Last December, Strathcona Spirits Distillery began producing its first two alcoholic spirits. But after facing many obstacles in getting the distillery operational, thee company still faced its biggest hurdle of all.
"We were never allowed to open our doors to the public," distillery owner Adam Smith told CBC's Radio Active. "It was insane."
Smith said he and the rest of his team knew when they started the business at the corner of 81st Avenue and 101st Street they initially wouldn't be able to sell alcohol in the space.
"Our problem in particular was that we were within 500 metres of a liquor store," he said. "The rule was they wanted to prevent the proliferation of liquor stores.
"We argued that this wasn't a liquor store in that sense."
That's all set to change at 4 p.m. on Nov. 16.
That's when Strathcona Spirits will open its doors and finally be allowed to sell its vodka and gin.
Smith said his company argued with the city to change its bylaws, counting on that as a key to their business being a success. "We became a case study for why they needed to make changes, and they did."
Small building, 'tumultuous' history
At under 800 square feet, Strathcona Spirits is the smallest distillery in North America. But Smith said although the space is small, the story of the business more than makes up for it.
We may be the smallest distillery in North America, but we treat our employees well, with 3" thick white spruce napping racks. pic.twitter.com/RoLJhs6mI1— @StratSpirits
"We are going to offer tours," he said. "But it's going to be a point-and-spin kind of experience."
Though not a long walk, the tour will offer an education on the equipment, which comes from as far away as Italy and as close to home as Wetaskiwin, Alta.
He said they will also talk about the company's struggle to produce like a normal distillery and the space's brief history as a music venue called the Baby Seal Club.
"It's a tumultuous history we have there," Smith said. "We want to share this and we want to be able to engage the community a bit more."
Smith also plans to talk about where the ingredients for the spirits come from. The grain they use is grown south of the city and the the sea buckthorn berry used for their gin is picked within city limits.
We bottled until we couldn't bottle anymore. Because we were done, the gin was bottled and it was night. pic.twitter.com/f2QZjjtMlS— @StratSpirits
"We pick them in Terwillegar valley, down in the Southgate area," he said. "I was recently out on a meridian on 111th Street picking some."
The distillery's opening likely has some Edmontonians eager with anticipation, but none more so than Smith and his team.
"It's been a long road," he said.
The distillery will be open from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays, and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturdays. The hours may be extended closer to Christmas, depending on how busy it is.