A flower blooms in the mouth. That’s the sensation I get with a slow sip of East Van Vodka, a one-hundred-percent malted barley, small-batch spirit produced on-site at Odd Society, the new craft distillery located a stone’s throw from microbrewery kingpins Parallel 49, Storm Brewing and Powell Street Craft Brewery.
As I swallow, the crisp liquid darts brightly down my throat. Hot damn. Like its namesake neighborhood, East Van Vodka leaves a guileless impression. Amongst other qualities, it’s also very simply “good and tangible,” something Odd Society partner Joshua Beach values.
“It’s really nice to have a real, tangible product you can put out there and let people get their hands on,” he tells BeatRoute during what eventually becomes a quality-control vodka tasting session on a sunny Thursday morning at Odd Society.
Beach worked for years in the manufacturing of intangible things as an IT programmer in Switzerland before attending the renowned Master of Brewing and Distillation program at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh. That’s where he first met Odd Society founder Gordon Glanz, who had packed up his family and life in Vancouver as a technical writer to learn the craft of the crafts.
After completing the program in the summer of 2010, the two went their separate ways. Beach jetted around the world in the brewing industry, working in Alberta, England and most recently in Germany as a project manager for a distillery/brewing automation company. Back in Vancouver, Glanz and his wife Miriam Karp set the wheels for an artisanal distillery in motion, with intentions as honest as the spirits themselves.
“We just wanted to have a small distillery and do our own stuff.”
“We had the idea of doing all-grain, though,” adds Beach. The two old schoolmates had kept in touch, with Beach leaving Germany earlier this year to help oversee the initial stages of production. When Glanz offered Beach a partnership in the company, Beach says he couldn’t refuse.
Today, Karp oversees the tasting room out front as General Manager of Odd Society, while Glanz and Beach manage fermenting and distilling in the back. Since the spirits are made on-site, using one-hundred-percent BC-grown, all-grain agricultural products, Odd Society is one of few in the city that qualify for the new provincial craft distillery designation.
And as the price point on East Van Vodka suggests, craft doesn’t have to come at huge cost to the consumer. At $36 a bottle at private liquor stores and the Odd Society tasting room, it’s downright sensible. Next up? Gin. There’s an un-aged “white dog” whiskey in the works, too.
It’s all happening at Odd Society, where the tasting room is open to the public Thursday through Sunday from 1-7 p.m. With an on-site lounge designation application under way, it’s only a matter of time before thirsty patrons will be able to come in for cocktails and stay for a while.
Odd Society is located at 1725 Powell Street, Thursday-Sunday 1-7 p.m. Complimentary tasting tours Saturday and Sunday at 4 p.m.
By Sarah Bauer
Photos: Sarah Whitlam