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Alberta

What’s on Tap? – Rediscover Moonshine with Skunkworks Distillery

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An exciting new addition to the Calgary Barley Belt might look a little bit different than what regular patrons are used to seeing, or drinking. Skunkworks Distillery, a locally owned and operated micro-distillery, is bringing premium engineered moonshine to the craft beer party!  

Originating in 2015 as an after-work-over-drinks project idea, the concept of Skunkworks Distillery was in the works for a few years before it began to take shape with Faye Warrington and Marty Lastiwka at the helm. Skunk Works is an engineering term coined at Lockheed Martin, referring to the Advanced Development Department, which focuses on innovative and unconventional approaches to new science and technology. “Skunk Works is a department that operates outside the mainstream of their company working on weird little side science projects or on new tech stuff,” says Faye, “for Marty and I, this is our Skunk Works. This is our science project.” 

Located on the Barley Belt, southeast Calgary’s signature walking distance collection of craft breweries, Skunkworks distills smooth, small batch premium engineered moonshine that is as good over ice as it is in one of their many cocktails. Made from sugar beets refined in Taber, Alberta, Skunkworks offers three unique products: the original Skunkworks Moonshine, Hypersonic and Moonwater. With Skunkworks, Faye and Marty are committed to challenging the mason jar mentality that associates moonshine with a bootleg burn. 

“Moonshine is a good way to bring people together. We all have a moonshine story,” Marty laughs, “It’s something people can always talk about, for better or for worse.” 

The tasting room, much of which Faye and Marty built themselves, combines industrial space race vibes with a Mad Max steampunk flare that can’t be found anywhere else. Sip your Skunktail (Skunkworks cocktail) from a science lab beaker and enjoy some light snacks on a replica plane wing turned coffee table, while listening to live music from the in-house studio. 

After countless hours of planning, searching and building, the taproom officially opened in November of 2019. Launching amidst the upheaval of a global pandemic and ensuing economic crash has made Skunkworks an operation well versed in thinking on their feet. “None of the normal rules for growing a business apply right now,” says Marty, “So we’re just adapting, we’re pivoting every day.” 

Like a number of other breweries and distilleries around the city, Skunkworks transitioned to the production of hand sanitizer to help fill the gap during the height of the pandemic. The public response, according to Marty, was far more than they ever could have anticipated. “Everyone was just so desperate for it,” he says, “we were making it just to give away, and suddenly people were lined up around the block for it.” 

While this wasn’t how they exactly envisioned their first few months in operation, it turned out to be a great way for the distillery to begin connecting with the community while helping out people in need. Given the uncertain circumstances and difficulties of the last several months, Faye says the support of the community and other local distilleries has been invaluable. 

As things settle down, Faye and Marty are looking forward to being able to host live music again and are even exploring the idea of an outdoor concert on their (dog-friendly!) patio. Above all, the two are excited for the upcoming release of their latest product, a seasonal feature that is like “nothing you’ve ever tasted!” coming very soon. 

To learn more about Skunkworks Distillery and what the Calgary Barley Belt has to offer, visit https://www.skunkworksdistillery.com

 

Follow Todayville Calgary to learn more about Calgary’s unique breweries and distilleries, now featuring exclusive weekly updates from Whats on Tap? 

Alberta

‘Short-term pain’: Group of Alberta lawyers escalate job action over legal aid cases

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By Bill Graveland in Calgary

Alberta criminal defence lawyers are taking another step in their dispute with the provincial government over the amount of compensation paid by Legal Aid Alberta.

Organizations representing lawyers in Edmonton, Calgary, Red Deer and southern Alberta began job action Aug. 8 by refusing to accept certain bail and duty counsel files from legal aid.

The lawyers also began refusing certificates for new cases for the most serious criminal charges, including sexual offences, firearms-related crimes and homicides.

Beginning Monday, they say all services will be withdrawn.

“We’re going to stop taking all certificates. That will include some our prior job actions still allowed us to take certificates for people who are already existing clients and there will be a very, very limited set of circumstances now where our members will do that,” said Kelsey Sitar, vice-president of the Criminal Defence Lawyers Association in Calgary.

“The default will be: ‘We are just not taking any new work from legal aid until the problem is fixed.'”

Sitar made her comments at a rally in front of the Calgary Courts Centre on Friday that drew about 50 criminal defence lawyers.

