YEG Guide: A Day on 124 Street

Mural by Jill Stanton

Edmonton is a city filled with small pockets of community. 124 Street is definitely one of those spots. If you were driving by on a regular day, it might not strike you immediately as the place to be. It doesn’t have the same historic vibe of Whyte Avenue and it’s not situated right in the downtown core like 104 Street, but it is long-established, bridging the neighbourhoods of Oliver and Westmount as well as Glenora to the west.

I grew up around here, and it’s still one of my favourite areas to visit. With businesses lining the road all the way from Jasper Avenue down to 111 Avenue before turning primarily residential, there’s something for everyone who stops by.

Here are my recommendations for a day on 124 Street:

 

Breakfast or Brunch

The frittata with multigrain toast.

Urban Diner (12427 102 Avenue)

This is a staple of High Street. It’s a go to spot for weekend brunch with the line sometimes out the door. But, it’s hearty food that will fill you right up.

The interior of Canteen…very modern and industrial.

Canteen (10522 124 Street)

To be fair, I’ve only ever been here for dinner, so I can’t necessarily speak to brunch. However, their evening menu is fantastic and I’ve heard nothing but good things about the weekend fare.

Snickerdoodle, Strawberry Cheesecake, Birthday Cake, All the Reese, Ode to Sunshine and Triple Play

Destination Doughnuts (10548 124 Street)

If you’re more the type to get a grab and go snack for breakfast at Timmies, this might be for you. It’s just a much more indulgent version of the yeasty treat. Flavours like the Triple Play (hickory sticks, ripple chips, and caramel on chocolate glaze), Strawberry Cheesecake, or Snickerdoodle will have you coming back for more in no time.

 

Shopping

Arturo Denim (10443 124 Street)

My fiancé and I happened upon this workshop at random while walking along 124 Street one day. Turns out that they make denim jeans locally right from this small space. Upon purchasing, they will provide free tailoring to ensure a perfect fit. I mentioned the business to a friend of mine and she swears by them. They also sell some other vintage clothing as well as fun pins and patches.

Henry’s Purveyor of Fine Things (10247 124 Street)

This shop has been located around this neighbourhood for as long as I can remember. They provide interior design services alongside ample eclectic home decor to make your house a home. The styles on offer vary, allowing customers to mix and match to their own tastes.

Listen Records (10443a 124 Street)

This is a haven for LP lovers; the racks are stuffed with music from all genres. They sell both new and used items, and if you have anything you want to pass along, feel free to bring it by to see if they’ll buy it off of you.

Red Ribbon (12505 102 Avenue)

Open since 2002, founder and owner Rychelle has carefully curated her shop to include clothes, accessories, and gifts for women, men, and children. I have always loved poking around the underground store looking for a new treasure.

Salgado Fenwick (10842 124 Street)

Originally more of a market find, these small-batch silk-screened garment makers decided to open up a storefront about 4 years ago. Not only will you find limited edition printed tops and accessories, but you can also pop in for a coffee at Barking Buffalo Cafe, which shares the same space.

So Pretty Cara Cotter (10120 124 Street)

Previously, local jewelry designer Cara Cotter focused on growing her business internationally with by appointment only meetings available in her Edmonton studio. Yet, recently, she partnered with Pura Botanicals to open a joint flagship store. There, you’ll find beautifully crafted pieces made with semi-precious stones, solid 925 sterling silver, 18K gold, rose gold, and gunmetal vermeil (heavy plated over sterling silver).

The Prints and The Paper (10725 124 Street)

I love this shop! Looking for something unique for your home? This is the place to go. They showcase numbered limited edition silkscreen prints signed by the artist alongside vintage Edmonton imagery and maps. They can custom frame pieces for you, too. While you’re there, take a gander at their collection of books, travel guides, and cards. The center counter holds it all while allowing patrons to peruse at their leisure by providing stools along the perimeter for them to sit and flip through everything.

124 Grand Market

Located at 108 Avenue and 124 Street on Thursdays between 4pm and 8pm, this outdoor market runs from early-May to early-October. On Sundays from 11am to 3pm between June to September, the market moves to 102 Avenue and 124 Street. You’ll find a number of local makers setting up their tents every week. Everything from fresh floral bouquets to preserves and baked goods to clothes, there’s something to interest the whole family.

