Never heard of Alberta-made wine? Grande Prairie’s Joosed Moose Winery is on a mission to change that. With award-winning Saskatoon berry wine and major ambitions to expand their fruit wine selection, Joosed Moose is creating the culture, day after day.
And they’ve been at it from day one. Founder Jason Halwa was part of the group that advocated for the changes that would make his industry possible. Their battle was a hard and impossibly long one.
“There was a group of people that had approached Alberta Agriculture in order to change licensing and wine rules in Alberta. I started going to a lot of those meetings. And by 2005, they had changed a bunch of rules and laws and made it somewhat easier for the average Joe to start up a winery.”
Around that time, Jason connected with Dominic Rivard, a renowned fruit wine maker. Jason already had the land for an orchard; he just needed some guidance in winemaking. But unfortunately, he discovered that there was still work to be done on the advocacy front.
“By the time I was ready to start my winery, it was maybe 2009 or 2010. I applied for a license and just got met with so much red tape, it was almost impossible to get a license. A few more years pass and by this time there are maybe four or five wineries in Alberta, when there should have been 20.”
The work to ease guidelines continued. Jason pulled his license and kept lobbying. “Through that process, they’ve made a bunch more changes which eases the pain a little bit more, but it’s still not quite there just yet.”
Finally, in 2018, Joosed Moose was cleared for launch. After a bureaucratic battle that would have defeated most, Jason had to muster his energy for establishing a complex enterprise.
“Getting the orchard going and starting to grow things was a big win. You know, up here we have gorgeous summers but they’re short. Growing season isn’t long. It takes a few years from initial planting to start having a rotation of fruit that you can use to make wine. We don’t grow grapes up here successfully, but we grow lots of different types of fruit. Fruit wine is much more difficult than table wine to do well.”
But Joosed Moose does indeed do it well. The proof is in the industry recognition. In this winery’s short existence, their Dry Oak has already won the Judges’ Selection at the 2021 Alberta Beverage Awards.
Joosed Moose’s quick climb to notability was aided by a savvy branding process. Melissa Dillon of Image Design created the quirky, character-driven labels. The name “Joosed Moose” references a nearly unbelievable incident in which a moose scaled their neighbour’s 12-foot fence to get at the Saskatoons growing on the property. Joosed, after all, means “stolen or robbed.”
With a fun brand identity established, creating the packaging was next. That’s where Great Little Box Company/Ideon Packaging (GLBC) came in.
“Working with GLBC was fabulous!” says Melissa. “Sure, I can design a label, but GLBC had the knowledge to say, ‘Okay, this will work and this won’t work.’ Details like, ‘This is how it rolls off the roll and it could get out of balance and ruin everything’. Those were things we didn’t know. They guided us and kept us on the right path, telling us what was realistic and what was not.”
Jason adds, “They have so much experience with tons of other wine labels, so they were able to give us feedback on ours, which was really awesome. And they were always there to talk to, any time of day.”
With plans to expand into different fruit wines, ciders, and meads, the sky is the limit for Joosed Moose. We’re grateful they fought the good fight for Albertan producers, and even more grateful to support their good work today.