Jacques Tremblay and Daniel Plenzik, blue shirt, owners of Bridgeland Distillery. Supplied photo
Like many others, this city has gone craft beer crazy and we have some great brews to choose from. But whiskeys and cocktails are also climbing in popularity, and Calgarians will be able to taste some brand-new selections this week.Bridgeland Distillery, at the corner of Edmonton Trail and Marsh Road N.E., will open it doors to the public on Thursday. Installed in a portion of the former Eisenberg Furniture building, it has a commanding presence behind the curved glass wall of windows that allows passersby to see into the production facility and tasting area.Owners Jacques Tremblay and Daniel Plenzik have spent many months building out the distillery while using their combined knowledge to create some fine spirits.Tremblay moved his family to Calgary from Quebec City 20 years ago for an opportunity to experience the West and the mountains, working as a geomatics engineer. Plenzik is also an engineer, born in the former General Hospital and his parents still live in Bridgeland.Both enjoyed making beer and wine at home, and three years ago decided to take a weeklong course in Kelowna on how to run a successful distillery. They met sitting side-by-side, struck up a friendship and talked about becoming partners in a Calgary-based distillery.Further education on setting up a liquor production business led them to more courses on blending and aging and a number of tours to other production houses, including distilleries in Japan and Grappa plants in Italy.After completing a business plan they started to look for ideal space and contacted Chris Howard of Avison Young to help them. He introduced them to Stan Eisenberg who, after closing down his large store, wanted to divide it into a number of leased units.The result is a distillery with bar and tasting area, a tasting room with desk seating to take notes, a laboratory, aging room and manufacturing space that includes a rather impressive copper pot still. Made to their own specifications at the Kentucky plant of Vendome Copper & Brass Works, it has a coil condenser rather than the traditional long Lyne arm units. The only one of its kind, it boils the fermented beer, collects the vapour vertically and drips it back in liquid form into collecting tanks before moving on into the aging room.Another decision was to use new oak barrels rather than the normal aged bourbon barrels; charred to make whiskey and toasted lightly for the more delicate brandy. Down the road, Tremblay says they will be used to age his own whiskey — for the time being Bridgeland is selling white whiskey, brandy aged in French Oak casks will be ready in six months followed by bourbon and rye.A lovely, strong smell of lemons comes from the process making Limoncello, and the distillery also has for sale its own brand of already mixed Old Fashioned. Other production is underway for orange liquor, bitters and a grappa-style alcoholic beverage.The desire is to use as many local products as possible. Oak barrels are from the U.S., grape juices and skins from St. Hubert & Oak Bay Estate Winery in Kelowna, and fancy bottles are imported from France. But in a search for the best local farms as suppliers, Tremblay and Plenzik have partnered with the Hammil family in Penhold to supply wheat and barley, and the Molnar family farm in Taber to get their corn.Bridgeland Distillery is not a hobby anymore but a well-designed, professional business open for tastings — with food contracted by nearby restaurants — and the purchase of product that today includes white whiskey, brandy, Old Fashioned cocktail, glassware, T-shirts and caps. A great place to pop in for a before-dinner drink and learn more about spirits.And it’s another destination gem for the Bridgeland community that is attracting people from all over the city to enjoy its many quality food and beverage houses.News and notesLast year, a rainy day of golf raised $400,000 in support of Hull Services. This year’s event will Raise A Little Hull indoors at the Million Air Hangar on Sept. 14, when presenting sponsor Centron — which CEO Bob Harris says has committed over $100,000 — is hoping to clear $500,000 in support of Hull’s specialized programs to more than 4,000 children experiencing mental-health challenges.David Parker appears regularly in the Herald. Read his columns online at calgaryherald.com/business. He can be reached at 403-830-4622 or by email at email@example.com.