Road Trip: Vankleek Hill


It has been a while since I have been able to take a road trip, and as a reader of this blog you know that I love road trips! This past Thursday a friend and I made the five hour drive east to Vankleek Hill, Ontario. VKH is a village located between Montreal and Ottawa, about an hour from both cities. The village is home to Beau's Beer, and they host a yearly Oktoberfest. I have a few friends who have moved there, some to work for the brewery and others to enjoy the opportunity smaller town life presents. I was charmed by the area.

Beau's Oktoberfest is a beer and food festival that includes music, traditional events, great local food and of course Beau's beer. Restaurants come from the local area to provide German cuisine. I saw smoked trout chowder, sausages, spaetzel and schnizel among other goodies. I tried the reuben sandwich from the Cheshire Cat Pub, which is locaed in Carp Ontario, just outside of Ottawa. They told me they are known for having the best fish & chips in the Ottawa region.

Beau's brews a number of specialty beers just for the festival and I was able to go to a beer and cheese pairing event where we sampled four beers alongside four kinds of cheese. I enjoyed all of them of course but loved Riopelle cheese, which I'd never had before. It was paired with Beau's well-loved Lug Tread beer.

Riopelle is a triple cream cheese made in Quebec. I remember the name because it is named after the artist Jean-Paul Riopelle, a member of the Automatiste abstractionists.

The pairing presentation was provided by a cheese expert, a brew master and a sommelier. The sommelier is the director and editor of Good Food Revolution, a Toronto-based not for profit whose mandate is to educate about artisanal food in Ontario.

After a long day of keg-tossing, beer drinking and cheese tasting, we needed a pick-me-up and had an Americano from Bridgehead Coffee. Bridgehead is a free-trade, organic, small-scale farm produced coffee shop with twelve locations in the Ottawa area. The coffee was fantastic. I really admired the effort Beau's had made in finding appropriate businesses with similar ethics to theirs for this event. There wasn't a big corporation in the bunch and it was refreshing to experience a festival of that size without any of the familiar things that come along with big festivals like overpriced water, rude vendors selling junk food, and so on. This was all warm and fuzzy feeling; organic, affordable, happy people, funny signs, family run. I'd highly recommend it and plan to go back next year.

Today we slept in late and then headed to Mary's Fine Foods, a "decadent market". I had a roast beef sandwich, which was served on a panini with horseradish mayo, dill pickles and cheese, which was fantastic. It was paired with two side salads, I chose bean and garden. This was a definite highlight; a great food experience. The restaurant is housed in a renovated victorian home (of which there are many in VKH, it is the "Gingerbread Capital of Ontario") with white washed walls and charming ambiance. The menu was simple but the food top-notch and very fresh. I took a goat-cheese brownie to go.

We made one last stop into the brewery to pick up some beer to bring home, which is available in growlers. I picked up two as gifts and we hit the road back home again.

Here's a link to a blog I found that is mostly pictures of Vankleek Hill.
More about Vankleek Hill on wikipedia.
The Revision is VKH's satirical newspaper.

Here's a video that will give you an idea of what Beau's Oktoberfest is all about.

Oktoberfest 2010 from Beaus All Natural on Vimeo.

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