A table with a sign reading “Save Legal Aid” offered bake goods for sale. Lawyers carried signs reading “Access 2 Justice Must be Equal.” Another read: “This sign is too small to fit my outrage.”

“This is drastic. I mean, what we were doing up until now is something I know has happened in Ontario before, it did not last long, frankly,” Sitar said.

“I can tell you that none of us want to be out here. We all want to be in there doing our jobs.”

Justice Minister Tyler Shandro has said nothing is going to be done until a review of the Legal Aid Alberta administrative system is complete, which is scheduled for next month.

He said any budget changes for legal aid wouldn’t happen until next year.

Sitar said the ministry chose to undertake “an incomplete and, frankly, useless review” at a time when the governing United Conservative Party is about to go through a leadership change.

“So we have to act now and they need to respond now,” she said.

Sitar said she understands the people being affected the most by the job action will be people with lower incomes who need the services to afford legal representation.

“It’s short-term pain right now,” she said. “It’s really unfortunate, but I can tell you that most of the people I’ve talked to on the street who are finding themselves caught up in this understand and are grateful that we’re doing it.”

Alberta Opposition NDP Leader Rachel Notley said the problem has been growing over the last three years. She said when her party was in power, it committed to additional funding for Legal Aid, but the UCP government backtracked.

“We simply cannot be asking the Legal Aid bar to be doing what we are asking them to do at the rate that we are asking them to do it,” she told reporters.

“We have the lowest funding for Legal Aid in the country. What that means is that we don’t have equal access to justice. It undermines the integrity of our justice system and, overall, it undermines our ability to build a sense of community safety, community security and an overall respect for the rule of law — all of which are important to community health and economic growth.

“It sounds like a niche issue, but it’s not. It actually has knock-off effects to very, very important issues that affect all of us. So, the government needs to come to the table and negotiate decently with these lawyers.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 23, 2022.

— With files from Colette Derworiz in Calgary.

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Alberta

‘Kind of like carnies’: International balloon festival returns to High River, Alta.

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By Bill Graveland in High River, Alberta

The windswept prairie east of the Rocky Mountains seems an unlikely spot for a hot-air balloon festival, but the town of High River, Alta., is celebrating the event’s 10th year.

More than 20 brightly coloured balloons — including a pink elephant, a black and yellow bee and the purple and yellow Eye of Ra, named after the Egyptian sun god — took advantage of a lull in the prevailing wind this week to get some up-in-the-air time to mark the opening of the Heritage Inn International Balloon Festival.

“We get about 50 per cent of our flights off. Weather impacts us everywhere,” said event director Jamie Kinghorn, who is also a town councillor.

“This is our 10th. We started in 2013 partly because of the flood that happened. I’d been to a number of balloon events and thought this might lift the spirits of the folks in town.”

The town of 12,000 just south of Calgary gained an international profile in 2013 when flooding in parts of southern Alberta caused billions of dollars in damage.

High River was one of the hardest-hit communities. Entire neighbourhoods were under water for weeks.

“I called in a bunch of friends from the balloon community and they knew what happened, so 20 of them came into High River and we put on a balloon festival that was actually amazing for the community,” Kinghorn said.

“That was sort of the first major thing toward recovery after the flood and we’ve been doing it every year since at the end of September.”

Kinghorn said the festival is a boon to local tourism and there’s not a hotel room to be had in town.

He had his first hot air balloon over the city of Calgary in 1988. A year later he was a balloon pilot.

There are 23 balloons participating this year, including some from the United States, Belgium and the United Kingdom.

Kinghorn said it’s a pretty small community.

“We tend to meet at various events. We tend to travel. We’re kind of like carnies to some extent,” he said with a laugh.

“We travel around to different cities to different balloon events.”

Alan Davidson, who has been involved in the sport since 1977, is one of the volunteers.

He said those who get involved tend to stick with it.

“The amazing thing is that there are still seven or eight of the people I was ballooning with in the ’70s and early ’80s who are still here at this event,” said Davidson. “They’ve been working with balloons for over 40 years.”

Kinghorn, who is the owner and pilot of the Eye of Ra, was the first balloon in the air Thursday morning after a Wednesday evening flight was cancelled due to the wind.

“My God am I glad we got this off,” he said as the flight came to an end.

The festival runs through Sunday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 23, 2022.

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