 

Midday Snacks & Treats

Key Lime Tart from Duchess Bake Shop

Duchess Bake Shop (10718 124 Street)

It’s impossible to make a list about 124 Street without including this world-renowned bakery. If you’re nearby, stop in to have a croissant sandwich for a light lunch, or pick up dessert. My personal favourite is the key lime tart, but their macarons and shortbread cookies are fantastic as well. On a hot day, pop over for a pint of their newly launched line of ice cream!

Cococo Chocolatier Bernard Callebaut (10103 124 Street)

Treat yourself to some Canadian-made chocolates and then sit down in their cafe over a beverage or a cup of gelato. It’s a relaxing spot with some free parking right in front.

Remedy Cafe (10310 124 Street)

One of Edmonton’s greatest success stories is this cafe. They’ve now expanded to 6 locations citywide, including their spot on 124 Street. Known for their chai lattes (I enjoy the lassis, too) and samosas, they also cater to those with food sensitivities and dietary restrictions by offering many gluten/dairy-free and vegan friendly Indian and Pakistani meals in addition to a variety of drinks and desserts.

 

Activities

Table Top Cafe 2.0 filled will customers on a Saturday evening.

Table Top Cafe (10235 124 Street)

Well-stocked with board games, this is the ideal spot to gather with friends and family for some old-fashioned fun away from electronics. For just $7 per person, you can stay and play for as long as you want. They even serve beverages (alcoholic included), snacks, and sandwiches to keep everyone energized. Plus, if you really love a game, they may have new packages in stock to take home.

Instagrammable Walls Walk

This area is home to a number of interesting and colourful murals. There’s one by artist Jill Stanton (10803 124 Street; see photo at the top of this post), another that maps the neighbourhood on the wall of Peter Robertson Gallery (104 Avenue and 124 Street), a third showcases the city skyline (108 avenue and 124 Street), and there’s also a geometric piece with animals tucked on the side of the building that houses Meuwly’s (10706 124 Street). You’ll discover many more photo ops in the vicinity. You just need to keep your eyes peeled for walls that can make good backdrops. They’re literally everywhere!

Gallery Tour

Sometimes 124 Street is called the Gallery District because, in the span of just a two-block radius between 103 and 104 Avenues, you’ll come across nine out of the ten located in this neighbourhood. Included are Bearclaw Gallery, Bugera Matheson Gallery, The Front Gallery, Lando Gallery, Lotus Cafe & Gallery, Peter Robertson Gallery, Scott Gallery, Udell Xhibitions, Wakina Gallery (10632 124 Street; may be by appointment only), and West End Gallery. Twice a year, seven of the businesses participate in an official Gallery Walk, opening their doors for a celebration of art. The next one is scheduled for Fall 2019 from September 21 to 22, but feel free to visit any other time during regular hours.

 

Dinner & Late Night

Dipping the Croque Mon’Soubise’ in sauce.

Partake (12431 102 Avenue)

Delectable rustic French cuisine in a cozy and inviting space. That’s how I’d describe Partake. It’s fairly new to the restaurant scene in Edmonton, but it was brought to life by the same owners of Urban Diner and the recently closed (lease was up) The Manor. They’ve got years of experience up their sleeves and the thought that they’ve put into this menu shows. Walk-ins only, so if you’re close, pop your head in and see if they have space to accommodate. You’ll certainly want to linger over the food and cocktails once you’re there.

Tagliatelle Florentine

Nuovo Bistro (10721 124 Street)

Want a hearty meal of Italian pasta? This is a great local spot. The dishes are flavourful and filling, and while the venue is small, it’s friendly. The place is also quiet enough to carry on a conversation while still being somewhat lively. They also have decent daily promotions such as half off appetizers on Sundays.

Super Combination Platter for Two

Cosmos Greek Kitchen (10812 124 Street)

Just get the Super Combination Platter. If there are three or four of you, go for the platter for two. It should be enough to feed everyone. Kirk and I ordered this for the pair of us and it fed both of us for almost three days!

Butter paneer (or chicken) is perfect during the winter months.

Nosh Cafe (10235 124 Street)

Right next to the aforementioned Table Top Cafe is this Indian restaurant. It’s my go to for a quick meal of butter chicken or palak paneer. They also have a daily wing and beer special that’s perfect for a midday snack.

