Tis the season to raise tally: Tourists give Yukoners a bad name

Now that the days are longer than the nights again (although sometime in January at –54 we thought that this might never happen this year) our thoughts at the brewery turn to Beer

Season. We don’t think of the seasons here like “winter” and “summer”, as much as we think of “Beer Season” and “Not Beer Season”. Beer Season is Victoria Day until Thanksgiving, when the days are long and (with any luck) warm, and the Yukon is full of tourists.

Here at the brewery, we involve ourselves in tourism in the Yukon as much as possible. Right now, we have one person sitting on the Senior Marketing Committee of the Yukon Tourism Marketing Partnership, and we have one person sitting on the Board of Directors of the Yukon Tourism Industry Association. The brewery won a tourism award from TIA a couple of years ago for its efforts in supporting the industry. Sometimes we get funny looks when we are in the tourism circles, but it is really a no-brainer from our point of view.

Tourists drink beer. Pretty much all of them, from what we can see. And there are some who seem to have made it their mission to make up for those who don’t. Let’s look at the numbers:

The average consumption of beer in Canada is about 60 litres per person per year. The consumption in the Yukon is about 110 litres per person per year, the highest in Canada. The next highest is Newfoundland at about 80 litres per person per year — another place with a vibrant tourist industry and a relatively small population. We figure that the difference in the Yukon between our consumption and the average for Canada is pretty much due to the large number of tourists we get compared to our population.

If this was the case, then we should see that difference between winter and summer. Using data for Canada, total beer consumption in June/July/August 2004 was just under 1-1/2 times as much as January/February/March 2004 (see why we call it Beer Season?). Here in the Yukon, the same comparison gives us nearly double the consumption — this is why we use capital letters on Beer Season.

In the Whitehorse Liquor Store during those months of June, July, and August, we have the No. 1-selling 6-pack in bottles. We sell more 12 packs and 24 packs of bottles than any of the major brands except Molson Canadian (they beat us by a hair this past summer). About nine out of 10 pints of premium draught beer is one of our products. We still have catching up to do in cans, but we are getting there.

This is not to say that we don’t have a loyal local following. Throughout the year, our products account for more than one out of every four bottles of beer that leave the Whitehorse store. Do we have local support? Well, in January, that number is nearly one in three bottles — so, in the depth of winter, we are above our annual average. I’d say we have local support, in spades. Thanks for that, by the way.

But at the end of the day, with our small population, even our dynamite support would make it difficult to finance growth. That doubling of beer consumption that happens in the summer, largely due to the influx of people, gives us the fuel to expand.

And there is something satis-fying watching someone from California or Germany or Japan leave the brewery after a tour in July, knowing that they are helping fund our sponsorships of sports and cultural events the following winter. It seems somehow poetic.

This story is provided by Yukon Brewing Company, an organization that, like any good parent, knows where each of its bottles are.

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