Prizes are awarded at Ale in the Dark to guests who can correctly guess beer samples with blindfolds on. (Submitted/Breath of the Boreal Photography)

Ale in the Dark fundraiser puts taste buds to the test

Event attendees try to identify beers while wearing blindfolds

Think you can pick out a brown beer from a red? Or a kolsch from a blonde?

And, most importantly, could you do it with a blindfold on?

An event at the Old Fire Hall in Whitehorse next month will give beer aficionados a chance to put their taste buds to the test, with the benefit of all proceeds going towards funding programs to support people with vision loss.

Now in its second year, Ale in the Dark is put on by the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) and sees attendees put on blindfolds before sampling beers from Yukon Brewing and trying to identify what they’re drinking using all their senses except sight. Prizes are awarded for correct guesses. There will also be live music, a silent auction and food pairings (the blindfolds only need to be on for the beer-drinking portion).

CNIB philanthropy coordinator Shalon Morrison said it was inspired by dining-in-the-dark events, where, similarly, attendees eat an entire meal without seeing their food.

“We’ve had a lot of success with that and the idea, again, is that you’re igniting the senses through enjoying a meal where you’re blindfolded, so you’re relying on other senses to navigate you through that process,” Morrison said in a phone interview Oct. 10. “…Ale in the Dark is our little version of that. We think that the new thing now is the beer tasting idea, so that’s what we ran with.”

The CNIB is aiming to raise $15,000 at this year’s Ale in the Dark, Morrison said. The money will go toward funding the charity’s initiatives in the Yukon. Those include already-existing peer support groups for people with vision loss and its vision-mates program, which pairs people with vision loss with volunteers who have sight, as well as longer-term projects, such as providing CNIB clients with assistive technology devices and skills training for employment.

While Ale in the Dark attendees won’t be able to see what they’re drinking, the use of blindfolds and the event overall are in no way supposed to replicate the experience of living with partial or complete vision loss, Morrison said. What it’s meant to do, though, is create a “link” and create “a bit of understanding” for what living with vision loss might be like, she said.

“(It’s not something) to be feared at all. It would be just another aspect to your day-to-day life but you’re still able to do all the things and enjoy everything (as) fully as everyone else around you is,” she said.

Jasmine Sangria, Yukon Brewing’s director of marketing and sales, said the brewery was happy to pair up with the CNIB again this year after the success of the inaugural event. Watching people taste the beers and talk about them, and then seeing their reactions when they took off their blindfolds and saw what they had drank, was “super interesting,” she said.

“It was so interesting how people that wouldn’t normally (drink certain beers), they’re like, ‘I hate Yukon Red!’ or, ‘I hate dark beer, I would never drink that, I only drink light beers!’ But when they were blindfolded, they thought it was the greatest thing they’d ever had and took off the blindfold and said, ‘Wow, I had no idea,” Sangria said.

“… It was like the Coke and Pepsi taste challenge, if you don’t know, you’re like, ‘Wow, I actually love this!’ So we had quite a few people that were really surprised and ended up loving what they were drinking, or, they thought they loved a beer and it turns out this was not something that they liked and they’ve had it forever and they didn’t realize this was a beer they’ve had a million times.”

About 88 people attended the inaugural Ale in the Dark last year. Morrison said she’s hopeful that this year’s event will sell out, and that it will be as “extremely well-received” as the last time.

“Everyone had a wonderful evening,” she said. “I think it was a very good balance of socializing, something new that folks had not tried before and then also just a casual night with your friends but for a good cause.”

Tickets for CNIB Ale in the Dark, taking place Nov. 2, are $50 and available online at eventbrite.com/e/cnib-ale-in-the-dark-presented-by-yukon-brewing-tickets-47996530916

Contact Jackie Hong at jackie.hong@yukon-news.com

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