in the Yukon Yukon Brewing started as an idea born around a campfire during
a canoe trip more than 20 years ago. Today, its popular line of
craft beers is sold throughout much of Western Canada – and
even as far afield as Tokyo, if you know where to look.
By Mark Halsall
Bob Baxter and Alan Hansen are a couple of transplanted
Ontarians who now call the Yukon home. The two friends
have made great strides since founding their own brew-ery
in Whitehorse just over 20 years ago, establishing a strong
brand for Yukon Brewing while expanding their market and their
business with an award-winning line of craft beers and spirits.
“I have been here since 1980, and Alan since 1987. I think
that we came here for the reason most people do, a sense of
adventure,” Baxter said, adding that in true Yukon fashion, their
plan to start a brewery was hatched while he and Hansen were
sitting around a campfire.
“We were on week-long canoe trip on the Jennings River,
flowing from northern B.C. into the Yukon. Alan was there with
his spouse and I with mine, and as one does on a canoe trip – we
enjoyed lots of campfire talk,” Baxter said.
“One night, I brought up that brewery idea that I had
researched, and Alan talked about his interest in wine and the
science of fermentation. While neither of us had much experi-ence
beyond home brewing, the idea was germinated and began
Baxter met Hansen, a chemical engineer, while operating
a consulting engineering business in the Yukon. Baxter says it
took a couple of years after the campfire discussion for the two
men to create a business plan and raise the necessary funds to
open the brewery.
B R E W E RY
“Our first beer actually passed through the door in February
1997,” Baxter said. “We bought our brew system and first fermen-ters
from Pacific Brewing Systems (which is no longer around)
and have added fermenters over the years from a number of sup-pliers
– some used and some new.”
Yukon Brewing, which added a distilling arm specializing
in fine Canadian whiskies in 2009, is headquartered in a 14,000
sq. ft. building situated in downtown Whitehorse adjacent to
the company’s 5,000 sq. ft. warehouse. Yukon Brewing now
has 16 employees, although that ramps up to about 21 during
Baxter notes that the company originally operated as
Chilkoot Brewing, named after the historic trail that most gold
seekers used during the Klondike Gold Rush of the 1890s.
“As we expanded our sales beyond the Yukon borders, it
quickly became apparent that Chilkoot meant little in the south,
but everybody knew of the Yukon. So, we made the change in
1999,” Baxter said.
Yukon Brewing brands
Today, Yukon Brewing produces a lager called Chilkoot and a
range of aptly named ales such as Ice Fog, Longest Night and
Lead Dog. There’s also Midnight Sun, an espresso stout.
“We have eight full time core brands, plus a couple of sum-mer
seasonals. Over the past few years, we have begun to pro-duce
small batches of seasonal products year-round. Both last
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