As referenced in my I-am-not-a-teenager post, I mentioned I visited a small town in eastern Ontario. Vankleek Hill is located approximately one hour west of Montreal. Although I will quite frankly never turn down an [affordable] excursion outside of the island (which I refrain from grumpily and dramatically referring to as Gotham), my main reason for accepting an invitation to Vankleek Hill was because I was interested in visiting Beau’s Brewery. Beau’s is a family-owned, organic brewery, offering tours, tastings, and a delightful rustically charming gift stop.
Enter into the show room/shop area. There, you’ll be greeted by friendly staff members. Inquire about tours, which are offered every hour except during lunch. Tours are available in both English and French. I know, I know, I should have gone for French to practice, but I was with other people and didn’t have the heart to force them into a French tour simply so that I could practice.
The tour starts with an explanation of the ingredients. Sniffs are encouraged.
After sufficiently sniffing ingredients, you’ll put on your oh-so-trendy safety glasses. If you’re like me and rotate between glasses and contacts, this might be a day for your glasses. Those with actual glasses can skip the safety glasses requirement. Everyone can skip the gleefully silly look I displayed, however.
You’ll receive explanations for all machinery, pass by the bottling station, and learn about how the brewery reuses water and ingredients whenever possible. Their leftover materials are often shared with local farmers to decrease the amount of waste, and thus the carbon footprint, the brewery produces. Because you ought to visit yourself, I’ll keep my details limited. And yep, it’s been a few weeks since I visited, so details are fuzzier than before!
I’d love to visit with better photography skills. I think playing with shutter speed at the bottling station would have resulted in delightful photos. But alas, my skills (and lenses) are lacking.
After the tour/description of the facilities, you’ll head back to the showroom/shop for the fun part: the tasting.
After you’ve sampled a bit, decide on your take-home purchases. There are plenty of t-shirts, glasses, steins, and beers to choose from.
On your way out, take a minute to appreciate the idyllic surroundings. And the sunflowers. Being awkward in front of the camera is optional.
Vankleek Hill is a small town of about 2,000. The other city-raised folk with me really felt the quaintness of the town. I found their reactions a little funny, but it was also funny that I, a girl from a town of what used to have a population of 485, felt that 2,000 is tiny.
After touring the brewery, we looked for a place to eat. We stopped at Sam’s Kitchen on Main Street. The name of the cafe is the honest-to-God truth: it really is Sam’s kitchen. Well, technically, I’m no longer sure if Sam is the name of the woman operating it, or of one of her children. But the cafe is attached to the home, and the owner offers the public the same food she offers to her family.
She didn’t have any pre-made veggie sandwiches made, but was more than happy to prepare something for me when I asked. The owner also explained that one of her specialties is her homemade frozen dinners. They looked much, much more enticing than the likes of a Lean Cuisine, and I can only imagine that if I lived in this town, I’d stop by on busy days to grab an easy, reheat-able meal.
There is a variety of local artisan products offered on a shelf inside the store. Well, all products are local, except for the African art, of course. The eclectic choice of all local–except African art–was intriguing.
When heading into Vankleek Hill, you’ll notice the “Gingerbread Capital” sign that welcomes you into town. After noting this, we were delighted that Sam’s Kitchen offers homemade gingerbread cookies. However, we learned that the title of Gingerbread Capital is actually related to a type of architecture, not the cookies. The sign is a bit misleading….but the cookies were delicious.
Here’s an example of the architecture.
Look for it on over 100 houses in the area.
And for no other reason that libraries are adorable (and, okay, that whole eight-years-working-in-libraries thing), here’s a photo of the town library.
If you’re interested in the architecture, the beer, or simply a visit to a small town, it’s worth the hour trip. We have it on good authority that there is also a small local art museum in town.
Since Jordan wasn’t able to join us for the outing, I purchased a couple bottles to bring home for him. We sipped them on the balcony. (Glasses were used, I assure you, but no photographs exist to prove this).
After parking woes with my parents (who visited this week), I certainly am happy/relieved that we no longer have a vehicle in Montreal, but I miss day trips! I was extremely grateful for the trip to the countryside. Little excursions of this nature are so perfect. Especially when I just hop along for the ride and don’t have to do any of the planning.
Thanks, dudes, for letting me join (even if you made me feel old[er than you]…)