With big rewards, residents looking to get into a new hobby might want to brew drinkable concoctions like wine, beer, seltzers, kombucha, and cider. Thanks to an impromptu opportunity amid uncertainty, Alissa Wilson, owner-operator of The Fermented Moose Brewing & Equipment Company, took a chance on a dream that she and her husband, Steve, have shared since moving to Alberta eleven years ago from BC.
"Ferment on-premises wasn't an option for Albertans until October 2018. AGLC has always allowed you to purchase wine and beer supplies to do at home as long as it was for personal use. In many provinces across Canada, you can have it brewed on-site for you. We take all the mess out of your kitchen, and we do it here," explained Wilson.
In 2018 when the rules changed, the Wilson's were in a good place with jobs. "Then things took a turn. I was working at the clinic and was laid off during COVID. We thought, let's do this and have more power in our destiny."
One of the first steps was finding a name and, from there, a logo. A chance encounter played a significant role. "I was driving to the city with my friend, and we almost hit a moose. And I thought to myself; I love moose! Then, the name, The Fermented Moose Brewing & Equipment Company, popped into my head."
As for the logo, Wilson said she and her children were painting in their backyard, and she happened to doodle up the perfect fit. The original backyard masterpiece now hangs on the wall in the shop. "It started snowballing from there, and everything became moose-related," laughed Wilson. "My moose is my moose." An extra bit goes along with this story, and Wilson invites residents to come in and ask her about how else the moose name fits the store perfectly.
The store, located across from the Town Administration Office, is filled with all kinds of brewing kits and accessories and fun gift ideas. Wilson said that shoppers could choose to brew at the store or at home. "People who brew at home enjoy doing that. It's enjoyable, productive, and rewarding. But it can be hard to brew at home when you have breakfast dishes in the sink, and there are many variables that you have to watch for. Here, we have a completely controlled brewery that we always keep clean and sterile," she explained.
One of the best parts about creating something this way is having 100 percent ownership over the entire product. "The customer is responsible for sprinkling the yeast at the beginning, initiating fermentation and bottling and packaging their product at the end. They can do custom labels, put shrinks on top, and they do all of it. I only have to provide a small amount of instruction, and that's the only thing I'm allowed to do."
Wilson said that customers love getting to share their creations with friends and family. "There's a huge talking point when they want to socialize with friends. They can say I made this." Getting to try expensive wines at an affordable rate is another bonus. "Amarone is a $40 base bottle of wine, and I certainly won't purchase a $40 bottle of wine, but making my own, I'm able to taste these wines."
She has wine kits that allow customers to travel the world without leaving their homes by sipping on a Chilean Sauvignon or a German Riesling. She also has coolers which are fruit wines that are ready in four weeks. Each kit makes thirty bottles of wine which amounts to approximately ten dollars a bottle. Since bottles only need to be purchased the first time, each use after the initial use means even more savings.
Wilson has a Loyalty Program in place that rewards customers. "Every six kits you purchase, the seventh one is 20 percent off." An extra piece to that makes it even more lucrative, especially if you share your creations with friends. "If a person comes into the store to brew for the first time, and they say they tried a friend's wine and want to make their own, then you get an extra stamp. It's an influencer stamp. People are sharing their wines, and they are name-dropping. It's fun when I can call my customers and say, you just filled a stamp card, come in and get 20 percent off your next kit. It's all about sharing and community, socializing and getting out there."
The social aspect of getting friends or family together to make wine is a bonus. "I can do private bottlings with them, and a lot of them have appreciated that. It's a safe environment, clean and tidy and ready to go." She also has wine-making classes, currently booked privately.
For those who think it might be too difficult, Wilson said not to be intimidated. "It doesn't take as long as people think to bottle it up. I had a group of five teachers that did nine different products, and they were out of here in an hour and a half." That's 270 bottles! The Fermented Moose Brewing & Equipment Company is located at 5009 52nd Avenue and is open Tuesday to Friday from 10 am to 6 pm and Saturday and Sunday from 12 pm to 4 pm. Sunday's can vary depending on bookings. Follow the store's social media to stay on top of bottling deadlines for Christmas presents.
Serena Lapointe, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Whitecourt Press