The 2013 Vankleek Hill Oktoberfest presented by Beau’s All Natural Brewing Company is just around the corner. Last year the award-winning brewery put together a commemorative six pack that was made available during and after the Oktoberfest celebration and I was a big fan of the beers that they included.
Building off of this idea, the team at Beau’s decided to offer a Mix Pack containing four of the beers that will be available at the 2013 event a few weeks beforehand. It’s basically a “best of” package to promote their signature event and it’s being distributed to LCBO stores all over the province. I’ll briefly review the four beers and preview the annual festivities, which are set to take place rain or shine on October 4th and 5th at the Vankleek Hill Fairgrounds.
Mr. Hyde (Roggenbier / Rye Beer, 7.0%)
This beer uses 30% rye malt and pours a slightly hazy honey-amber tone with a large and spongy tan head that goes rocky, leaves large webs of lace and settles as a thick cap. Mr. Hyde debuted in 2011 and has a hearty smell with strong rye and wood aromas and notes of butterscotch, peppery spice, citrus zest and wet flowers.
Mr. Hyde has distinct flavours of mango, caramel and pepper with a pithy citrus accent. Earthy wood and rye tones take hold in the finish and linger throughout the dry and somewhat bitter aftertaste. This beer is full-bodied with a low carbonation level and carries strong earthy and oily characteristics in the mouthfeel.
A brew that will undoubtedly be popular with fans of rye pale ales or Scotch ales, Mr. Hyde delivers plenty of wood and rye flavours without suffocating the base ale. Sharp cheddar and dark rye bread both pair very well with this beer.
Oktobock (Maibock / Helles Bock, 7.0%)
This style of lager is traditionally brewed for springtime consumption and debuted in 2012. Oktobock pours a deep golden colour with streaks of orange and a frothy, yet loose white head that settles as a thin collar and film while leaving sporadic spots of lace. Oktobock has aromas of fresh wet grain, pine, butterscotch, biscuit and a sharp, fruity tone that reminds me of peach schnapps.
The taste of Oktobock brings forth a warm toffee flavour with accents of berry, pepper and peach. There is an earthiness in the crisp finish and the aftertaste has notes of pine or spruce wood and alcohol. This lager is full-bodied and earthy with mild carbonation and a yeasty pop on the tongue.
Oktobock is a very meaty take on the style and feels even more robust than when I first reviewed it in 2012. Try this beer with dry sausage like landjäger, pretzel, schnitzel and creamy cheeses.
Two Weeks’ Notice (German Porter, 6.0%)
German porter came to be in the early 20th century to compete with the popular English style and is typically brewed with lager yeast. Two Weeks’ Notice is almost opaque, with traces of dark ruby at the edge of your glass and yields a large, spongy beige head that settles as a thick cap and leaves cascading lace. The smell of this porter is quite fruity, with aromas of plum and red grape accented by notes of chocolate, vanilla and graham cracker.
The taste of Two Weeks’ Notice is thick with flavours of dark fruit, roasted grain and chocolate, with a fatty tree nut character smoothing everything over. A stout coffee note, cocoa flavour and bitterness are present in the finish, with the aftertaste resembling vanilla or a waffle cone. The beer has a medium body and carbonation, comes off as very creamy on the tongue and leaves a mild oiliness behind.
The hearty, roasted characteristics of Two Weeks’ Notice really shine in the cooler weather and help this brew stand on its own as an apéritif or digestif. Roast beef and potatoes would be an excellent pairing, as would vanilla ice cream or Belgian waffles.
Smokin’ Banana Peels (Hefeweizen / Rauchbier, 4.9%)
This hybrid of wheat ale and lager was introduced in 2011 and is made with maple-smoked barley malts. Smokin’ Banana Peels is a hazy pale golden colour and pours with a loose white head that gets retained as a collar and film, while leaving small spots of lace. Aromas of banana, clove and smoked malts comingle delicately and are tied together by a subtle fruitiness.
The taste of Smokin’ Banana Peels follows suit, blending banana and bacon-like smoke flavours that bring a Sunday brunch to mind. The beer is light-bodied with fine carbonation and slight viscosity. The finish is surprisingly crisp and dry, with a nice, tangy and almost salty aftertaste that brings a note of lemon zest with it.
The flavour of Smokin’ Banana Peels has just enough smoke to be noticed, but it doesn’t take away from the traditional weissbier character at all. This unique brew would do well with bacon, pancakes, banana bread, dark chocolate and crusty fresh bread.
The packaging of the 2013 Oktoberfest Mix Pack is up to Beau’s usual standards of excellence. A sturdy cardboard case houses four bottles, along with a card that contains bilingual descriptions of each beer and two oversized coasters that promote both the Oktoberfest event itself and the latest iteration of The Beau’s Mixtape; a compilation that features the artists performing at the event.
Performers this year include Kathleen Edwards, The Sadies, Sloan, Rich Aucoin and Canada’s Polka King himself, Mr. Walter Ostanek.
In addition to the four beers in the 2013 Oktoberfest Mix Pack, five others will be available at this year’s festivities in Vankleek Hill. Beau’s flagship Lug Tread Lagered Ale will be joined by the fall seasonal Night Märzen, Kissmeyer Nordic Pale Ale from the B-Side Brewing Label imprint and The Tom Green Beer, a milk stout brewed in collaboration with the eponymous comedian.
An as yet unnamed brew will also be making its debut. Created by summer interns from the Niagara College Teaching Brewery, the beer is in the dampfbier style, an all-barley ale that is fermented at a high temperature using weissbier yeast. In this case, the beer was wet hopped with organic hops grown in Glengarry County.
For those looking for a gluten-free option, The County Cider Company from Picton, Ontario will be serving their popular Waupoos Cider, a semi-dry cider that clocks in at a warming 6.5% ABV.
There will 20 food vendors at Vankleek Hill Oktoberfest this year, offering everything from pretzel and sausage to dishes like pulled pork perogie poutine, Bavarian fried chicken with spicy mustard and braised pig cheek.
Of course, there will be activities like traditional Bavarian dance demonstrations, the ever-popular stein holding struggle, keg toss and spouse carrying contest, as well as a beer school that will feature speakers and educators from the craft beer community and a homebrew competition hosted by Members of Barleyment. There is also an unlicensed Kinderfest area for your kids on Saturday that includes balloon sculpting and puppetry.
At the time of publication, tickets for Saturday were completely sold out, with tickets for Friday still available. In lieu of extending Oktoberfest to three days as in years past, this year Beau’s is holding a Brewmaster’s Bavarian Brunch at the brewery on Sunday from 11 AM to 3 PM.
The 2013 Oktoberfest Mix pack is currently available for $24 at select LCBO stores, the brewery and for home delivery through BYBO. The Tom Green Beer and Kissmeyer Nordic Pale Ale are both expected to arrive on LCBO shelves later this fall.
I’m attending the Vankleek Hill Oktoberfest for a few hours on Friday evening and plan to sample the dampfbier, get my fill of Nordic Pale Ale, eat a rabbit sausage and try as many of the beers in the Cask Days area as I can before catching the shuttle bus home.