Optimism bubbles over new craft distillery
By Lindsay Morey, Fort Saskatchewan Record
Monday, April 2, 2018 9:23:00 MDT AM
The Fort Distillery owners Nathan and Kayla Flim raise a glass to their new company. Renovations on the Eastgate location will begin on April 1 and will continue over the next few months. The business plans to be open by August 1.
Spirits are high as new business owner, Nathan Flim talks about renovating a 2,400 square foot distillery and tasting room in the Eastgate Business area.
The transformation of the former Red-E Flooring store will start April 1 and doors are expected to open to the public on August 1.
The chemist, turned craft distiller, plans to first make craft vodkas and gins. In the long term, whiskey will also be produced but that requires three years to age properly before it can qualify as Canadian whiskey.
“I’m pretty nervous but pretty excited and I’m learning a ton. We haven’t started a business before but I’ve had a mind for business and took a few courses in school. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do and this just seems perfect because I enjoy fine drinks and I know the chemistry behind it,” said Flim, who works full time as a crop inspector.
He grew up near Ardrossan and his wife, Kayla grew up in Lamont but both view Fort Saskatchewan as a great place to be. Kayla is tasked with the more creative side of the company in design and graphics.
“There’s a real community feel here and I haven’t seen that in another city. All of the parades, garage sales and markets downtown, I thought it would be really cool to be a part of that kind of community. I spoke to everyone at City Hall before I made the decision and everyone is very supportive. The Fort really seems to be open for business,” Flim said.
He added he looked at Strathcona County beforehand but heard it was an administrative “nightmare” to get anything done. Another pull to the Fort was finding a great location for a great price. It’s has full highway exposure.
The former show room will transform into a rustic-modern lounge that will offer cocktails and small snacks. There is also a mezzanine addition which will act as a more private loft.
“We want it to be a nice place where you can relax and grab a cocktail. We’re not going for a bar scene where we’re open until 2 a.m. It’s more you come in and taste our liquor. We only have a business license to sell based on our own spirits so I won’t be able to serve other people’s alcohol. The lounge will be a place to showcase our products.”
If you crave more than just a few sips, full bottles of The Fort Distillery’s vodkas and gins will be available for purchase on-site. Flim will also work with local liquor stores and restaurants to further grow the brand. Depending on the company’s production timeline after renos, it’s hoped they’ll be at this year’s farmer’s market for a portion of the season.
Flim is looking to a fellow Alberta-based craft distillery for mentorship. Lacombe’s Old Prairie Sentinel Distillery opened its doors to patrons just over a year ago and is also producing vodka, gin and whiskey on site.
Business owner Rob Gugin outlined the craft distilling sector is realitively new in the province so everyone supports one another.
“We’re new to the market so everyone is learning as they go but as Alberta’s Craft Distillers Association, we’re really trying to follow the example that the Alberta Craft Brewers Association has paved for us. I thought coming in it would be dog eat dog but it’s totally not that way at all. Everyone is super cool with each other, it’s a real brother/sisterhood of unique individuals who are creative and passionate about what they do,” said Gugin.
“We’re all looking for our own little piece of the pie and if you can help out your fellow distiller, it will come back to you ten-fold.”
He suggests to foster a good working relationship with other Alberta barley and produce producers, malters, and marketing and design businesses.
“It all goes hand in hand. The more we can afford to not outsource and lean on other businesses, the more they’ll lean on us and the better we’ll all be.”
Flim knows staying local will help his company’s longivity and will encorporate lots of local ingredients.
“We’re going to work with a local farmer to get our grain and make sure everything is as local and sustainable as possible,” he noted.
The Fort Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce outlined there’s a lot of room to grow since the craft distillery market is not as saturated as craft breweries.
“It’s a great addition to the Fort and it makes us even more unique,” said events coordinator Rene Holinksi.
To stay up to date, head to the company’s website: thefortdistillery.com.