The dining room of RGE RD.

RGE RD (10643 123 Street)

When you have time and money to spare, go here. Take the Road Trip, a multi-course meal that starts at $89 per person. The chef will take your palate on a journey from the east to west coasts of the country.

Arcadia Bar (10988 124 Street)

This is a very intimate bar with minimal seating. But, they stick to local brews and they’re open late Thursdays to Saturdays.

Edmonton Event Review: Share the Flair Pin & Patch Show

My Share the Flair haul!

This past Saturday, Edmonton’s first show devoted to pins and patches was held. Called Share the Flair, organizers Julie Morrison of Majesty and Friends, Jenny Chan of Hop & Flop, Emilia Housch of Light of the Moon Pins, and Courtenay McKay of JOJO & GUN put together the one-day event to showcase this revitalized form of miniature art. I remember collecting pins as a child, so this was pretty nostalgic for me.

In essence, each piece of metal or fabric purchased supports the creators’ ideas and allows the buyer to express a bit of their personality. At Acacia Masonic Hall just off of Whyte Avenue and 104 Street, it seemed that locals were more than excited and ready for something like this.

Waiting in line to get through those doors. Even this point, it was another 20 to 30 minutes.

Many, including myself, lined up down the block for well over an hour just to get in the doors. Apparently, some enthusiasts were even waiting outside by 7:30am, two and a half hours before the show was to launch. I arrived just 15 minutes before the ten o’clock start and was impressed at the turn out for an inaugural event. They estimated that 500-600 people would come by, but I’m guessing that they probably surpassed that.

Finally made it close to the entrance!

By the time I got to the table to pay my entrance fee of $4, all of the one hundred swag bags had already been handed out. I’m not entirely sure what was in each of them, but the Instagram posts on the Share the Flair page indicated that there was plenty of fun stuff that had been provided for those early birds. During the wait, volunteers also gave away complimentary cotton candy as a treat.

My bingo card and a volunteer making cotton candy.

On the plus side, everyone who made it through the doors got to earn a little something extra with their ingenious idea of bingo cards. For every purchase made from the twenty or so vendors, a stamp was placed on the card. If you got a full row, column or diagonal line, you got to spin the wheel at a table that was filled with freebies from sponsors and participating merchants.

Freebie pins from the table at the entrance.

There was plenty of creative talent there, all of them based out of Edmonton and surrounding areas. As much as I wanted to buy something from every single one of them, I had to stick to a budget. So, I sadly missed out on the anatomical heart from Majesty and Friends as well as the crows and teacup owl from Sabtastic (I’ll pick those up down the road) and the gorgeous hand-sawn copper pieces from Smithstine (more expensive than the average manufactured pin because of the nature of how they’re made), which were added to Kristine MacDonald’s line specifically for Share the Flair.

Still, with most pieces ranging from $8 to $15 each, I walked away with a treasure trove of new pins from the aforementioned Hop & Flop and JOJO & GUN, my good friend Lea St John who is known as La Petite Watson for her work (and “Experience Explorista” travel blog), Paws the Cat Cafe, and artists Crystal Driedger, Jess from Daymare, and Jacinda Cote from Story Wild Studios. Additionally, I indulged in a couple sweet treats from Caramunchies (they had branded pins for sale).

I’m not sure yet when the second Share the Flair show will be, but give them a follow or like on social media to keep in the loop. My hope for the next event is that they’ll have an expanded venue (with some air conditioning), so that they can accommodate more vendors and a larger capacity of people at once to reduce the overall wait time. It’s not often that I’ll stand in a line for more than an hour and a half. I just really wanted to support my friend and the community on this initial go round.

Congrats to everyone who organized, sponsored and volunteered for Share the Flair. You did a phenomenal job with planning and executing this event. I think it’s going to be a mainstay of the annual Edmonton arts scene going forward!

Edmonton Things To Do & Event Review: Christmas Glow

Lit up displays are found throughout the Christmas Light Gardens

If you follow any other popular Edmonton bloggers on social media, it’s likely that you’ve already heard of this. But, Christmas Glow is new this year, and it’s touted as the largest indoor festival of its kind around the city. I was fed a paid post on Instagram back in at the end of September. Since they were offering a discount (approximately 35 per cent off) as an early bird deal, I decided to grab a couple of tickets for me and Kirk to attend on my birthday. At $35.88 for both of us, I thought it might be worth the visit.

