If it weren’t for the colour of the beverages being swirled in the tasting glasses, you would think you had stumbled upon a wine-tasting event.
But, no, this would be the second annual Yukon Beer Festival at the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre.
“Tasting beer is a very similar process as tasting wine,” says Kaori Torigai, president of the Yukon Beer Festival Society. “You are looking for the colour and the appearance of the beer and if it has lots of carbonization or not. There’s aroma, there’s mouth-feel, and you are discerning which flavours there are.
“It is very subjective.”
Festival goers will be looking for the nuances between the beer varietals offered.
“There may be a citrusy smell or a grassy aroma or pine from the hops,” Torigai says.“We will literally be tasting from glasses that are shaped in the style of wine glasses because we are swirling the beer a little bit, we want to look at it and put our nose in the glass and smell the aroma.”
Then you spit it out?
“Oh, oh, no, no,” Torigai says seriously. “I have never known anyone who has spit out a beer and I can’t imagine anyone doing so. You definitely drink the beer and you enjoy it.”
With more than 100 of the best hand-crafted beers from all over the United States and Canada under one roof a strategy will be needed to try as many as possible.
Torigai suggests people consider coming to two, or all three sessions to spread out the alcohol intake: Friday, Sept. 25 from 6 to 10 p.m.; Saturday, Sept. 26 from 1 to 4 p.m.; and again from 6 to 10 p.m. The admission to each session includes a tasting glass and five tokens for five tastes. However, some specialty beers cost more than one token.
If you discover a new and exciting beer, there is a good chance the Yukon Liquor Corporation will sell showcased beers in the weeks following the festival.
“The YLC is definitely now a lot more supportive of craft beer,” says Torigai. “After last year’s festival, it really geared up and started providing a lot more craft beer in stock.”
For beer connoisseurs, craft beer is the term that is popularly used to define “good beer.”
“It is beer that has been crafted in smaller batches with more care to have distinct flavours and made in the traditional way,” Torigai says. “It is not mass-produced; it has significant flavour; and a lot of care and effort has been taken to make it a quality product.”
She says Yukon Brewing qualifies as a craft brewer because it brews good beer on a smaller scale and even has smaller batches with unique flavours. The local company is taking part in the festival for the second time.
And this year sees the debut of Winterlong Brewing Company, a new Whitehorse brewery.
“It is great to have more local breweries,” says Torigai. “Variety is the spice of life.”
Speaking of variety, Torigai says last year they tried out the new India Pale Ales that had become very popular.
“They were super hoppy and a lot of bitterness in the aftertaste,” she says.
This year will be the year of the sours.
“There is a tartness there,” says Torigai.
In case it needs to be said: Torigai loves beer.
“I love beer, yes,” she says with a laugh. “I started with the dark beers and followed the usual progression when you drink the terrible domestics and then, in university, you kind of learn about other beers that are more exciting and taste different.
“I realized there is a whole world of amazing good beer out there.”
Fortunately, specialty beer from across the continent is coming to the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre Friday and Saturday.
Tickets can be purchased through www.YukonBeerFestival.com. Some of the proceeds will support the Yukon Literacy Coalition.