A distiller is working on the perfect drink to celebrate Fort McMurray’s road to recovery: a whisky made from barley flavoured by the fire’s smoke.
The Wood Buffalo Brewing Company is hosting a launch party for its specially crafted “The Beast” whisky on Friday, Oct. 28 though it won’t be available until 2021. The whisky takes its name from the Fort McMurray wildfire that forced more than 80,000 people out of their homes in May.
Head brewer Spike Baker was on shift when the wildfire hit Fort McMurray six months ago
“Word came down and we walked outside and saw flames coming down the hill just on the other side of the road there,” Baker told CTV Edmonton from inside the brew pub.
The Wood Buffalo Brewing Company was spared the flames but did suffer significant smoke damage. Baker said much of what was left behind after the evacuation had to be thrown out.
During the cleanup, staff found a pallet of malted barley that was left untouched on the brew pub’s patio.
“We noticed right away that the flavour on it had imparted from the smoke,” Baker said.
After lab tests confirmed the barley was safe, Baker and the brewery realized the malt presented a unique opportunity to capture the wildfire in a bottle.
“The fire was nicknamed the Beast, so it just kind of made sense to name the whisky after it,” he said.
The distillation process for “The Beast” whisky has already begun and it will be completed this week. But the whisky will have to age in barrels for at least five years before anyone can raise a glass. When the process is complete the brewery will have 200 bottles of a one-time batch that can never be replicated.
“It's gonna be a cool process,” Baker said.
“We've been doing it for thousands of years and there's still new things to try.”
Once available, a portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Friends of the Fort McMurray Firefighters Charities Association. The brewing company is auctioning off 10 bottles a year for the next five years before the whisky is ready to go in 2021.
“If nothing else it'll be a really good memento of all the teamwork and everything that got everyone out of here safely,” Baker said.
With a report from CTV Edmonton’s Bill Fortier