Santa’s Reindeers

Flash forward two months later, and it was finally here. We drove all the way to the Enjoy Centre in St. Albert on a Thursday night, hoping we’d make it for our timed entry (we chose the 6pm to 7pm slot). When we turned on to Riel Drive, everything slowed to a crawl. The venue does have a decent amount of parking, but cars were also lined up and down each side of the street. Thankfully, we managed to find something along the road. Thus, we walked a couple of blocks to get to the building. Although, once in the vicinity of the parking lot, we did notice a handful of spots, so patience may reward you.

Upon entering the building, we turned to our right towards the Moonflower Room. That’s where Hole’s typically holds a lot of large events. Plus, in the summertime, it’s where they run their garden market. All in, there is 60,000 square feet of space available, and Christmas Glow used every bit of it, including the greenhouse that is usually blocked off from the public whenever I’ve been there.

This is in the Christmas Light Gardens. Look at the reflection in the glass ceiling!

As we approached the door, I noticed that there was absolutely no one waiting to get inside. Three or four staff were standing about just looking for something to do. One of them eagerly waved us over, and, without even looking at the date or time on our ticket, she scanned them and told us to have fun. The minute we stepped through the threshold, I was overwhelmed. The place was insanely packed with people. They had fit in a few food stands to the left of us, so there were multiple lines snaking around. In the very middle of the main area was a grouping of tables where patrons could enjoy live entertainment on stage. Every single seat was occupied. To the right was a gift shop that seemed to belong to the Enjoy Centre. All the way at the very back of the room was the Glow-camotive, a small train that circles around it’s allotted zone.

We attempted to zoom past all of that without tripping over anyone, and entered the Christmas Light Gardens. Cordoned into different areas, there, you’ll find a licensed bar, interactive hanging lights (this was quite magical, especially with the reflection in the glass ceiling), Santa, glowing swings, mistletoe, light up hopscotch, a horse-drawn carriage, Disney-themed princesses, a musical light tunnel, and numerous other displays. Totaling over a million LED lights, it’s quite impressive. I certainly appreciated the work that went into it. Kirk and I got some pretty great photo ops in there. However, it was also over crowded. They say that they’ve sold tickets using time slots to help control that issue, but once people are in, they can stay as long as they want, and it seemed to me it was getting busier and busier as the night progressed.

Many of the children were super excited (I understand; I was a kid once, too), and that’s okay. Yet, I was practically mowed over by a few who weren’t watching where they were going, so needless to say this wasn’t exactly my cup of tea. With everything mentioned above, as well as a Magic Castle Playground and an area to write letters to Santa, Christmas Glow is definitely geared heavily towards families and kids. That’s not to say that it’s an absolute no go for childless adults (to the organizers, please consider adding adult nights in the future!). It’s just probably best for those with a lot more patience than I possess. I was only able to handle this for about an hour and then I had to go. I simply want to be honest about my personal feelings towards the whole thing. I’m glad that I went and had the opportunity to do so. Unfortunately, it didn’t turn out to be my favourite event.

We rarely have photos together.

It wasn’t a total loss though, I did find something in the pop-up Christmas Market that was anchored by The Makers Keep. Kirk bought me the cutest print, titled “High Flyer,” of a narwhal flying with the help of a bunch of balloons from art and stationary company, Paper Canoe. That was a lovely birthday present.

Me with my new print from Paper Canoe!

If my thoughts on Christmas Glow haven’t deterred you from going, you can still buy tickets through their website. It’s running until January 19. They are closed every Sunday, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Eve. The rest of the time, they’re open from 4pm to 10pm Monday to Friday, and they start an hour earlier at 3pm on Saturdays. From December 10 to 12, they continue to offer discounted tickets at 25 per cent off available with promo code EDMONTON25. Dates that remain after will be regularly priced ($22.99 per adult; $16.99 for seniors, and children 4-12; free under 3 years of age; $69.99 for a family with 2 adults and up to 3 kids/seniors). You’ll also save a couple of bucks by ordering online versus purchasing at the gate. Happy holidays!

