Alberta has some of the best barley and grains in the world
“Alberta is the biggest producer of barley in the world,” says Farran, who adds that the province’s barley is also the “best in the world” thanks to the ready availability of glacier-fed streams, which produce a cleaner product than the water in most distilling regions. “A lot of it is the climate,” adds Widmer. “The latitude lends well to growing grains.”
Widmer says the region’s craft spirits are known for having a round, sweet, viscous texture. They’re distilled only a few times and include fewer sugary additives like juices and syrups, resulting in a cleaner, more organic spirit as compared to mass produced products from larger distilling conglomerates. “Bartenders like it because it offers more to the cocktails,” Widmer adds, with Farran noting that bars and restaurants in American cities like New York and Chicago have started to take note of Eau Claire’s quality, which has led to some of Eau Claire’s spirits becoming available in a few select American cities as well. The export is a first for an Alberta craft distillery, but it certainly won’t be the last.
Alberta also occupies prime real estate in what is known as “the barley triangle,” says Callum Mudd of Canmore’s RAW Distillery, which is currently in the midst of an expansion. “Two of the largest malting companies in the world are in Alberta,” he says, adding that the local craft distilling operations are starting to take some of the business away from long standing large-scale operations in the region like Alberta Distillers Ltd., a unit of Beam Suntory. Craft distilling is starting to play a role similar to the role craft beer played when it started making major dents into the corporate beer business about a decade ago.