It’s a family tradition that’s been passed down from generation to generation.
The Hansen family has been making moonshine since the 1930s, a time during The Great Depression when Shayna Hansen’s grandparents Carl and Amanda struggled to provide for the family. Initially, her grandparents used a tomato paste base to make their moonshine, but her grandma thought it was too messy. So, they switched to sugar shine.
Hansen grew up around moonshine and remembers helping her family make it…even sneaking some from the cupboards in her teens.
“I actually had no interest in making moonshine myself, until Kris and I started dating,” says Hansen, who eventually married Kris Sustrik. “After gaining my family’s trust, the sugar shine recipe was handed down to Kris,” adds Hansen.
The idea to start the distillery happened one night back in 2016, while Hansen and Sustrik were making moonshine in their garage. They were small town moonshiners with a big dream.
At the time, the couple had already sold their welding business and were looking for a new opportunity.
“We wanted to work for ourselves. Kris had taken power engineering so he had a good handle on how to use a lot of industrial equipment. He then flew to Kelowna to take a commercial distilling course. After that, we both said, ‘Let’s do this,’” adds Hansen.
The process to make moonshine and spirits has changed over the years, of course, and Sustrik has since tweaked the family recipe for production purposes, with Hansen Distillery opening its doors in December 2016.
The couple sources the grains for all their spirits from a family member in Stettler, Alberta. Sustrik says he goes through about 1,500 kilograms of grain a week.
You can take a tour of the distillery and then can pull up a seat at the tasting room, where you can not only taste, but see the family traditions, from family antiques to the old car Grandma and Grandpa drove back in the day displayed in the tasting room.
Hansen produces a Barn Owl Vodka, End of the Line Moonshine, Border Crossing Rye and the newly released Trouble Gin.
Sustrik is also playing with different flavour combinations like sour cherries for its cherry rye and cinnamon sticks for a Fireball-type batch.
Also on the menu at the distillery are moonshine cocktails like Cranberry Hooch, Fancy D, White Cosmo and Hansen’s Old Fashioned.
Don’t worry if you can’t make it to the distillery, though. You can taste some of the distillery’s products at Northern Chicken, the first local restaurant to offer the Hansen Distillery spirits to their patrons.
Hansen and Sustrik plan to produce 50,000 bottles of spirits this year.
The couple will also be offering a distilling course in April.
“We feel proud to carry on this family tradition. It’s so rewarding to see our families reaction to everything we’ve done,” says Hansen.