Yukoner’s beer takes top prize at Haines homebrew competition

Whitehorse resident Lara Lewis’s Flanders Red Ale Session Lite was awarded Best of Show at Beerfest

The Yukon woman who took home the top homebrewing prize at this year’s Haines Craft Beer and Home Brew Festival hasn’t touched a brewing setup in years.

She had also forgotten that the now multi-award-winning beverage had been tucked away in a cellar for about half a decade, until, about six months ago, her ex-partner discovered the stash while cleaning.

Those are among the reasons why Whitehorse resident Lara Lewis said she’s a little abashed that her beer, Flanders Red Ale Session Lite, recently brought home three accolades from the annual Alaskan event, including Best of Show.

“It’s almost embarrassing to win, you know?” Lewis, a Yukon government geologist, said in an interview May 28. “I wasn’t going to enter this beer but my partner, my ex, he found it and he was like, ‘Oh, you should enter this!’”

The Flanders Red Ale Session Lite is, like its name suggests, a take on a Flanders red ale, a style of sour beer originating from Belgium. Lewis said she used a “variety of malts” and a “strange blend of yeast and bacteria” when making it, and, while that style of beer is typically aged in oak barrels, she put oak chips directly into the liquid instead.

The result is a mild sour — far less sour than something you might get from Deep Dark Woods, for example — with what Lewis described as a “fairly thin body” with an “earthiness” from the oak chips that gives the beer “something to lean on.”

Lewis said she’d originally brewed it around five to six years ago, when she was still actively making beer, and had entered it into the Haines homebrew competition when it was fresh but was told it was lacking body and complexity.

She then put the remainder of the batch into a cellar, initially with the intention of letting it age for a bit and then, eventually, kind of forgetting it was even there.

“When we first started, you couldn’t get any interesting craft beer, and especially in the North — it wasn’t really until maybe eight years ago when you started to see a proliferation of craft beers and different styles of beers locally,” she said, adding that homebrewing is also labour-intensive.

“(But the competition) makes me really interested in beer again and the whole brewing process, because it’s just fascinating. It’s science, you know? There’s just so much to learn, it’s never-ending… It definitely triggered this renewed interest in brewing.”

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

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