Moonshine distillery adds to unique businesses coming to Edmonton International Airport

A moonshine distillery from Vegreville will be relocating to the Edmonton International airport, joining an eclectic mix of businesses set to open on the grounds.

‘You’ll see lots of new kinds of companies that are taking advantage of being on site here’

Red Cup Distillery will be moving from Vegreville to the Edmonton International Aiport to join a mix of new businesses opening on the grounds. 1:34

A Vegreville, Alta., moonshine distillery is moving to the Edmonton International Airport grounds, joining an interesting mix of new businesses, including a medical marijuana facility and an outlet mall.

In a strip mall in Vegreville, Rob de Groot has been working to recreate traditional Prairie moonshine for the past two years. He'll soon continue that work on Airport Road.

"Just the opportunity to be able to get to the airport where, compared to Vegreville, there's nine and a half million people driving by each year," said de Groot, founder and distiller at Red Cup Distillery.

A bottle fills with traditional-style moonshine at Red Cup Distillery. (Travis McEwan/CBC)

He set up shop in Vegreville because of the Prairie feel and the town's farming history, which he said goes hand-in-hand with its moonshine-making history.

But he estimates that only one per cent of his sales are to locals, while the majority of his sales are to people who have come from far and wide to sample his hooch in-house.

"We've brought people to Vegreville from 17 countries, 15 states, and 10 provinces just to buy my liquor."

A big copper pot still fills the main room of the distillery — a still which he says is the only one like it in Canada. It's the first thing visitors talk about, before they sample the moonshine that was previously inside of it, he said.

"I did not expect so many people to culturally be attached to moonshine. You can put gin in front of somebody and they'll talk about it for two minutes. Put a bottle of moonshine in front ... that has this natural flavour and natural process, they talk about it all night."

The copper pot still on display in the front room of the Red Cup Distillery. (Travis McEwan/CBC)

The distillery is expected to open near the Renaissance Hotel in early 2018. The moonshine will be made and sold on site, along with sales inside the airport.

New businesses coming to EIA

The new business area at the airport grounds part of the airport authority's plan to bring local businesses to travellers, especially during short layovers.

"We really allow them to see what our region is all about — the culture — and let them experience it. And you know, really, moonshine and sort of the culture and history of that, is a part of that," said Traci Bednard, a spokesperson with the Edmonton International Airport.

"To be able to offer that experience here and maybe allow people to take a souvenir back right from the Edmonton International Airport is a great new option for us," she added.

"You'll see lots of new kinds of companies that are taking advantage of being on site here at an airport, and also the visibility of an airport."

Construction crews work on the Aurora Cannabis medical marijuana facility near the Edmonton International Airport on Thursday. (Travis McEwan/CBC)

The Aurora Cannabis medical marijuana facility is being constructed about a block away from the distillery. It's slated to open in the spring of 2018.

Work on a 428,000-square-foot premium outlet mall on the airport grounds is currently underway. The names of potential retailers have not been made available to the public. The project is expected to be completed by May 2018.

@Travismcewancbc

Travis.mcewan@cbc.ca