners. They emigrated from the States to become farmers here in Canada. When times got tough, they started horse-trading and selling moonshine on the side to get by. Decades later their son carried on the tradition, not selling it, but crafting moonshine to share with family and friends. Fast forward to today, Shayna and Kris, the wife and husband team, take crafting even further by making a complete selection of spirits.
The tour continued into the distillery where Kris explained all their ingredients are natural and mostly local. All the grain comes from their Stettler family farm. He uses natural spring water from the Claymore Spring. Even the cherries, honey, and many other botanicals used to flavour the rye and gin are local. He passionately walks us through all the steps and stages that go into creating their spirits. The process finishes with him hand corking and labeling the bottles. In the corner, he proudly showed us barrels stacked up to the ceiling. The top ones will be whiskey after sitting for 2 years. On the bottom rows a timer counts down to the day they will become the first Edmonton produced Canadian Whiskey.
I wasn’t planning on participating in the sampling finale of the tour. Past experiences with even sips of alcohol have left me violently ill. With this weird alcohol intolerance, there are only a few things I can have a drink of; single malt highland scotch and makkoli (Korean Rice Wine). With all the ingredients in Hansen Spirits being natural and the grains come from one source, I was curious to try it. I carefully took a little taste of each sample. I really enjoyed their Ring of Fire Rye infused with cinnamon sticks and chili flakes. Their Cherry Rye mostly uses sour cherries from the St Alberta area with a few British Columbia cherries to darken the colour. All those local natural ingredients secured a fresh cherry taste. At the end of the sampling session, I felt great; the spirits didn’t cause any issues. I am proud to add Hansen Spirits to my short list of things I can drink and enjoy.
With over half a century of moonshine making history in the province and use of local ingredients, this distillery is quintessentially Albertan. With their feet rooted in the past, the Hansen’s are always looking to the future. They recently released new cream liquors and are always experimenting and creating new spirits. In February of 2020, their Canadian Whiskey will be released for sale. Experience their journey for yourself; join them for a tour and taste of history.
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