Monashee Spirits Craft Distillery Bear Aware Brandy has been a big seller.
“The whole thing was really inspired that summer a couple of years ago when so many bears had to be destroyed,” says Monashee Spirits Distillery owner Josh McLafferty of his Bear Aware Brandy. “By making brandy out of gleaned fruit, it seemed a great way to educate and engage the community. People are inviting us to glean their trees for the next batch.”
The fruits used include apples, pears, cherries, huckleberries and plums picked over the summer and fall of 2017. Partial proceeds of the Bear Aware Brandy are going to the Revelstoke Bear Aware program.
Maggie Spizzirri, coordinator of Revelstoke’s Bear Aware, was thrilled when McLafferty approached her.
“He organized several of his own gleaning projects and did a ton of work. It was really amazing. Some years we have more fruit growing than we know what to do with,” she says. “The best produce always go to the local food bank and, of course, volunteers can take as much as they want. Fruit that is damaged is used to feed pigs and other livestock in the area, so something is eating it.”
“The Bear Aware and Local Food Initiative are such awesome programs, and we are big supporters of them,” says McLafferty. “What better way to give back, as a distillery, than to help glean and make some drinks with the fruit?”
“Local fruit isn’t good food for bears, but it makes great brandy,” he says.
Spizzirri agrees. “The next step for a bear eating from fruit trees is to become a garbage bear. You aren’t doing it a favour by leaving your fruit for the bears. None of the fruit trees grow naturally in this area, and so they are not natural forage for bears.”
Brandy fruit is blemished enough that it isn’t given to food banks, but is in better condition than livestock feed. The fruit was processed by McLafferty and his group by hand. Yeast is added and it is then fermented into wine.
“We distilled that fruit wine into brandy,” he says. “After that, we poured it into a used red wine barrel and aged it for a year. After that, we poured it into a used red wine barrel and aged it for a year. The brandy has an apple forward flavour, then cherries and plums and a hint of the barrel red wine undertones.”
Sixty bottles were made of the carmel/honey coloured drink, with twelve being kept at the bar. The brandy is being served at the distillery in a winter cocktail called Hibernation.
The reception to the brandy has been fantastic, and McLafferty intends to make it again.