When you first think of a Canadian destination that has a wealth of great food, craft beer and artisanal cocktails, you’d be forgiven if the Yukon didn’t come to mind. For most Canadians the Yukon brings up old ideas of the Great White North: expansive landscapes, plenty of wildlife and rugged living. The truth is, while yes there are wonderfully sweeping natural vistas and scores of wildlife, the Yukon has far more cosmopolitan comforts than you may think.
Now, if you are in search for the rugged, there’s obviously plenty of that to go around. But, there is a wonderful mix of old and new that offers something for everyone. From some of Canada’s best eating (more on that below) to award winning craft beer, let’s dive in to why you should definitely make getting to know the Yukon a priority on your travel list.
Craft beer for everyone
The Yukon has a surprisingly strong craft beer scene; but given the territory has the highest alcohol consumption per capita in Canada, it shouldn’t be all that surprising.
With five craft breweries, all located within the Whitehorse area, there is a fantastic mix of styles and flavours to choose from.
First off is the seminal Yukon Brewing. It’s only fair to start here as the brewery is one of the oldest, and by far the most recognizable. Over the years the brewery has won multiple awards for their beers, and like many other well established brewers they’ve moved into distilling as well. Now the brewery offers an impressively long lineup of core and seasonal beers along with gins, liqueur and their own Two Brewers Whisky.
Next up is Winterlong Brewing, located just outside of town on the way to the Mount Sima ski hill. The team here has also been fortunate to win a number of Canadian awards, and have one of the most sought after beers in Whitehorse– the Spruce Tip Pale Ale. Only available seasonally, the beer is brewed with wild foraged spruce tips and has been known to sell out in a matter of hours on launch day. If you miss out, don’t worry, they have some other exceptional core beers, particularly their saison and IPA.
Located in one of Whitehorse’s most iconic buildings, Woodcutter’s Brewing is another stop that shouldn’t be missed. Over the decades the building has been utilized as a company office space, taxidermy business, retail storefront, and now a classic cocktail bar and brewery. The team is constantly innovating with styles and local ingredients, and serve their beer as fresh as possible. It’s an excellent location one could spend hours in drinking beer, cocktails and chatting with regulars.
For those looking for something a little funky, Deep Dark Wood Brewing has your fix. This is a one man operation, making one beer at a time with a focus on barrel aged sours. Obviously that’s the kind of operation that could produce mixed results, but Deep Dark Wood has managed to produce some high quality beers that cater to an audience looking for a little more character from their beer. They also have a membership program that releases beers specifically to those that sign up; so far it’s been a hit.
Matt, the one man operation at Deep Dark Wood
Finally, the newest kid on the block is Polarity Brewing. Having just launched in August of 2020, the team is still working through exactly what they want their brewery to be known for, but so far they’ve created some interesting beer, including a solid Hefeweisen. They also have a strong kitchen menu, which is always a welcome addition when spending the night at a brewery. The team has an infectious passion for their work, and it will be exciting to see how they make their defining mark on an ever growing craft beer scene.
Cocktails, Spirits, Ciders and more…
Beyond just craft beer, there’s a growing industry around craft cocktails, spirits and ciders. Bars like the aforementioned Woodcutter’s Blanker offer a unique experience and cocktails that go above the general fair, while just down the road at the Dirty Northern the cocktail names are raunchy but the drinks certainly are not!
There’s also a new cidery in town called Solstice Ciderworks; cider may not come naturally to the Yukon, but there is plenty of local ingredients that lends itself well to cider making, including haskap berries, which only grow in Canada’s colder climate.
Whitehorse doesn’t have all the fun, in fact Dawson City while much smaller, might actually take the crown here when it comes to nightlife. Catch a CanCan show and a cocktail at the only casino in the Yukon, Diamond Tooth Gerties; or if you’re feeling like something a little more intimate, Bombay Peggy’s pours a selection of craft cocktails in their lounge that was once part of a brothel.
CanCan at Diamond Tooth Gerties/Bombay Peggy’s
And for the adventurous, and possibly foolhardy, there’s the legendary Sourtoe Cocktail. Legend has it that the first toe belonged to a miner and rum runner named Louie Liken, who had his frostbitten appendage amputated in the 1920s. Being a smart man, Liken preserved his severed toe in a jar of alcohol in his cabin for memories. Roughly 50 years later, in 1973, Yukon local Captain Dick Stevenson found the jar containing the toe while cleaning. Captain Dick, also being a smart man decided he’d bring the toe down to the Sourdough Saloon and started plunking it into the drinks of those who were brave enough; and the Sourtoe Cocktail was born. Now you too can have your drink of choice sullied by a mummified toe, while onlookers gawk as you attempt to touch as little toe as possible while downing your drink. The prize? A certificate proclaiming you to have completed the challenge, and a story to tell to your disgusted friends.
A genuine mummified human toe & Toe Master Terry congratulating a very foolish writer for a job well done
Food worth traveling for
Normally, we’d simply focus on all the great craft beer and cocktails available, but the food scene is such a welcome surprise that it can’t go unspoken. The Yukon simply has a much broader culinary scene than one might expect.
In Whitehorse, there is a plethora to choose from. For breakfast, have a wonderful sit down brunch at The Burnt Toast Cafe, or if you’re in the mood for something on the go, grab a coffee at the Baked Cafe and a fresh bagel from Bullet Hole Bagels.
Moving on to lunch there is the iconic Klondike Rib & Salmon which believe it or not, has more than ribs and salmon. Their sourdough bread pudding is incredible, and best shared for two. There’s also sushi at Asahiya or Tokyo Sushi, Mexican at Sanchez Cantina and authentic BBQ at the Smoke & Sow food truck.
Finally there’s dinner, and this is where Whitehorse has truly outdone itself. Nestled in an unassuming residential backstreet you’ll find Wayfarer Oyster House. Opened in 2018, it’s the type of restaurant you’d expect to see on the streets of Vancouver, Montreal or Toronto. The menu is refined and meticulous, and every dish has been thoughtfully laid out. Wayfarer has become a destination of itself, having been named one of Canada’s Best New Restaurants in 2019, and head chef and owner Brian Ng being named one of the country’s top chef’s by the Globe and Mail. For food lovers, Wayfarer alone is worth the trip.
Where to stay and what to do
The Gold Rush Inn, Whitehorse
Naturally, you’re not heading to the Yukon just to experience the food and beverage scene; there is plenty to experience in this great Northern playground. To list even a fraction of what you could do and where you could stay would be a blog post all to itself, but here are a few standout highlights that are well worth mentioning:
- Stay at the Gold Rush Inn in Whitehorse, it’s conveniently around the corner from Wayfarer and has a great bar full of regulars, the Gold Pan Saloon.
- Visit Mount Logan Lodge, as a home base to explore the wilds of Haines Junction.
- Go canoeing or backcountry mountain biking with Terra Riders
- Rent an RV with Fraserway RV.
- Visit the world’s smallest desert at Carcross.
- Shop gourmet import cheese and meats at The Gourmet.
- Find your own Yukon experience, because there’s a lot!
For everything else Yukon related, the Travel Yukon tourism website has a lot of well thought out information.