Beau's Oktoberfest is slowly becoming a tradition in my home. The day of the festival I wake up extra early to finish any house cleaning I missed and start work on preparing an Oktoberfest brunch for my friends. It's a nice spread with warm pumpkin bread, a big bowl of fruit salad and, the fun part, a do-it-yourself pancake bar with fruit, chocolate and syrup so you can fully customize your pancake. While we eat I put on a beer-y TV show or movie; this year I chose Beer Wars but in previous years it was a marathon of Brew Masters. When our bellies are full we load up our bags and the car with necessary Oktoberfest survival gear (rain jackets, hand sanitizer, ibuprofen) and start our 100km drive down the highway to Vankleek Hill.
When we arrive at the Fairgrounds we are greeted by a sea of Alpine hats carrying beer in plastic cups, Beau's emblazoned steins or decorative German tankards. There were even some festival goers in traditional lederhosen and dirndl! The smell of roasting meat, the sight of 48 casks and the Alpine hats was overwhelming - I didn't know where to begin! But, at an Oktoberfest celebration one should always start with a good beer, right?
This year the Beau's brewers created 7 exclusive Oktoberfest beers in addition to their flagship Lug•Tread Lagered Ale and their Oktoberfest seasonal Night•Märzen. Weiss O' Lantern, a wheaty refreshing pumpkin beer; Dark Helmüt, a strong roasted German black lager; Oktobock, a sweet and spicy Maibock; Koru, a spicy and peppery Belgian pale ale; Zins Jo Kokut!, a sweet white beer brewed with honey, oats and molasses; And Boom Gose The Dynamite, a low alcohol unfiltered beer that tastes tart and salty. If that selection wasn't enough Cask Days was also on hand featuring 48 different casks from over 20 different breweries and Thornbury Cider (Snakebite anyone?).
There was also a heirloom ale, Vassar, which was so popular the kegs ran dry on Saturday. Lucky for me (and those who didn't attend Oktoberfest) Vassar and the other Oktoberfest beers are available invidiually or as a souvenir 6-pack through BYBO.Pascale's All Natural Ice Cream, The Wellington Gastropub, The Piggy Market, Murray Street, Domus and Brothers Beer Bistro (to name a few). On the menu were traditional schnitzels, Beauswurst sausage, pulled pork, even Beau's Ballpark ice cream sandwiches - there was something to match every beer and every activity (turkey drumsticks and keg toss?).
Although we didn't intend to, we stayed at the Fairgrounds until just before it closed at 9pm. Happy, we piled into the car and loudly sang along to pop songs during the drive home. Oktoberfest wasn't over for me though, after a somewhat restful sleep I drove back to Vankleek Hill the next morning to participate in a full day of Beer School classes.
The sessions I was interested in were the Beer Writers Panel with Cass Enright (The Bar Towel) and Alan Mcleod (A Good Beer Blog); Beer Appreciation hosted by Bill White and the International Brewers Panel with Steve Beauchesne (Beau's All Natural Brewing Co.), Dick Cantwell (Elysian Brewing Co.) and Anders Kissmeyer (Kissmeyer Beer & Brewing). The discussions were fun, full of tangents and packed with beer information - I loved it! I spent so much time in Beer School I missed my last chance to try Vassar and Barley Mow's popular Pulled Pork Pierogi Poutine.
I'm already looking forward to next year (only 360 days to go) - PROST!