A Taste of Beer-Making

It used to be the Chilkoot Brewery; now it’s the Yukon Brewing Company. Either way, it’s the only craft brewery that outsells Molson and Labatt in draft sales on their home turf in Canada.

As the sign on the door at 102A Copper Road states, tours are at 2 p.m. (and samples are available anytime). The showroom walls are forest green and the carpet is dark grey, just the background to display a wide, colourful range of merchandise from T-shirts, hoodies and hats to beer glasses, playing cards and Arctic Char.

On this cool, cloudy Saturday afternoon, a half-dozen of us assembled around the beer taps: two locals, two tourists and a couple in the process of moving up. Darcy welcomed us all while setting out coasters and glasses. The tasting, he informed us, would proceed from “light” to “dark”.

First on the list was pilsner, followed by Yukon Gold, then Discovery Ale. Some of the bright, bold labels on their bottles may look oddly familiar; they feature the work of Yukon artists.

Splashing a taste into each glass, Darcy proceeded to explain the basic brewing process. It had a lot to do with grain, hot water, yeast and fermenting. Depending on the brew, the beer will be ready in three to seven weeks.

In order to further illustrate the process, Darcy gave us a tour of the brewing area and explained the workings of the different machines involved in making beer. There are the grist hopper, the “rakes” and “paddles”. While the bottle washer is a good old reliable model from 1959, the nitrogen generator and EBI (electronic bottle inspector) reflect more up-to-date technology.

Every step of the brewing process here is labour intensive. It takes two people eight hours to produce 500 six-packs. Compare that to the major breweries that produce somewhere between 1,850 and 2,500 cans a minute. It takes the “big guys” about two minutes to produce what takes an eight-hour day here.

Returning to the retail store, Darcy flipped over the “Closed while doing a tour” sign. Three or four patiently waiting patrons trooped in.

The Yukon Brewing Company strives to reduce its carbon footprint, such as buying back and reusing industry-standard bottles (not just their own label) returned to Raven Recycling and the growler that is a reusable glass bottle.

PHOTO: RICK MASSIE [email protected]

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