Drink in harvest season in Alberta by pitching in, canning veggies, tasting sweet treats or quite literally—by turning those grains and liquid gold into crushable beverages. Here are five fun ways to reap the rewards of the province’s fall bounty.
Reap Alberta’s bounty to make boozy fun
Eau Claire Distillery in Turner Valley makes its award-winning spirits using Alberta barley. To get the grain into the glass, the distillery is inviting the public to Bar U Ranch on Sept. 17 to help bind and stook the grain after it’s been cut, and again on Oct. 1 to help pile the dried-out stooks onto a wagon for threshing. You can’t drink on the job, but volunteers are invited back to the distillery afterwards for a tour and tasting. Tip: dress like a farmer, in long sleeves, trousers and gloves (suspenders optional).
Channel your inner pioneer
Back in the days of the settlers, families canned part of their vegetable and fruit harvest so it would last through the winter. They also cooked meals on a wood-burning stove. You can go back to those quaint times at Heritage Park this fall by joining a canning workshop to master the lost art, using beets or apple preserves, or sign up for a class to bake and boil like they did in the olden days. You deserve a beer after all that work, but you’ll have to make it yourself. Learn how at one of the park’s Big Rock Craft Beer courses.
Taste honey straight from the comb
Like farmers, the bees have been busy all summer, and now’s the time when the liquid gold of their labours gets harvested from the hive. Visit the Chinook Honey Company in Okotoks on weekends during September and you can taste fresh honey that’s still on the comb, as well as a variety of jarred honeys. You can also have a bee-to-bottle experience by sampling mead, a.k.a. “honey wine,” which owners Art and Cherie Andrews craft on site. Drop in to the shop or the Honeybee Discovery Centre, or visit for a scheduled tour.
Experience a small-town harvest festival
Get lost in a corn maze, go for a hay ride and sample everything from pumpkin chili to heirloom vegetables at a harvest festival in central Alberta. The Lacombe Culture and Harvest Festival takes place Sept. 22 to 25 and Sept. 30 to Oct. 1 and features wool spinning and antique farm machinery demos, as well as wagon rides and ample opportunities to sip suds from Lacombe brewer Blindman Brewing. Farther north, just outside Edmonton in Bon Accord, shoot pumpkins from a cannon toward a pirate ship at the Fall-o-ween Harvest Fest at Prairie Gardens and Adventure Farm, Sept. 17 to 18. The big draw is the giant pumpkin patch, the world’s most northerly commercial pumpkin farm, where you can eat the gourds in a variety of ways at the Pumpkin Pie Cafe.
Drink the harvest
Alberta’s talented bar staff like to turn those fresh fruits and veggies into juices and syrups to create warming fall cocktails, like this one called Sweater Weather from Have Mercy Southern Table & Bar in Edmonton. “It's reminiscent of Apple Jack's, if only there was always booze in our cereal!” says cocktail creator Brandon Baker.
Sweater Weather recipe
2 oz Michter's Single Barrel Straight Rye
0.5 oz Dry Curaçao
0.5 oz chamomile tea-infused apple juice*
0.5 oz fresh lemon juice
0.33 oz ginger syrup
1/2 tsp. apple butter
2 dashes Chamomile Tincture
1 drop Cinnamon Tincture
3 drops Saline Concentrate, 4:1 ratio
Garnish: freshly grated nutmeg
Method: Place all ingredients in a cocktail shaker and fill the shaker with ice. Shake hard for 10 seconds. Fine strain using a fine mesh strainer into a porcelain tea cup. Garnish with freshly grated nutmeg atop the surface of the drink.
*Gently warm 1 cup of apple juice in a saucepan on medium heat. Add 1 bag of chamomile tea and turn off the heat. Let the tea infuse while the apple juice cools. Store in a clean container, sealed and labeled, in the fridge. Will keep for one week.