YEG Local Holiday Gift Guide 2018

What’s going to end up under our tree this year?

Christmas is only a month away now. I’m guessing a lot of you are like me, and you probably didn’t plan far in advance on this year’s presents. With just 30 days left to shop, it’s getting down to the wire. If you have family and friends similar to mine, you may be having a difficult time narrowing things down. Personally, I prefer to gift them with something that’s both fun and useful. But, the older I get, I realize that there isn’t a whole lot that I need anymore, and, whatever I really want, I tend to buy. The same goes for those I know.

What I think works well, though, are products that come from businesses in our own community. Supporting and showcasing your favourite local shops and makers is a great way to spread the word and help these entrepreneurs grow economically while simultaneously sharing what you enjoy with people you love.

In no particular order, I thought I’d highlight several of my top picks here. A number of them were selected for inclusion in the 2018 Edmonton Made Gifted Catalog, and most can be found around the city at various markets, stockists, and their own storefronts or even online.

Evoolution

I recently wrote a blog post about Evoolution’s fantastic tasting events. Those are held monthly at both their downtown Edmonton and St. Albert locations. Tickets to upcoming evenings are available through Eventbrite ($35 per person + tax). With an educational component as well as a full 3-course meal, they’re an excellent value. Alternatively, you can pick up full-size or miniature bottles of their delicious olive oils and balsamic vinegars as a gift for the cooks in your life. The quality is incomparable and anyone who enjoys spending time in the kitchen will appreciate these fine products.

On a side note, we are currently running a contest on our YEG Food Deals Facebook and Instagram pages. Head to both sites where you can enter to win a pair of tickets to the next Evoolution tasting event happening at the 104 Street shop on Tuesday, December 4. The giveaway is open until 11:59pm MT on Wednesday, November 28.

Complimentary mini bottles of olive oil and balsamic vinegar were given to each guest.

Ochre Lea

I first came across this designer at the Made Local shop on 101 Avenue and 122 Street (I believe this is now closed). I love the whimsical designs that are carefully screen printed on beautifully tanned pieces of leather and then crafted into mason jar holders. The workmanship is impeccable, and they look as though they can withstand quite a bit. Best of all, sustainability has been kept in mind. Everything can be taken apart, which means the metal and glass jar of the mason is recyclable, and the leather is also compostable once the rivets are removed. The 16 ounce size is $35 and a 24 ounce option rings in at $40. Ochre Lea also makes some fantastic letterpress stationary, too. Find these products at the Royal Bison Art & Craft Fair from November 30-December 2 and December 7-9.

Leather Travel Masons by Ochre Lea

Marc Nipp Illustration & Design

I found Marc Nipp’s (a.k.a. El Designo) table at the Edmonton Made show earlier this fall, and I had to go back to get a print of his City of Edmonton Pinball Poster ($25). It’s just a playful representation of our home. Some things are a cheeky take on what we hate about this place, but most of the highlights are pretty great. He’ll be representing at the Royal Bison Art & Craft Fair from December 7-9, or some of Marc’s artwork is also for sale at the Alberta Branded store inside the Edmonton Federal Building. You can also purchase items online through his Zazzle and Etsy shops.

My purchased City of Edmonton Pinball Poster.

Smithstine Copper

Kristine MacDonald is the artist behind the gorgeous copper jewelry and accessories (ranging from $30 to $200), which often have an Edmonton or Albertan theme. She’s recently branched out by mixing other metals in with her usual medium of copper to make distinctive and timeless pieces that will likely be passed down for generations. Additionally, Kristine has started working with enamels, bringing in vibrant shots of colour to some of her hand sawn work. While it may be too late to have something custom made by Christmas (consider that for another time though), you’ll find a variety of pre-made samples at the Royal Bison Art & Craft Fair from November 30-December 2 and December 7-9 as well as on her online shop.

These brass money clips are simple, but meaningful.

Bro Brick

Bro Brick marketed themselves as soap for men with scents to match. Don’t get me wrong though, they do smell great. Rum & Coke and Wasabi & Beer are my choices ($10.50 per bar). They also have shaving soap, moustache wax, and hair/beard balms. All of their products are handmade using plant based oils, so they’re vegan friendly. They’ve now branched out with smaller Chick Bricks for the ladies ($8.50 each). Find them at the Royal Bison Art & Craft Fair from November 30-December 2 or at the Hand2Hand Christmas Market on December 1. Items can also be purchased online directly through their website.

