It’s that time of year again. The weather is cooler, leaves are changing colour and tables are filled with comfort food. For the third year, the folks at Beau’s All Natural Brewing Company in Vankleek Hill, Ontario have put together a mix pack of beers to celebrate and promote their famous Oktoberfest event that sees thousands of beer lovers from far and wide descend on the quaint eastern Ontario town in search of revelry, great food, big name musical acts and, of course, beer.
This year we see the return of some favourites from years past in Dark Helmut (complete with a new label) and Happy Pilsner, while Dial “Z” for Zwickel and Rauchstack represent the newest entries in Beau’s Wild Oats Series. I briefly reviewed the four beers, which are presented in alphabetical order.
This schwarzbier from Hop City Brewing Company in Brampton, Ontario is dark brown in colour with streaks of ruby visible when held towards a light source and it yields a small, fluffy tan head that leaves large rings of lace as it settles into a thin cap. 8th Sin Black Lager carries robust aromas of dark roasted grains, chocolate and burnt coffee, with notes of tree nuts and wet birch that provide an outdoorsy warmth.
The taste of 8th Sin Black Lager is in line with its smell, bringing forth flavours of chocolate, bitter coffee, roasted grains and hints of nuts and wood. The finish has a notable sweetness, with the chocolate and wood tones lingering in the aftertaste of this medium-bodied and moderately carbonated lager. There is a syrupy feeling throughout, but it’s not too heavy or cloying.
September 30, 2012 marked my second visit to the fairgrounds in the quaint town of Vankleek Hill to partake in the annual Oktoberfest event presented by Beau’s All Natural Brewing Company. I was on the fence about going this year because I had a six month old baby at home and the prospect of spending the day that far away from my small family seemed daunting.
When I received an invitation to attend as a member of the media, I convinced myself (and the wife) that I should go and the next thing I know I was squeezed onto a yellow school bus hurtling east on highway 17 through the rain on a Sunday morning. I only had about 5 hours to spend at the festival, so after checking in I got down to business, promptly buying some beer tokens, a souvenir shirt and keychain and then placing an order for the commemorative Oktoberfest 6-Pack through the BYBO team.
After sampling a few of the new Beau’s-brewed beers and watching the King of Polka himself Walter Ostanek roll out the commemorative first cask that was tapped by Beau’s co-owner Steve Beauschesne, I headed to the Beer School where I attended a session on writing about beer and another on beer tasting and proper glassware use.
I got to meet some of my beer writing contemporaries and also had the pleasure of chatting with a quirky, unassuming brewer named Anders Kissmeyer, who was there for an International Brewers Panel and to brew a new collaboration with Beau’s.
There was a ton of great food to be had. I devoured a “Beauswurst” sausage from The Piggy Market much too fast and there were no less than a dozen other great looking and smelling booths operated by area eateries. There was a homebrewing competition, alpine dance demonstrations, dunk tanking for charity and a series of contests such as sausage eating and stein holding that I simply didn’t have time to check out this time around.
You can read more about the Vankleek Hill Oktoberfest experience at some other great beer blogs, but this year I was all about checking out the six brand new Wild Oats Series beers Beau’s was serving at the event in addition to favourites Lug Tread Lagered Ale, Night Märzen and Weiss O’ Lantern. I’ll briefly review all six in alphabetical order.
Köstritzer Schwarzbier from Köstritzer Schwarzbierbrauerei GmbH & Company in Köstritz/Thüringen, Germany pours an extremely dark burgundy-brown colour with a thick, creamy and frothy head that laces your glass and settles as a thin layer. The aroma, which develops more as the beer warms, smells of fresh grains and freshwater. There is also a roasted chocolate tone, hints of dark fruit and a slight smokiness.
This beer carries a satisfying body and a creamy mouthfeel that helps it slide down your throat. I find Köstritzer Schwarzbier dangerously drinkable thanks in part to a crisp and clean finish. The taste is a bit on the sweet side and malt forward. Like the aroma, I get a roasted chocolate body primarily. There’s a nice, grassy, slightly spicy hop bitterness to keep things balanced and I get a distinct mineral flavour just before the finish takes over.