Deep Roots Distillery was incorporated in November, 2013 and had their first products in the bottle and on the shelf in early July, 2014.
Mike and Carol Beamish of Warren Grove, Prince Edward Island, planted their first 200 apple trees in 1990 and continued to plant a few more trees each spring. By 1995 they had about two acres of apple trees and started to sell their first apples roadside. As production slowly grew, they opened their farm to u-pick. In 2005 they transitioned their operation to certified organic. It has always operated as a hobby farm with lots of help from their five children and extended family and friends. Mike Beamish explained, “We both worked full-time so we devoted our evenings and weekends to the farm.” Mike retired from a teaching job in 2012 with a plan to develop value-added products to increase the profitability of the farm.
“The idea of operating a distillery started to ferment several years ago. Besides being a fun retirement project for me, it is a way to use a lot of the fruit that is not suitable for the fresh apple market.” Being certified organic means they can be a slightly higher number of blemishes on some apples and it is harder to keep the size consistent. Apples can be crushed and pressed into cider (juice) fairly easily. Over the past several years, there has been a significant growth in the craft wine, beer, and distilled spirits industry right across Canada and the United States. “We chose the distilled spirits segment because there are a lot of options for a variety of products including various spirits such as moonshine, apple brandy, eau de vies, vodka etc., and many options for flavoured liqueurs from island grown fruit, and other botanical-based flavourings.
Without a lot of knowledge of the distilling craft, Mike started by looking for training options. There were a few organizations offering various types of training, but it seemed the best one to suit the needs of someone new to the industry was offered by Artisan Craft Distilling Institute in Washington State. A chance casual discussion with Jim Smith (Executive Director of BioFoodTech) identified an interest by BioFoodTech to assist the local industry to develop and grow. “I was wondering how to justify in the family budget a week- long trip to Washington State to attend a workshop on making alcohol”, said Mike Beamish. “BioFoodTech solved this problem for me as they worked with Artisan Craft Distilling Institute to bring the workshop to PEI. The stars seemed to line up for me. The first discussion with Jim took place in November 2012 and they were able to engage Innovation PEI, Artisan Craft Distilling Institute, and several other speakers including a host local distillery for hands-on components and hosted the workshop in late February, 2013.”
Mike and his son Paul attended BioFoodTech’s first Distillation workshop and started immediately working on plans for the distillery. Mike said that the workshop presenters commented several times on how lucky the participants were to have access to a facility like BiofoodTech, and representatives from provincial and federal stakeholders. With presentations from PEILCC and Excise Canada, the registrants had a very good introduction to the regulatory side of the business. In January and February 2014, BioFoodTech organized a Fermentation workshop and a second Distillation workshop, both taught by the Artisan Craft Distilling Institute of Washington.
From the beginning, the Beamish’s goal was to start small and affordable and let the business grow and expand based on proven success. If things didn’t work out, they didn’t want to be in debt and have to start over…at that point in their lives. They tapped into assistance programs through Growing Forward 2 and hired Phyllis Duffy to develop their business plan; engaged with Centre of Excellence in Agriculture and Biotechnological Sciences) New Brunswick Community College, Grand Falls); worked with BioFoodTech; ordered equipment; prepared sample products; and are now in the final stages of licensing to produce distilled spirits in PEI. Their first two products to be released will be a moonshine and a maple syrup liqueur. Over the next several months they will be working on other fruit as it becomes available to produce their own brand of liqueurs and spirits and of course they look forward to their apple harvest to use their home-grown apples.
By early July, 2014, the licensing process was complete, the first products distilled, in the bottle and on the shelf. The first product released was Island Tide, followed immediately by Maple Liqueur.