My Sunshine Creations

I don’t currently have any children, but I have a lot of friends with kids. My Sunshine Creations makes some of the most adorable clothing, including unisex cardigans (with matching ones for moms) and comfy looking bum pants. But, what gives me cuteness overload are the baby mocs ($22) and water mocs ($25-$29). There’s just something about tiny shoes for little feet that make me melt. They come in a bevy of colourful designs, so there’s going to be a pair to suit every little boy or girl out there. Order online through the link above.

Baby mocs galore!

Justine Ma

With sassy enameled pins, baby onesies, cake toppers, ornaments, mugs, and cards, Justine Ma won me over. There are products that are pretty and PG13 as well, but it’s the ones that get a little colourful with the language that I love the most. Shop online at the link above, or visit the stores listed here. Justine will also be at the Royal Bison Art & Craft Fair from December 7-9.

Escape City

Even after playing close to two dozen escape rooms across Edmonton, I never get tired of them. There are still a bunch that I have left to tackle, including Escape City’s newest game, Frank’s Revenge. This business does a wonderful job with all of their adventures. Every single room is challenging and immersive. It’s definitely in my top three when it comes to this type of activity. If you know of someone who would rather have a unique experience over something material, this might be perfect for them. Pick up a gift card from Escape City during their regular hours.

We excelled at Neurological!

Brickbubble

I’ve been following Brickbubble on social media for a long time. Run by Diane and Mike who are graphic artists, they’ve utilized their talents to create a number of handmade items ranging from ornaments to jewelry and cutting boards to decor. They specialize in custom work that is often laser cut and engraved, but they also have a lot of ready to go pieces that are perfect for the holidays and speak to the Canadian in us.

Hansen Distillery

I’ve been backing Hansen Distillery since I attended a tour of their facilities and a tasting session back in February. After four generations of moonshiners in their family, Shayna Hansen and Kris Sustrik went legit and opened Hansen Distillery about two years ago. They’ve quickly amassed popularity with their cream liqueurs and cherry rye, and for good reason. They’re delicious to sip on their own and just as great for use in cocktails. Treat a connoisseur of spirits to a tour and tasting ($10.50 per person), or grab a bottle or two of their best sellers to put under the tree.

Edmonton Business Review: Hansen Distillery

A bit of family history before being led into the production area.

Opened mid-December of 2016, Hansen Distillery was, by a slim margin, the second producer to enter the Edmonton market. Strathcona Spirits beat them to the punch by just a day. Although, to their advantage, Hansen Distillery has been welcoming customers through their doors from the very start.

Located in the west end of the city at 174 Street and 111 Avenue, their warehouse and retail space sits in the middle of a largely industrial area, which would be easy to miss. Nevertheless, the shop’s sweet lounge (available Tuesday to Saturday) as well as the tour and tasting offered Thursdays to Saturdays have given locals a great reason to pop by and expand their knowledge and palates.

Back around the Christmas holidays, I was given a certificate for two people to attend a tour and tasting at Hansen Distillery. I had been meaning to redeem it for a while, but I ended up holding onto it. Upon researching potential wedding venues in the new year, I came across their retail space as an option. I decided to reach out to owner Shayna Hansen to inquire about renting it out. Since I’d never been there, I thought it would be a wonderful opportunity to use my voucher and to preview the place in person at the same time.

My fiancé and I were scheduled in for the 2:00pm slot on a Saturday afternoon. When we arrived, there were no formalities. We were simply asked if we were there for the tour and when we nodded in confirmation, we were told that we could just relax until the rest of the group made it in. As we waited for things to start, I walked around the room snapping photos. For a business that has only been open for a little over a year, they have certainly done a fantastic job with the branding. The custom logos, signage, metalwork and bar are a perfect mix of rustic and industrial design. Along with that, history and Albertan roots are hammered home here.

