Jared Lewinski: Oktoberfest originally was the celebration of a marriage of German royalty, and hosted a horse race. This event was novel only in the fact that they allowed the common people to attend. Beer was not originally the focus for Oktoberfest, but as the Oktoberfest event descended over time, beer being the beverage of the people, began to take center stage. How a marriage and horses running eventually evolved into a wonderful, boozy world of lederhosen pageantry and extreme displays of stein design. And we should all thank our lucky stars that it did.
While I cannot attest to attending all of the Oktoberfests that exist in the world, I can attest to the fact that the folks at Beau’s All Natural Brewing damn well know how to do it right. Hell, in my opinion they excel at it. While it is easy to imagine Oktoberfest as simply being a messy, nigh-bacchanalian orgy of beer and food (and it certainly can get there if need be), however Beau’s has been able to find a perfect balance to turn this event into something that is family friendly and simply fosters an environment of fun for all, be they drunk or not. In fact, I met a delightful family backstage, which were a part of the Sons of Scotland Pipe Band, and speaking with them really made my night.
A key factor in this is that the event attracts people from all over, and with a bit of social lubrication that is on tap at nearly every tent, allows people to open up and share stories and ideas with one another. There is an air of ease and camaraderie ever present over the fields of Vankleek Hill on the days of Oktoberfest. It also helps that the beers are good, with great variation, and in even greater quantity.
There are some fairly hilarious beer themed games and competitions to be a part of at Oktoberfest, as well as opportunities to follow some more scholarly pursuits via “The School of Bock” seminars available during the day. In fact, you could hear my ridiculous opinions in person this year at a seminar, alongside the always stellar Beau’s Brewmaster Matt O’Hara and lead by the indomitable and gregarious Jamie Drummond of GFR.
In the spirit of the all-natural way, the foods on offer are artisanal, organic, and delightfully handmade. And decadently greasy and heart-attack worthy, which I mean this as the highest possible praise. Seriously though, I have dreams about elk chili and deep fried pulled pork, and I curse my awful fortune to have not eaten the perogie and sausage poutine before it sold out, which I have been told was a dream that this Polish boy wishes he had not missed. The food on offer alone is practically enough to merit the event, and simply mirrors the high standard of quality on display at Oktoberfest.
I would like to take a quick moment to highlight the above beer, as this one hits close to home. Or rather, it hits close to school. Dampf Punk was the culmination of the Beau’s experience for my classmates, Eric Ross and Pete Achilles. Eric Ross hails from Montreal, while Pete Achilles is a fellow American, coming from Geneva, NY. They were the Summer interns this year, during the in-between interim of Spring and Fall semester, and as I have heard, they had a blast living the Beau’s All Natural life. The beer they both collaborated on was the gorgeously marketed (I have a thing for D*** Punk, what can I say?) Dampf Punk Dampfbier style beer. Pronounced “dumm-pff”, the style is an old-school steam type beer, made by warm fermenting weissbier yeasts, to draw out specific flavor characters of clove and associated phenolics. This beer was only on offer for the Oktoberfest event, and I daresay that it was a hit from the murmurs of the crowds throughout Oktoberfest.
Dampf Punk was full of fuzzy, yet crisp, aromas of lemon peel & citrus fruits, as well as clove and light florals. Upon drinking it, there is the distinct witbier flavorings of clove and spicey phenolics, a delightful almost toasty bandaid like flavor, lemon citrus zest, and the briefest hint of smoked meat. What was distinct about this beer, when compared to the others on offer by Beau’s at Oktoberfest, was that this was an unfiltered beer, and had yeast suspend within the beer. This lent a very silky, slippery mouthfeel to the beer, that made it a textural enjoyment with combined with the carbonation and flavors. It was a fun and enjoyable beer, and I think it took the spotlight for Beau’s for the entire weekend. In final remarks about this beer, I would like to convey my feelings on a job well done to my classmates and to wish them further successes in their beer making endeavors going forward! Cheers, Eric and Pete!
There were casked beers on offer at Oktoberfest, which Jamie and myself attempted to get through, and rate, to the best of our collective abilities. The following is the short and sweet of the beers I could make it through over the time of Oktoberfest, while fighting the lines and experiencing the whole of the event.
The following were simply in order of what I drank, without much rhyme or reason to it.
JL: Hellwoods has an almost cough syrupy aroma, that is very fruity and candy-like, and quite estery. A semi-dry and chalky mouth feel greets the tongue, with hints of roast and big fruity malt character that is balanced against a mildly boozey experience. Big sugars are still existent, and there is very little hop flavor, though there are hints of bitterness most likely from the roasty malt component. Overall, a good beer, but certainly nothing stellar. I actually expect better from Bellwoods, and I know I can find better beers from them.
