Vankleek Hill, a small beautiful community an hour east of Ottawa, was the place to be this past weekend as 14,000 attendees experienced Beau’s Brewery 6th annual Oktoberfest. For those unfamiliar with this German-inspired, beer-soaked celebration, it dates back to October 12, 1810, when the German Crown Prince Ludwig married Princess Therese. They threw one heck of a party and invited all of Munich to join them and, as it was an open-bar, they obliged. Munich has kept the annual tradition alive and the party has been emulated all over the world, including in Vankleek Hill.
This event is a celebration of beer. While many festivals offer beer, Beau’s puts it on a pedestal. Offering thirteen brews of their own, Beau’s also invited over a dozen other local breweries to bring nearly 70 different beers to the Cask Haus: thereby ensuring neither beer nerds nor casual drinkers were left wanting. My standout at the Cask Haus was Red Rocket from Sawdust City – bringin’ the heat! From the Beaus side, I thought Bog Hopper was an herbal delight while my companions voted Haters Gonna Hate as their beer of the festival.
The food options were off the charts. 28 Ottawa area restaurants offered a wide variety of delicious grub. I couldn’t sample it all so I relied on the sophisticated palates of my friends:
- Backdrop and Grounded’s Bison chili with cornbread, Branch’s Brisket-on-a-bun, and the Piggy Market’s sausages were “enjoyed immensely” by our most experienced food samplers.
- Four friends picked the Deep Fried Pulled Pork from Vert Fourchette as the best-in-food. One described it as “hella-dope”. Obviously, he’s the poet of the group…
- Beau’s Beer Hot Chocolate made with Tom Green Milk Stout, from Pascale’s All Natural Ice Cream also received special “I didn’t think it would go together but it really did!” mention.
- I was partial to the warm pretzel that came with your entry pass to the festival, but I’m a simple guy.
Next up, we had the music. Ottawa is fortunate to have tons of awesome music festivals and venues, but man, Beau’s Oktoberfest puts together a line-up that would make your CBC Radio3 playlist proud. As a tribute to this, I have paired a song from each artist with a beer:
- Joel Plaskett Emergency “Lightning Bolt” – The Monkey’s Paw: both the album cover and the beer label feature a terrifying street organ monkey.
- Radio Radio “9 Piece Luggage Set” – Bog Hopper: both have a catchy little bounce to ‘em.
- The Strumbellas “Sheriff” – Rauchstack: both the song and the beer have distinct rural roots.
- Tokyo Police Club “Hot Tonight” – Cask Haus’s Ghost Bitch by Flying Monkeys Craft Brewing: that ghost pepper infused beer was coming in hot!!
- Groenland “Superhero” – Kissmeyer Nordic Pale Ale: the band and beer share Scandinavian names.
- Rural Alberta Advantage “Stamp” – Night Marzen: both are powered by their base, be it the malt backbone or driving drums.
- Zeus “Miss My Friends” – Dial “Z” For Zwickel: because of the letter Z…
- Walter Ostanek “Beer Barrel Polka” – Cask Haus’s Oktoberbeast by Lake of Bays: because, as any ex-Waterloo resident knows, this dude owns Oktoberfest!! And polka grammys…
The final ingredient, the people. Each year I am struck with the positive and fun atmosphere of this event. There is a midway with beer-themed games as well as other activities like the keg-toss or the wife-carry race. The event provides ample parking, camping and buses shuttle in people from Ottawa, Cornwall and Montreal. Even those stuck waiting in the entrance line on Friday night needed only a pint to get into the Oktoberfest spirit. It is the people: the Beau’s organizers, the volunteers, and the revelers that make the event the success it is. There is a real genuineness to it all.
Finally, as if you weren’t satisfied by the beer, food and music; the event sponsors charities such as the Kidney Foundation of Canada, Ottawa Riverkeeper, Just Food, Rethink Breast Cancer, Hidden Harvest, the VKH Agricultural Society, and more! Even with the rainy Saturday, the event still raised $95,000. For instance, here is how the funds raised will help the Kidney Foundation:
“The Kidney Foundation of Canada requires funding to offset the financial burden borne by kidney patients seeking dialysis treatment,” says Bruce Hill, Senior Development Manager of the Eastern Ontario Chapter of the Kidney Foundation of Canada. “Beau’s Oktoberfest funding for the Kidney Foundation of Canada helps kidney disease patients in financial need with the costs of their treatments.”
So, all in all, a tip of the ill-fitting green felt hat to those that make this festival happen. It’s a fantastic event and I’m already looking forward to next year – fingers crossed for better weather!