Several minutes later, our tour kicked off with Shayna talking about her family’s long tradition. Moonshiners go back four generations to her great grandparents who made it through World War I only to have to deal with the Great Depression. In those years, the spirits were made as a means of trading for food to keep the family fed. Fast forward to a framed photo of her grandparents driving a 1928 Ford Model A (the same vehicle sits in the showroom) in a parade with “Moonshiners” blatantly painted on the side. Things certainly have changed from then to now where moonshining has become a legitimate business. The trade passed down to Shayna’s parents and, after some hesitation, down to Shayna’s now husband, Kris Sustrik, who handles it all from the distilling down to the bottling at Hansen Distillery.

When we passed through the doors into their production area, we got our first glimpse of the gorgeous copper still, named The Mistress. It happened to be distilling a batch of their Barn Owl Vodka on that day. Unfortunately, I didn’t retain the exact details of the distilling process. I will chalk it up to the fact that I’m encouraging everyone who reads this to book their own tour and tasting in support of this local business. Yet, I can relay that we were allowed to taste vodka directly from the machine by dipping our finger into a tiny pool of the liquor. I probably wouldn’t do that under normal circumstances. However, Kris assured us, at 98 to 99 per cent alcohol, it was extremely sterile. The lick of vodka was strong, but also quite sweet.

Each ingredient used for their spirits are natural and/or locally sourced. The single fake ingredient (Kris was very honest about this) is the stabilizer in the cream used for their cream liqueurs, giving the products about a year of shelf life. As soon as a batch of liquor is ready, they bottle it right there. On a typical day, they’ll likely be able to do 500 bottles and labels, although the record stands at over 700. It’s actually such a small crew, that Kris pretty much has his fingerprints on every single item that leaves the warehouse.

Expanding their current line of vodka, rye, gin and moonshine, they’re just over a third of the way to finishing their first batch of rye whiskey, which by Canadian standards must be mashed, fermented and then distilled in a wood cask for a minimum of three years. When the barrels are ready, they’ll bottle and sell everything through the shop to ensure fans of Hansen Distillery get to be the first to try them. Explaining the steps and how the wood of the cask affects the flavour, I could tell that Kris is incredibly passionate about the craft. A year in, they’ve already won a couple of awards. Call it beginners luck, or perhaps it’s a real knack. Either way, Hansen Distillery seems to have a good thing going for them. If anything, they’ve come into it at the right time, acting as influencers in a new and burgeoning industry.

The tasting begins.

As the tour came to a close, we were led to a long table laid out with popcorn, water, and taster cups sitting in specially made horseshoe-shaped trays. While most of the hard liquors were quite smooth, admittedly, I’m not inclined to drink them straight, so I only had small sips of their vodka (a bit like disinfectant), Border Crossing Rye (a decent precursor to an aged whiskey), and Trouble Gin (lots of juniper berries with a hint of citrus). They absolutely knocked it out of the park with their seasonal spirits though. After initial tastes of the two cream liqueurs (Saskatoon Berry and Chocolate Hazelnut), Ring of Fire, and Cherry Rye, I went back to finish each of those off as they were all delicious on their own. The one that took me by surprise the most was the Ring of Fire. As a rye spirit, I was fully expecting not to like it, but the cinnamon really comes through and the chilli peppers provide just the right amount of heat to warm the body.

For about an hour and approximately three ounces worth of alcohol, the usual price of $7 per person for the Hansen Distillery tour and tasting is well worth it. Plus, if inclined, grab a bottle of a favourite as they’ve recently lowered the prices of their bottled spirits, passing along savings incurred when the Government of Alberta and the Alberta Liquor and Gaming Corporation reduced the markup for small manufacturers who self-distribute products. When the tour and shopping spree is over, the cozy lounge space is ideal to relax and chat over a cocktail, too. Heck, it’s so adorable that I really could picture having a wedding reception there. At about thirty seats, including the bar, it would be quite intimate. A few extra tables could be squeezed in though. It may not work for me and my fiancé. Yet, it could be another couple’s dream spot.

Overall, this was a fun, casual learning experience. Shayna and Kris have been hitting it out of the park. With more than twelve months under their belt, I wish them the best of luck as they continue building the family’s legacy. They are the true embodiment of the entrepreneurial spirit in Edmonton and Alberta, and I look to them as an example for what can be accomplished here in my hometown.

A fun use of storage in their warehouse.