For the 7th year, Beau’s Oktoberfest has come and gone. Once again, it was an amazing weekend of delicious beer, tasty food, great bands, fun activities, and good friends up in Vankleek Hill, Ontario.
Eric and Matías run through the 10 most memorable moments (in no particular order).
E: Yes, believe it or not, there are things to do at Oktoberfest other than drink. Last year I tried my luck at the keg toss for distance and did pretty horribly in the rain, hitting my leg with the keg and bruising it pretty badly. This year I set out to try something new – the sausage eating contest. It was scheduled for 2 p.m. on the Saturday, so I figured that worst case it would be a free lunch. Sitting beside a previous champion I could feel the pressure mounting. The goal is to eat as many 1/4 pound sausages as you can in 10 minutes. The only catch is that no contestant can fall three sausages behind first place, or thou shalt be eliminated. I had a great pace through my first five sausages, eating one a minute and competing, but then as I slowed the others stayed steady. I was eliminated upon completion of my 7th sausage as someone started their 11th. I managed to finish about 5th place out of 12 or 14 competitors, and I am OK with that.
E: One of my annual highlights is watching the team competition. People get all dressed up and compete in co-ed challenges of keg toss for height, distance and accuracy. Every year the teams look like they are having an amazing time laughing and high-fiving all the way through. Next year Ottawa Showbox will be looking to enter team of our writers and local musicians to give it a whirl.
E: The addition of skateboarders and a bunch of punk rockers to Oktoberfest may have been one of the best decisions made by organizers. This year they took it up a notch moving setting up a real stage for the bands and placing the half-pipe in a picturesque location perfect for sunset photos. The skaters blow me away every year as they drink beers and defy gravity, flying all over the place on the half-pipe. This year I was also around to catch the keg jumping. This is where a skater propels his body as fast as he can on his skateboard towards a row of kegs (seven of them when I arrived) and then hurls his body over those kegs, leaving his board behind and hoping to land on a board setup for him on the other side. Yeah it is wild. Antique Skate Shop also essentially built a diving board they called “The Brown Recluse” which allowed skaters to drop into the half-pipe from several feet higher than the tip of the pipe (as seen in the photo above). The highest successful drop I saw was from an extra 7 feet in the air I believe. Wild!
M: The Black Forest stage area was a major addition and improvement to the festival grounds and live music experience. In previous years the secondary music area was located on the far opposite corner to the main stage, where the midway was set up this year. While that was all well and good, there was no actual stage and people watching the bands were relegated to tight quarters and pretty terrible sight lines. This year the establishment of the Black Forest stage alleviated those issues, creating an open and separate area for people to hang out and enjoy music that wasn’t at the main stage. Some intense performances by locals Mother’s Children, NECK, HELLbros! and Crvsades (guitarist Emmanuel Sayer cut his hand and unknowingly wiped his own blood everywhere) and The Flatliners from the GTA, who played their brand of punk rock to a loving crowd that sang along the whole time. From skaters tearing up the half-pipe, guilty pleasure dance jams, to ear drum destruction – the Black Forest area was a prime hang location.
E: This year House of Targ set up a little games booth near the Black Forest stage. For $1 you could compete against their number 1 wizard in a multitude of games ranging from spin the wheel, rock paper wizard, dice, and war. As Hellbros played on stage I challenged the bearded wizard to war, even though I am a pacifist and also am smart enough to know a wizard could destroy me in a real war. I shuffled the cards and dealt us each a card face down. I was then encouraged to place my card against a speaker on the table so the wizard to do some magic to it. After several weird magical sound effects we flipped our cards. He flipped a measly 6 while I flipped the all-powerful Ace of Spades. As I flipped the card, HELLbros! launched into a cover of Motörhead’s “Ace of Spades.” Needless to say we were all blown away. It was magical.
E: The normal beer tents are great and every year Beau’s make some incredible beers that I love. But the highlight is always the Cask House or Craft House, however you decide to call it. As in years past, the Cask House killed it again. There were over 70 amazing beers for festival-goers to sample this time around. This year’s set up was really cool. Instead of having a wall of casks and no lines, so a free for all, this year it was a trailer with taps on both sides and winding lines on each side. In my opinion, it was organized much better and patrons seemed to agree. Some of this year’s highlights from the cask area were Cigar City Brewing‘s Hunahpu’s 2015 (imperial stout), Left Field Brewery‘s Grandstand (American pale wheat ale), Ommegang Brewery‘s Hennepin Farmhouse Saison (farmhouse ale) and Bellwoods Brewery‘s Bring Out Your Dead (Cognac barrel aged imperial stout). One of the cooler/strange beers was the Peanut Butter Milk Stout by Belching Beaver Brewery. It was like drinking liquid peanut butter with a smooth stout finish. Quite delicious, but glad it was only a 9 oz. sample.
E: The ceremonial tapping of the keg on the main stage is always fun to see. Not everyday I hear the German national anthem and Canadian anthem sang, hear polka music and get handed free beer. On top of all that this year the good folks at Beau’s brought out four candidates for the area to join them on stage. And as Steve Beauchesne of Beau’s said, “There is one thing all parties can agree on…BEER.” It was a nice tough though, just another opportunity to invite people to vote and get informed.
E: Camp. Just do it! No need to find a designated driver. No need to sit on a crowded school bus. No need to fight with big crowds to get it. Sure it is a little cooler at this time a year but plan ahead because camping is one of my favourite parts of the festival. It means your night doesn’t end early like everyone elses. You can hangout with a bunch of like-minded people, enjoy a campfire, just really take it all in. And this year they had breakfast burritos for us to pruchase the next morning. Camping is the safest, least stressful, and most enjoyable way to ensure you really take it all in.
M: Whether you’re a fan of punk or not, if you haven’t seen Toronto’s Fucked Up play live then you’re simply missing out. For over a decade Damian Abraham and the band have used a mix of deranged and wild stage antics and fun and loud punk rock to take things to another level. They haven’t slowed down much at all over the years, and this year’s Beau’s Oktoberfest main stage performance was no exception. The band played some of their best songs including “Black Albino Bones” and “The Other Show,” dipping into their repertoire to blow the audience away. Damian didn’t hesitate to get the crowd involved, jumping off the stage and singing a good portion of the set all the way into the audience. We all got a chance to give him a hug and sing into the mic, and he didn’t miss a beat. Although the cold wind was blowing and the rest of the band was bundled up, Damian showed very little regard for self-preservation as he took off his shirt and belted out his vocals. The mosh pit was like a whirlpool and the overall energy of the festival got kicked up a notch after Fucked Up took the stage.
E & M: After seven years running, the festival just seems to improve every time around. From the big additions, like punk rock area and skateboarders a few years ago, to more behind the scene things like a media tent to charge your devices, Beau’s is going in the right direction. Yes, this is in large part of their great team of organizers, but year after year I am amazed by how engaged and enthusiastic all their volunteers are. It probably doesn’t hurt to call them volunbeers either. Bravo to the entire Beau’s family and their amazing group of volunteers, can’t wait to see what you’ll have in store for us next year. Here’s an obligatory picture of Eric in a banana suit.