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The Alaska Highway: Expensive Drinks

Before the construction of the Alaska Highway in 1942, Whitehorse was a relatively isolated, unincorporated town. It was not the largest town in the Yukon; that distinction belonged to Dawson City, the then-capital of the territory. With the construction of the Alaska Highway, however, Whitehorse was about to become a much different place.

When the Americans arrived in Canada to construct the Alaska Highway, they made Whitehorse their headquarters for the construction of the Alaska Highway. From that point forward, the isolation of Whitehorse would end. Almost overnight, Whitehorse’s population jumped from 400 people to 20,000 people.

Within Whitehorse, one place quickly became more popular than anywhere else: the town’s lone liquor store. Despite high prices—whiskey and rum cost $35 a quart, or over $525 per quart in today’s dollars—pictures from World War II show lines of men snaking down the street as they waited for a chance to buy any liquor that was available. At one point, the liquor store got two train boxcars full of beer.

Every drop of that beer was sold by the end of the day.

Because of its popularity, the store had to adopt a policy of opening when a shipment arrived and closing as soon as they ran out of it. In practice, this meant the store only opened for two or three hours at a time and not every day.

Thankfully, if you visit Whitehorse today, you won’t have to worry about these sorts of lines or prices. Even better, today there are at least two small breweries in town: Yukon Brewing and Winterlong Brewing. If you are a beer drinker, try beer from both of them while you are visiting Whitehorse.

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