By KENDALL KING, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Published Oct 15, 2021
Pivot Spirits Ltd., a craft distillery in Rolling Hills, has been described as a hidden gem more than once, founder Lars Hirch says.
Hirch and his wife Rachelle Fiset co-own the company, which was established in 2018. The Pivot Spirits building, which combines the distillery, restaurant and dining area, didn’t open until March of 2019, however business has been rapidly growing in the nearly three years since.
What makes Pivot Spirits unique is it is one of the only locally-sourced rural spirit producers in the province. Almost all products are made with ingredients from local farms and ranches, including Hirch’s own 65 acres of grain.
Prior to entering the distillery industry, Hirch was a full-time producer, who farmed and raised cattle. It wasn’t until he and his wife visited a distillery in Scotland that he became interested in spirit-making.
“On the tour they said all you need to make scotch is barley, yeast and water,” Hirch told the News. “Right away I started thinking that was a better way to add value to the barley that I was growing and feeding cows.”
Upon returning home, Hirch signed up for a distilling course and began making spirits from the irrigated wheat, barley, rye, triticale and spelt crops that he grows.
The two main spirits he makes now are vodka and whisky, however he also distills gin and a rum-style spirit called Rumination, which is made from locally grown sugar beets. He also regularly introduces unique flavour creations, such as the newly released Haskap Honey Liqueur, made with berries and honey from nearby farms.
Sourcing products locally is incredibly important to Hirch.
“It’s well know that we grow some of the best grains (in this region). As a producer, I’m proud of our agriculture, especially in southern Alberta, and our irrigation. I’d like spirits made from it to be recognized as having its own unique terroir.”
Hirch, Fiset and the team at Pivot Spirits hope to bring distinctive Alberta flavour not just to their drinks, but also their food.
On Oct. 17, Pivot Spirits will be hosting the inaugural Farm to Table Dinner, a five-course dinning experience in which guests can enjoy a meal made with 100% locally grown ingredients and paired with cocktails created by Hirch and Fiset.
In addition to valuing local products, the Pivot Spirits operation also aims to promote sustainability. Hirch has worked to limit waste in every way possible. Even the mash, which is what’s left when ethanol evaporates during the distilling process, is used to feed Hirch’s cattle.
“We do try to use sustainable farming practises and carry that over to the distillery as well,” Hirch said.
Upon visiting the Pivot Spirits building, guests can see such practises at hand. The building, constructed with a structural insulated panel system, is largely powered by solar panels and all lighting is LED. Much of the decor was made by local craftspeople. Tours of the distillery and Hirch’s farm are available for anyone wishing to learn more about the operation.
For Hirch, one of the most rewarding things about being based in Rolling Hills is the opportunity it provides to connect with the local community and people from the surrounding area.
“You see distilleries and breweries in more touristy areas. I kind of wanted prairie people to be able to have the experience of spirits made from crops that they grow here, so that they don’t have to go to the mountains or the city or the coast,” Hirch said.
He believes Pivot Spirits has a bright future.
“I recently entered the Alberta Beverage Awards competition and received Judge’s selection for four products. My triticale whisky – that’s a grain that’s a cross between what and rye, and not very common in the distilling world – won Judge’s Selection in the Whisky category, even though it’s a young whisky,” said Hirch.
“It was very satisfying. It shows that I’m on the path I was hoping for, making very high quality products from totally local (ingredients).”
Pivot Spirits is located on Fourth Street Rolling Hills.
This item is reprinted with permission from Medicine Hat News. See article HERE.
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