Dieu du Ciel, Mea Culpa
JL: The aroma was full melon and white tea aromas which were fairly delightful, along with a passion fruit and candy lingering note. However a very thin body on the tongue, which was incredibly disappointing, with a big smooth tea flavor, small amounts of bitterness that builds and lasts, but is not that imposing either way. There is a slight astringency to be found as well. Overall, the beer needs a bit more body for me to truly enjoy it. The final take away are notes of tropical and Asian-locale fruits.
Church-Key, Double Barrel Holy Smoke
JL: Going to keep this one short, because there is literally no reason to expand on this poor beer. There is little to no balance, it is full of weird fruity esters that pull and push chaotically, and tasted super faulty (perhaps an infection from a barrel?). It did have smoke character to it but it was not tastefully implemented in any way, shape, or form.
Flying Monkeys, Imperial Chocolate Milk Stout
JL: This great offering had a deep mocha scent with subtle roast hints, and delightful warming cinnamon in aroma. Chocolate and mocha on the initial taste, that mellows out into a nice marshmallow sweetness post-swallow. Burnt chocolate and caramel develop on the palate from the residual liquid in the mouth. There is a sexy smooth overall mouth feel, that fits incredibly well with the beer, and I would reckon that it is a result of lacto sugars used in the brewing process. There is little to no hop bitterness here, and who cares, there should not be!
as well as EASILY being the best beer I had at Oktoberfest. Well done, Flying Monkeys!
Clocktower, Harvest Pumpkin Ale
JL: This beer is almost too sweet in the aroma, with pumpkin pie spice on the nose, though there are delightful soft baking caramels and hints of baking spice that make the aroma work. The body is super duper light, and almost watery – it is a huge turn off. Malt sweetness in the flavor is very thin and the spice component seems deeply lost in the liquid, there are caramels present that attempt to save the beer, but it is all so watery and downright un-enjoyable. Not good.
F & M, Oatmeal Coffee Stout
JL: This stout has sweet chocolate hints of roast in the aroma, but a thin body with a mostly roast malt flavor coming through. Nothing too special here, but damn good enough a beer to crush a few pints of.
Junction Craft, Dark Harvester
JL: This beer had an awesome aroma of smooth passion fruit, and not too much else. The body is thin, upon drinking, but isn’t a fault here too very much, though it could use much more presence within the mouth. There is an unfortunate watery flavor of tropical fruits, such as mango and passion fruit, that almost make it all work but fall just short of being a good beer.
Nickel Brook, Pissed Off Petes Pumpkin Porter
JL: This offering from Nickle Brook has a subtle spice scent, with a nice malty sweetness in the aroma. There is a nice onset of pumpkin spice with star anise and clove being the stars here, and the spice sticks on to the mouth tenaciously. Medium body, and some vegetal characters reduce the overall quality.
Les Brasseurs du Temps, Diable au Corps
JL: I am not contrarian by nature, simply critical when it comes to my craft. So, here, I must beg to differ with the majority here when I make judgement of this beer. There were peaches in aroma, almost exclusively, and some kind of complex of malty background. Peaches and cough syrupy medicine were the flavors I experience, with a solid medium to heavy body. Pears seemed to flit through at times, but however I felt the entire experience to be kind of awkward, and it just ruined it.
Broadhead, Mommy Kissing Santa Claus
JL: This beer has big herbal medicinal mint in the nose and not much else. It is full of weirdly fruit esters and way way way too much fucking mint, that crowd out almost entirely the hints of chocolate that do exist. This was an awful and failed experiment, and should be a strong lesson for future mint beer makers.
No Apples. Easily the worst beer on offer at Oktoberfest.
Barley Days, Oyster Stout
JL: Amiable chocolate and roast in the nose. Serious oyster flavor and almost briny nature envelope the roast character here. It’s a bit too much, overall. The base beer is fine with a smooth roast malt character for sure, but perhaps some adjustment should be paid to the oyster additions?
Benelux, Hansel Oaked Dopplebock
JL: This dopplebock has nice, scrumptious citrus notes, and tasty oak in the aroma. Very sweet malty flavor with tangerine and orange peel bursting out around the mouth. More, almost tropical, fruits show up ala bits of pineapple, peaches, and mangos. Pine floats around as well, and it is very subtle and pleasant to the overall experience. Surprisingly good and refreshing, with a solid body and nice longevity in the mouth. Oak coats well and doesn’t overpower. The second best beer I had here, and restored my faith in Quebec brewing.
Jared Lewinski is obsessed with beer. As such, he has uprooted his life in New Jersey to attend the Brewmastery and Brewery Operations Management program at Niagara College, a program that has, for the past three years, been producing top-tier brewers for Canada and beyond. As a child of the American Craft Movement, Jared has big opinions and a love for big beers. His hope is to bring an outsider’s perspective to a fascinating and tumultuous time for Canadian and Ontario made craft beer, and the culture that it represents…and wishes it were still Oktoberfest!
Follow me, if you want!
Edinburgh-born/Toronto-based Sommelier, consultant, writer, judge, and educator Jamie Drummond is the Director of Programs/Editor of Good Food Revolution… And he somehow survived his third Oktobefest!