Best Local Beer

Brewmaster Liam McKenna with Yellowbelly owner Craig Flynn. Photo by Darrell Edwards.

Yellowbelly Pale Ale

YellowBelly Brewery
288 Water Street, 757-3784,

This year’s winner of Best Local Beer is the Yellowbelly Pale Ale, brainchild of brewmaster Liam McKenna. The 25-year veteran of craft beer brewing developed Yellowbelly’s precisely balanced pale ale over several years, taking the palates of St. John’s beer drinkers into account as the recipe evolved.

When McKenna first moved to Newfoundland, the most-consumed beer was Coors Lite.

“Now Coors Lite is a fine product, it’s well-made, it’s not chemical soup or anything like that. It’s a well-made, well-crafted product and extremely well packaged and well branded,” McKenna says. “However, it is what a lot of us brewers refer to as wet air… a kind of beer for people who don’t like beer.”

He says the Yellowbelly Pale Ale, on the other hand, strives to achieve a delicate balance. The sweetness of the malt forms the foundation of the beer, and the characteristic bitterness and depth of flavour of the hops give the brew its bite.

McKenna puts a harmonious amalgam of hops to work in his brewmastering. Sporting evocative names like Cascade, Nugget, and Super Styrian, the hops hail from exotic reaches of the globe, like Oregon. (Oregon!) The end result of this single-minded micromanagement of the ingredients is the prizewinning, opposite-of-wet-air Yellowbelly Pale Ale.

“It is quite complex, it does challenge the kind of neophyte drinker for sure,” McKenna says. “For people who aren’t receptive to it, it can knock you off your chair.” ND

Runner Up: Iceberg (Quidi Vidi Brewery)