by Andrew Morrison | About two and half years ago, Charles & Rita Tremewen took a trip down to Portland and were blown away by the city’s burgeoning micro-distillery scene. The impact is common. If you’ve never been before, PDX places like Distillery Row make for an especially impressive experience for Vancouverites, if only because we are so effectively mummified by all the federal, provincial, and municipal red tape strangling our alcohol production, distribution, and consumption. It was an inspiring trip, so much so that the Tremewens came home keen to do something similar themselves.
Charles comes from a management background, working with “green” companies to make them better. He was most recently the Product Manager at Nature’s Path, and before that he was Director of Marketing for Salt Spring Coffee. Making booze, however, has been a passion since his varsity days, when he and his friends used to experiment with making their own beers and spirits. Owning and running a distillery – however small, locally sourced, and locally sold – was a lifelong dream. Long Table Distillery is that dream realised.
To hone his skills, Charles took the Artisan Distilling course at Michigan State University last year. He and Rita then pounced when 1451 Hornby St. became available last summer. The long, thin, single-storey building south of Pacific St. near False Creek is outwardly unassuming, dwarfed by surrounding highrises and condominiums. Previously (typically?), it was an art gallery and a show suite for developers. That it’s being turned into a distillery in the heart of the city is – let’s be serious - nothing short of awesome.
“We can make pretty much anything,” Charles explained with no small amount of enthusiasm as he showed me around the almost finished distillery. The production area is marked by a gobsmackingly beautiful Carl still that they had shipped over from Germany (its gleaming, shapely copper body looks like it was designed by Fritz Lang). The front is dominated by the namesake Long Table, a 14 seat Redwood Sequoia stunner cut by Karl Simmerling of Vancouver Timber and finished by Charles himself. This area will play host to meetings, catered suppers, and a retail component that will offer more than just direct bottle sales (think cocktail paraphernalia, books, et cetera). There will also be tastings during opening hours, with a chalkboard “fresh sheet” listing two distinct sippers every day.
As far as product is concerned, they’re starting off with a dry, London-style gin and a Texada Island limestone vodka, but there’s a West Coast gin on the way, too (made with locally foraged juniper), and a Mandarin gin. It’s all small batch stuff. For each batch, they’ll start with 300 liters and get that down to 150 liters of 180 proof. This is then proofed down to 90. Each run takes 1 to 2 hours of initial prep, 24 to 48 hours of steeping time, and then 4-6 hours distilling. Eventually, they’d like to get into whisky as well.
Tragically, my tour didn’t include a taste of anything. That will have to wait until the middle of February. They’re hoping to do a friends and family opening on February 9th, and then open it up to the public after that. Take a look at what’s in store below…
Andrew Morrison is the editor-in-chief of Scout and BC’s Senior Judge at the Canadian Culinary Championships. He contributes regularly to a wide range of publications, radio programs, and TV shows on local food, culture and travel. He live and works in the vibrant Strathcona neighbourhood, where he also collects inexpensive things and enjoys birds, skateboards, whisky, shoes, many songs, and the smell of wood fires.