Skagway Craft Brew Festival Debrief

It’s official: Skagwegians know how to have a good time. We just got back from the second annual Skagway Craft Brew Festival, and it was awesome.

First of all, a huge thank you to everyone who made the festival a hit: Trisha Sims at Skagway Development Corporation, White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad, the good folk at the Elks, Katherine Nelson and a slew of volunteers at the Skagway Recreation Center, and the mad CO2 and cooling skills of Trevor Clifford.

The event took place in the Rec Center and drew 177 beer tasters, 30 non-tasters, homebrewers, commercial brewers, bartenders, two bands and a guy in lederhosen. How could you not have a good time?

The idea of the Skagway Craft Brew Festival is to showcase homebrewed beer and get the public involved in the sampling and tasting of a variety of styles.

Armed with a sheet listing the names of all 19 eligible beers (homebrew only) and five tasting categories with which to rate them – aroma, appearance, flavour, mouthfeel and overall impression – festival-goers appreciate each sample with these categories in mind.

The diligent tasters then vote for their favourite beers in the prestigious People’s Choice awards.

There was every kind of brew and homebrewer there: from all-grain to beer kit; from new-to-kegging to hooking up CO2 lines in their sleep. There were also seven taps with ales and lagers generously donated by local commercial breweries Skagway Brewing Co and Gold Rush Brewery.

The 170 gallons of beer provided by homebrewers and commercial vendors was made up of a wide variety of styles: pale ales, IPAs, IRAs (Imperial Red Ales), a sour, a red, an ESB, light ales, some stouts, and two Belgians.

It was great to see how engaged, critical and open-minded the beer tasters were as they made their way (tough job) through the various beers on offer. Sometimes it was a struggle to stay on the serving side of the bar, but duty called.

People’s Choice Awards went to (drum roll please):

In first place was our very own Late Oat Stout, which was such an honour. The beer behaved according to plan, mixing chocolate and roasty coffee with a thick, silky mouthfeel and slightly bitter finish.

Second place went to Chanterelle Belgian, which was a Belgian saison with an added chanterelle-infused vodka tincture.

Homebrewed years ago by Skagway Brew Co’s Trevor Clifford, this carefully cellared, rich, sparkly beauty was our personal fave. Sweet, but not too thick, with a lingering apricot finish … amazing.

In the spirit of all great festivals, third place was a tie! Half of it went to John Thomas (JT) who had brewed a lovely, massively popular, lightly spiced Belgian White. This ale was only nine days old (!!!) and a huge hit with a smooth mouthfeel and fresh finish.

The other half went to Uncle’s Inside Passage Ale, brewed by Wade Gruhl. This double IPA was moderately bitter, full bodied, with a hefty 4-oz dose of dry hops. Delicious.

So grab a Sharpie and mark next year’s date on your calendar: we both agree that this is a must-attend festival for homebrewers and beer enthusiasts alike.

Just another awesome reason to visit Skagway.

Please enjoy this article responsibly.

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