A farmer in Rolling Hills, Alberta, who searched for something new, took a distillery tour with his wife and found out a man only needed barley, yeast, and water to make scotch. With this knowledge, Larry Hirch completed a distillery course, started using the crops they grow , and opened Pivot Spirits Distillery in March 2020.
The couple started with vodka, then quickly added gin, young whiskey, and rum-style spirits that are made from sugar beets grown in the area. They’ve attached a tasting room to the distillery where visitors can sip a creative cocktail, like blueberry mojito, spicy margarita, hibiscus gin sour, orange thyme gin and tonic, or spiced pomegranate gin fizz, while eating a cheesy, house-made pizza.
“We’re Alberta’s only irrigated farm distillery, and in the spring to fall, we offer a distillery tour where people can see the crops growing, see the irrigation system in action, and feed spent grain mash to our cows,” says Hirch. “We have unique crops that we can grow in this area, and I feel blessed to help people connect with that through the spirits we’re making.”
The business owner often heard stories about his grandfather who made spirits in Europe after the second world war. These stories always gave Hirch an interest in the industry, and after farming for 30 years, he found himself distilling in his garage, grinding his own grain, and finding more time to make spirits.
“Right away, people find the building quite beautiful. We have solar panels and some old, unique architecture, and our distilling equipment is beautiful,” says Hirch. “You hear a lot about people talking about the best grains in the world, and I’m located right in the heart of this productive area. People in Southeast Alberta don’t have to travel far to the mountains or other cities to experience a distillery.”
Pivot Spirits Distillery often rotates their cocktail menu, serving drinks like Hawaii Five-0 and classic dilly caesar. Along with tasty food and refreshing drinks, the area comes with beautiful views.
“The irrigation and crops make the area so lush and beautiful, and to me I’ve always been drawn to rural scenes. We have the beautiful prairies right here, and the river valley with unique geographical structures, like hoodoos and the badlands,” says Hirch. “Living in Rolling Hills allows me to stay connected to rural life, and I am proud of the productivity in these irrigated lands.”
Pivot Spirits Distillery can be visited during their open hours of operation and are also involved with the Sip the South Tour led by Prairie Sprinter, where ticket holders are toured to breweries and distilleries local to Southeast Alberta.
“We’ve really become a destination and people love the atmosphere. They say what we offer here is unique and they spend a lot of time here tasting and sampling. There are more people coming through this way than we ever thought possible,” says Hirch.