The inaugural Yukon Beer Festival - it may be the two pints, but that sounds like something that should have happened a long time ago.
Bree Lucas is the festival’s producer and Dion Zdunic is executive producer. They’re explaining how it all got started, from a table at the back of the Town and Mountain Hotel lounge.
We’re 10 feet from the bar where the plan was hatched, over pints and a hand of Gin rummy. Within weeks, the Yukon Beer Festival Society had been culled from the staff and regular patrons of the T&M, and now just a few months later - and unlike most other bar-side schemes - festival planning is actually underway.
“It was probably only about a week or so later that we got calls from brewers in Nova Scotia and Oregon,” says Zdunic. “I said, ‘I guess we should get T-shirts printed then.’”
The festival is taking place from October 17 to 19 at the Kwanlin Dun Cultural Centre. It will feature about 150 different varieties of beer. New Brunswick’s Pumphouse and Halifax’s Propeller and Garrison Breweries have taken an early interest, but the society is courting entrants from B.C. and Alberta and some American breweries as well.
“People are very interested in coming here,” says Lucas. “Because no one knows anything about the Yukon, right? So why not go somewhere beautiful and check it out for a few days?” They plan to set their event apart from the popular Haines and Skagway beer festivals by bringing in a wider range of products. “It’s about sampling and discovery,” says Zdunic. “More than straight consumption.”
Lucas says she’s confident the festival will draw a crowd. It gives Outsiders a chance “to earn the flannel shirt, the beard and the Old Spice,” she says. “And it offers something for locals to do. Not too many large-scale events happen in October, so we wanted to offer that.”
Getting the beer up here is a more of a challenge. “It’s never been done before in this kind of vast quantity,” says Lucas. Right now the plan is to gather the beer somewhere down south, get it to Skagway via Vancouver and then truck the suds over the pass to Whitehorse.
So far, most of the marketing effort has been word of mouth, but the society is looking for sponsors and they’re hoping to team up with venues around town as well. “We’re working on getting the beer we bring up in restaurants and bars to pair with food,” says Lucas. “The idea is people can go to the (Dirty Northern) Bastard and have some Tater Tots and listen to some music ... and try the beer they’ve had at the festival.”
Tickets are on sale for $15 until May 15th, and $25 afterward. They’re available at the Yukon Arts Centre, Arts Underground and Yukontickets.com. Some of the proceeds go to the Yukoners’ Cancer Care Fund - if you still need an excuse to book yours.
Zdunic says he’s hoping to make the Yukon Beer Festival an annual event. “To be honest, I’m already planning ahead to year three,” he says.
That is something to which we can all drink to.
Max Leighton is a freelance writer and broadcaster from Whitehorse. He’s a “coffee until it’s time to drink beer, beer until it’s time to drink coffee” kind of guy.