When couples get together, they don’t generally start brainstorming new business ideas at the start of their relationship.
But Rebekah Crowley and Robb Rindt aren’t your average couple.
Brought up in Langley in an entrepreneurial, farming-oriented family, Rindt is always thinking of new ideas.
Crowley came to Langley to be with Rindt, and in a short time the pair hatched a plan for a craft vodka distillery using a blend of potatoes and corn from the family farm.
They incorporated Roots and Wings Distillery in July 2015 and opened a tasting room to showcase their truly home-grown vodka this month.
Their blend of potatoes and corn to make vodka is somewhat unique, but not nearly as unique as Crowley holding the post of distiller.
She is perhaps the first female distiller in the Lower Mainland.
“He does the farming and heavy lifting and building,” Crowley said, pointing to her hubby.
“He’s always thinking of other things to do to work off [of] the farm [land].”
It takes about two kilograms of potatoes for a 750 millilitre bottle of vodka. Good thing Rindt knows how to grow potatoes – six acres of Kennebecs to be precise.
These potatoes were harvested manually for the first distilling and paired up with the corn from another four acres of the farm, Crowley explained, noting there’s plenty of room to plant more as the business takes off.
“When we say it’s hand-crafted, it’s really hand-crafted,” she said.
Hand-picking the potatoes wasn’t a strategy for better vodka, it was a byproduct of a typical business startup – not enough money for all the tools and equipment to make life easier.
Funds obtained from Farm Credit Canada were used to build the distillery and convert an old rental trailer on site (at 80th Avenue and 240th Street) into the tasting room.
“There’s only one distillery that grows their own potatoes and uses them, and that’s us,” Rindt noted. “We wanted to make a smoother, more mixable, drinking vodka.”
Future plans are for a white whisky made from corn, a Canadian whisky (which has to be aged three years) and vodka infusions.
As a craft distillery, all ingredients have to be sourced in B.C. Easy enough when the potatoes and corn are grown on site.
A little more complex for the rye and wheat for the Canadian whisky, but Crowley and Rindt are up for the challenge.
They’ve already faced their fair share of hurdles in dealing the Agricultural Land Commission, the Township of Langley, and a few others to bring everything together.
The biggest hurdle of all for the pair is taking on is the perception that every batch of vodka should be identical, as if it were made by an international distiller – instead of a craft operation. Like craft beer or cider, craft vodka will have slight variations, Crowley clarified.
“I will consistently give you great spirits,” she said. “And there might be a different flavour profile.”
This summer will mark the official grand opening of Roots and Wings.
“When it’s nicer weather and we can have a really good party outside,” Crowley said.