Beau’s Oktoberfest is This Weekend!

So I know I’ve been posting the press releases etc, but allow me just a minute to tell you exactly why I will drive 4.5 hours east on Friday, just to join a party the likes of which I could probably find closer to home. The answer is simple: I actually couldn’t find it closer to home.

While there are numerous great parties for Oktoberfest in and around Toronto, Beau’s weekend festival is different. Held on the Vankleek Hill fairgrounds, it’s more than just a fun party where you drink a lot of beer.

Joel Plaskett - Photo by Tim Brennan

Joel Plaskett – Photo by Tim Brennan

For one, the musical acts are incredible. Tokyo Police Club, Joel Plasket, Rural Alberta Advantage, and more. Walter Ostanak always comes out to roll out the barrels and zicke-zacke. The Schuhplattler dancers will be back. Yes, those are the folks who mix lively and graceful folk dancing with riding whips and explosives (only in Germany…..).

There are multiple tents pouring 13 different Beau’s beers, from their solid Lug-Tread kolsch to many of their seasonal/one-off varieties. The crew from Volo coordinate a little pre-Cask Days event and have a tent full of cask beer (where I spend much of my time and beer tokens). You can drink out of standard disposable cups, or shell out a few extra dollars and score yourself a lovely ceramic stein to party like a proper Bavarian.

For food, there is a wide range of options from area restaurants, ranging from traditional Bavarian fare, to crazy sandwiches, to smokey legit BBQ. Pretzels abound, and there’s great coffee from Bridgehead Roasters who provided me with more than a few lifelines last year.

There is a midway area where tokens can be used at games of skill and chance to win wicked Beau’s swag and prizes from sponsors. Skateboarding will again get an area to itself, but this year, it will feature an 8′ ramp, and contests, demos, and more live music. There are also traditional Oktoberfest activities like grain sack races, spouse carrying (winning team gets the weight of the person being carried in beer), stein holding, sausage eating, and the keg toss (over-seen by the local Highland Games team). There is a kid’s area with stuff to entertain the grommets. The school of Bock features a variety of discussions/panels by brewing experts, educating festival goers in various different aspects of the beer scene.

Beau's skateboard deck in support of 1squarefoot.

Beau’s made this deck to sell in support of 1squarefoot. If you, like me, skateboard, get one!

Kids are welcome at Oktoberfest, (though under 19s must be accompanied by an adult). I have attended the past two years and have never seen things get out of hand. Rather, particularly during the daylight hours you see families having a great time taking in the sights and sounds, eating great food, and generally enjoying being outside. As the day turns to night things get a little more rowdy, but never out of hand. And there are volunteers, security, and police a aplenty, all of whom seem to have at least as good a time as the party-goers.

If you’re coming for the weekend, you can stay in Ottawa, Montreal or Cornwall and catch the dedicated bus with a round-trip ticket for $15. There is accommodation nearby though I suspect it’s been booked up for some time now. That said, the best value is camping. The fairgrounds are surrounded by fields, and RVs, trailer, tents, etc are welcome to set-up literally right next to the festival. It’s rough camping, so there are no water or electricity hook-ups, but there are port-a-potties and hand washing stations. It’s where I stay, cozy in the back of my station wagon with the seats folded down.

And as if all that isn’t enough, the event supports multiple charities. From the two signature beneficiaries (Ottawa River Keeper and the Kidney Foundation of Canada) of the event, to multiple others who sponsor specific activities at the fest, Beau’s aims to raise $85 000 this year, adding to the nearly $250 000 they have raised over the last 5 years. So when you attend, the beers you drink and games you play aren’t self-serving indulgences, they are basically philanthropy.

Tickets for Saturday are now sold out, but you can still get tickets for Friday. If at all possible, you should seriously consider coming. Short of a trip to Munich, nothing beats Beau’s Oktoberfest. See you there.

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