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St. John’s brewmaster wants your unwanted fruitcake

Liam McKenna, brewmaster at the YellowBelly Brewery and Public House, holds a freshly poured pint glass of Yellow Belly’s ale — St. John’s Stout —Friday morning at the brewery on the corner of George Street and Water Street in downtown St. John’s. McKenna  is hoping to locate folks leftover fruit cakes to produce a solstice beer next year.
Liam McKenna, brewmaster at the YellowBelly Brewery and Public House, holds a freshly poured pint glass of Yellow Belly’s ale — St. John’s Stout —Friday morning at the brewery on the corner of George Street and Water Street in downtown St. John’s. McKenna is hoping to locate folks leftover fruit cakes to produce a solstice beer next year. - Joe Gibbons

Yellowbelly’s Liam McKenna plans to use it to brew a 2019 Christmas season beer

Hate fruitcake and want to regift any that come your way this Christmas? Yellowbelly Brewery and Public House brewmaster Liam McKenna will take them off your hands.

No problem if they are a few years old or dripping in booze.

“I don’t really like fruitcake. I really don’t,” says the Scottish McKenna, who doesn’t like the candied fruit like orange and lemon and prefers more mild seasonal deserts like plum pudding.

“I can’t eat fruitcake. It’s too much for me. After talking to a few people, I know I am not alone in this. So, I figured if people are like me and gifted with fruitcakes, maybe they don’t really like them so much and we might be sitting on a lot of fruitcake here. It might make a really nice beer."

— Liam McKenna

If he gathers enough fruitcakes — he needs about 100 kilograms — he can put a batch on for Christmas 2019. The batch would have to be started in January or February and he expects it to be a seasonal, celebratory beer, not something you’d drink every day.

McKenna said a Facebook friend, Andrew Menchions, made an offhand joke that McKenna make fruitcake beer after he announced his disdain for the Christmas cake.

But then McKenna saw a serious idea in the quip.

“If anyone receives a fruitcake in this festive season, that is, perhaps unwanted… perhaps too much… do me a solid and pop it in the freezer after the end of this Solstice celebration,” McKenna posted.

Yellowbelly was one of the first in Canada, he said, to make beer from leftover bakery bread, which he said he gets from Rocket Bakery.

He hopes to put the fruitcake in old bourbon or rye whisky barrels.

“It will be a big, boozy Christmas winter warmer for next solstice.” 

— McKenna

Beer, he explained, is basically liquid bread and the use of day-old bread was borrowed from a London company called Toast.

If he gets a load of fruitcake, he’s not sure what he’ll do but might consider more than one batch. But he said whether it gets put out to the public will depend on how it tastes and whether it’s up to his high standards.

“I’m a 30-year veteran brewer and I only make beer people want to drink,” he said.

Older cakes are not a problem and are likely laced with booze anyway to preserve them.

He’s had his own vintage ones kicking around the house — Mckenna said he opened a Christmas box of decorations one year and recalls he said to his wife, Janet, “I think this is three years old. Now that’s four or five years old.”

He’d like people to include the ingredients, if homemade and store-bought ones likely are labeled.

Some ingredients such as cloves would be overpowering, so he’d want to limit the amount put in — hence the desire to know the ingredients.

There’s a little something in it for the fruitcake regifter – he hasn’t figured that out yet, but it could be a bottle or two of the beer, or some swag.

The response from friends on Facebook and brewer friends around the world was encouraging, McKenna said. They’re all keen to know how it works out.

“I am happy to do things other people maybe haven’t,” he said.

“I am excited. After 30 years as a brewer, it’s not often I feel that I have come across a really great (new) idea.”

This year’s Christmas offering, Mummer’s Brew, a lager featuring the first Canadian-registered hop, Sasquatch, is about two-thirds sold but there should be enough to quench customer’s thirst through the holidays, McKenna said.

barbara.sweet@thetelegram.com

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