Drinks and Destinations in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

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DSCN4992 LB Distillers is just one of Saskatoon’s A-list alcohol purveyors. Photo: Lucas Aykroyd

It’s ironic that Saskatoon was originally founded in 1882 as a temperance colony. Today, Saskatchewan’s biggest city boasts a thriving booze scene, from locally produced craft beer and cider to innovative spirits and handcrafted classic cocktails.

To help you drink it all in, here are four A-list alcohol purveyors to check out in Saskatoon, paired with recommendations for other must-see area attractions.

BlackFox Spirits

DSCN4978 BlackFox Spirits uses top-of-the-line German distilling equipment by Ulrich Kothe. Photo: Lucas Aykroyd

This 2015-opened, farm-based distillery grows 95 percent of its ingredients on site. Located just outside the city on Valley Road, it produces distinctive spirits like cucumber vodka and honey ginger liqueur. Haskap berries, reminiscent of blueberries but even more loaded with anti-oxidants, are the basis of another exceptional liqueur.

BlackFox Spirits is best-known for its gin, hand-crafted in small batches and incorporating everything from coriander to calendula flowers. (Saskatoon booze connoisseurs will enjoy comparing and contrasting it with LB Distillers’ Gambit Haskap Gin, whose flavour is as outrageous as its packaging.)

Blackfox Spirits grows thousands of lilies and gladiolas, with a U-pick option. And it proudly claims to have the province’s best pumpkin-rolling hill.

If you like BlackFox Spirits, head to…Hardpressed. This casually elegant 20th St. clothing store is also committed to local Saskatchewan product. It showcases owner Steve Thomson’s custom screen printed T-shirts, tanks, and hoodies with logos like “Made in SK” and “Grown on the Prairies.”

Crossmount Cider Company

DSCN4982 Saskatoon’s Crossmount Cider makes three delicious varieties: Crisp, Dry, and Gold. Photo: Lucas Aykroyd

Founded three years ago, Crossmount Cider Company is Saskatoon’s first hard cidery. The owners planted 1,500 apple trees to supply product. Crab apples, dessert apples, and hybrid varieties created at the University of Saskatchewan are in the mix. Under head cidermaker Tyler Kaban, Crossmount currently produces 15,000 litres of hard cider a year.

At this emerging agri-tourism destination, view the production process and pick up bottles of Crisp, Dry, and Gold cider at Crossmount’s tasting room.

If you like Crossmount Cider, head for…stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) with Escape Sports. Cider feels refreshing and outdoorsy, and so does SUP. Rent a rigid or inflatable paddleboard from Escape Sports on 19th Street and hit the South Saskatchewan River to tone your core and admire the scenery. Oversized boards for groups are available too. Be sure to yell “Pain is temporary, glory is forever!” or “Valhalla, I am coming!” as you race your pals.

9-Mile Legacy Brewing Company

DSCN4953 Variety and old-school Canadian pride mark 9-Mile Legacy Brewing Company. Photo: Lucas Aykroyd

This year-old “nano-brewery” is one of Western Canada’s smallest breweries at just 540 square feet. With a counter made of horse stall wood and a white mountain goat’s head on the wall, it concocts innovative craft beers from Prairie Rattler (Radler) to El Groucho (West Coast IPA) in 100-liter batches. “What we do well is variety,” says Shawn Moen, who co-founded 9-Mile Legacy with Garrett Pederson. “We’ve brewed about 40 beers since we started.”

Local restaurants from Odd Couple to Una Pizza stock 9-Mile Legacy’s beers. Incidentally, the nano-brewery’s name has nothing to do with 8-Mile, the classic Eminem hip-hop movie. Instead, it refers to the distance between the Moen and Pederson family farms.

If you like 9-Mile Legacy, head to…Wyant Group Raceway. ZZ Top’s “Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers” could be the theme song for this unpretentious, volunteer-owned and operated NASCAR track. Just north of downtown off the Trans-Canada Highway, you can watch stock car races – or better yet, go for a spin yourself at speeds of up to 125 km/h. After a safety briefing, pull on a helmet and race suit and pilot a souped-up mid-80’s Chevy Impala through 10 laps.

Little Grouse on the Prairie

Little Grouse - Barrel Aged Cocktails (Photo - Bob Deutscher)-Resized60 Barrel-aged cocktails complement Little Grouse on the Prairie’s upscale cuisine. Photo: Bob Deutscher.

Within easy walking distance from both the Delta Bessborough Hotel and The James Hotel, this artsy, intimate eatery serves exclusively barrel-aged classic cocktails like the Bijou (Beefeater Gin, Green Chartreuse, Sweet Vermouth, Orange Bitters) and Vieux Carre (Hennessey Cognac, Wiser’s Special Blend, Cinzano, Benedictine, Angostura Bitters, Peychaud’s Bitters).

With birdcage chandeliers overhead, antique mirrors on the walls, and Leonard Cohen’s raspy pipes on the stereo, Little Grouse on the Prairie is also a perfect dinner getaway. The braised lamb shoulder with artichokes, fennel and mint is a standout, as is the peanut butter and salted-caramel budino for dessert.

If you like Little Grouse on the Prairie, head to…the Remai Modern Art Gallery. This spectacular $84.6-million, 130,000-square-foot gallery designed by architect Bruce Kuwabara is slated to open in mid-2017. In addition to rotating exhibitions of local and international artwork, a major drawing card will be the Picasso gallery, showcasing close to 200 of his linocuts. A rooftop terrace and banquet rooms overlooking the South Saskatchewan River add to Remai’s allure.

Catch a discounted flight to Saskatoon to experience these amazing drinks and destinations.

About the Author: Lucas Aykroyd

Lucas Aykroyd is an award-winning Vancouver travel writer and public speaker. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and National Geographic Traveler. To engage his services, visitlucasaykroyd.com.

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