The second annual Fraser Valley Distillery Festival will feature 17 small-batch B.C. distilleries

The second annual Fraser Valley Distillery Festival will feature 17 small-batch B.C. distilleries

Distillery festival returns for second year in Chilliwack

After a very successful inaugural tasting event last year, the Fraser Valley Distillery Festival is back for a second round in Chilliwack.

After a very successful inaugural tasting event last year, the Fraser Valley Distillery Festival is back for a second round.

“It was our most successful fundraiser ever done,” says organizer Melissa Ratcliff, and principal of the Chilliwack Academy of Music (CAM). “Last year’s went really well; we didn’t quite sell out but we were close.”

In 2016 they raised $15,000 for CAM and this year they’re hoping to double that on Jan. 27 at the Chilliwack Cultural Centre.

Ratcliff came up with the idea for the Fraser Valley Distillery Festival when she was in the Okanagan a few years ago. She’s been to a number of wineries and craft breweries throughout B.C. and she came across the province’s original distillery, Okanagan Spirits, which opened in 2004. She tried their raspberry liqueur and was sold.

After looking into it a bit more, she found out just how many distilleries there are in our province.

Currently, there are 39 distilleries in B.C. and another 14 slated to open this year.

Although the craft beer industry is huge and has grown greatly in 10 years, “the craft distillery industry is just getting its boots on,” she says.

This year’s Fraser Valley Distillery Festival will feature 17 vendors offering gin, vodka, single malt whisky, liqueurs, absinthe and more. The ingredients used in the small-batch spirits are mostly from B.C.

“It’s hyper-local,” says Ratcliff. “A lot of the grain, corn, and fruits are sourced in B.C. It promotes B.C. farming and B.C. industry.”

There will be more than 50 different tastes on hand that night. Vendors will be spread throughout the main lobby and in the Rotary Hall Studio Theatre alongside live music by classical harpist Glen Cuthbertson and a Dixieland jazz band.

In addition to the alcohol vendors, there will be two non-alcohol booths, one featuring bitters and the other shrubs, which is a sweetened vinegar-based syrup from which a cocktail is made.

Six food vendors will also be on hand. Local celebrity chef Tammy Wood will be preparing game dishes and seafood. Other food booths include Prestons from Coast Chilliwack Hotel, Roll’N Coal from Yarrow (serving beans and high-end barbecue), Earls, Frankie’s Italian Kitchen, and the sweet and savoury treats of Scrumpdillyicious.

There’s also a silent auction with $4,000 worth of items, including a bar fridge full of craft distilled products.

“It’s a great event. It’s so much fun,” she says. “People have raved about what a great time they had.”

And it’s all for a good cause.

“I think about 90 per cent don’t know it’s a fundraiser,” says Ratcliff.

Proceeds raised will go towards bursaries for low-income students at Chilliwack Academy of Music. Last year, CAM taught a total of about 600 students ranging in age from six months to 91 years.

“You support a local charity by supporting local distilleries,” she says.

For those who are keen on taking home a bottle, a storefront will be set up at the Cultural Centre where people will be able to purchase any of the liquors on hand.

The 2017 Fraser Valley Distillery Festival is Friday, Jan. 27 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $45 and include 12 tokens to sample a dozen different alcohols. Those wanting to buy more tokens can purchase them during the festival for 12 for $5.

To buy tickets, go to the Centre Box Office at 9201 Corbould St., call 604-391-SHOW (7469), or online at chilliwackculturalcentre.ca.

More info at fraservalleydistilleryfestival.com.