Rob Monk is head brewer at Yukon Brewing Co. in Whitehorse.
He was born and raised in Whitehorse, started working at Yukon Brewing at the tender age of 19, and then moved Victoria.
He worked at Spinnakers brewpub in Victoria for 10 years before being approached by Bob Baxter, president of Yukon Brewing, who asked him if he wanted to move back to Whitehorse and work for him. Monk accepted, thus coming full circle.
Before he started working at the Yukon Brewing Co. (the first time) he didn’t even know the brewery existed. Now he’s passionate about the brewery’s products.
When asked his favourite beer at the brewery, Monk says it’s Yukon Gold but then changes his mind and says it’s “the Dog” – Lead Dog is Yukon Brewing’s Olde English ale.
“Its so malty and big. It’s one of those sneak-up-on-you beers,” says Monk.
I also think it is the brewery’s best offering. Pick up a six-pack of Lead Dog and store it in a cool place for a year before succumbing to temptation.
Besides its stalwart suds like “the Dog,” a brewery must also innovate to keep its staff and customers interested. In this spirit, Yukon Brewing is serving up Cask ale every Friday afternoon. Cask ales are a throwback to the way beer used to be made, before stainless steel kegs supplanted them decades ago.
The idea is that you serve the beer out of the vessel it has finished fermenting in. The carbonation is natural carbonation from the slowly fermenting beer rather than injected carbon dioxide. The beer is unfiltered and unpasteurized; it’s essentially a living, breathing entity.
The cask ales have proven to be a way for the brewery to expand their offering and create a new beer every week.
They all start with a base beer the brewery already makes. About 30 litres gets tapped off from the fermenter and put into a (ahem) firkin keg. Then the beer diverges from its “mother” through the use of hops, spices and other flavourings. When the fermentation is almost complete a sugary substance is added, which allows the “yeasties” to create carbonation.
When I was there, honey was added to their new Cascadia Ale, a style that is a cross between a stout and an India Pale Ale. They also added citra and calypso hops to boost the hop aroma and flavour.
Cask ales are low carb beers served warmish and dispensed (in this case) with a simple spigot. I asked Monk how people feel about drinking flat, uncold, murky beer. He said there’s definitely an education curve but people are open, and they are warming up to it really fast.
Casks are tapped every Friday at 11 a.m. and available from noon onward. Get there before the after-work rush.