This year will mark seven years of Alberta Open Farm Days, and for two days in August, farms across the province are opening their doors so we can meet the farmers and learn more about what they do, and where our food comes from.
It’s a fun weekend, a little educational, and usually very tasty too. But when you think of visiting a farm, you may not be thinking of a building in Canmore – yet there opposite the RCMP station you’ll find Wild Life Distillery, who are taking part in Open Farm Days for their second time.
“We participated last year to grow awareness about our business, and reach people interested in the agricultural side of distilleries,” says co-owner Matt Widmer. “We were able to reach a new audience.”
“Educating people is our main goal when someone walks in the door. Showing them why craft spirits are different, and explaining that through our detail-oriented process, as well as explaining why our spirits taste the way they do.”
This year, Widmer is hoping to build on the experience, and increase the number of visitors by promoting it on their social media channels. He is expecting more success with this concerted effort and increased exposure from Open Farm Days.
“It attracts a certain type of person who is very interested in our industry, Widmer says. Someone who is likely to talk about the distillery to their friends when they go home, which is a great customer to have!”
And Wild Life have a fascinating story to tell to their visitors. Bow Valley duo Widmer and co-founder Keith Robinson, are avid supporters of local and indigenous Alberta ingredients, and spend their summers foraging the valley for botanicals for their “Alberta Botanical Gin.”
They hand harvest juniper berries, rose hips, Labrador tea, yarrow, and plenty more, and last year they partnered with the Nature Conservancy of Canada and spent a day foraging with their team too.
“After collecting the botanicals, we re-distil our award-winning vodka, infusing it with the essential oils from the botanicals to create something very special,” explains Widmer. “99% of the gins in the world use ingredients sourced from across the globe – so for us to be able to honestly offer our local consumers something that only contains ingredients grown within Alberta is pretty sweet!”
They can only make very small amounts of around 400 bottles, so the Botanical Gin in great demand, and their products have done very well at some of the awards and competitions in the area – which is something they are very proud of.
In 2017 WLD Gin was awarded a Judges Selection in the Alberta Beverage Awards, and in 2018 it swept the board taking Best In Class, and along with the vodka, won International SIP Awards Double Gold and Gold respectively.
The distillery is visitor-friendly, and open to all ages from Wednesday to Sunday. And from May long weekend, they’ll be open seven days a week throughout the summer.
When you visit, you’ll enjoy a tour of the distillery, spirits tastings, craft cocktails, and retail sales with very desirable merchandise, and on a nice day there’s a patio too. Limited snacks are on offer and there’s an excellent deli across the street.
Open Farm Days provides an excellent opportunity to see for yourself how these unique products are made.
“When you visit, you’ll learn how to make real, authentic, Albertan sipping spirits,” Widmer says. “We don’t keep any secrets and are very open to questions from all angles. Come and see what makes our distillery so unique!”
As well as at the distillery, you’ll find Wild Life products, by clicking here
Linda Garson is Editor-in-Chief and Publisher of Culinaire Magazine, Alberta’s food and beverage magazine. She is also the creator of Vine & Dine, and has earned a reputation as one of Calgary’s prime wine and food experts, writers, speakers, and educators.