Oktoberfest on Ontario's West Coast
“It doesn’t matter where you’re going, it’s who you have beside you.” ~Anonymous.
Well, this trip I embarked on by myself but what I did have beside me was great beers, tasty food and picturesque scenery so I’d say that still counts as good company.
Welcome to Ontario's West Coast, specifically Huron County. Huron County is roughly 3 hours from Toronto and the most agriculturally productive county in Ontario that connects us to 100km of coastline, lush countryside, year-round trails, small towns, vibrant rural communities and one of my more recent favourite destinations in Ontario. With local food and beer both grown and produced and served on the land. Oh, and the beaches are beautiful and on the right day will have you wondering if you’re still in Ontario.
This past trip was all about celebrating the harvest at Oktoberfest on Ontario’s West Coast in the form of Taste of Huron. Oktoberfest is an annual event that happens the weekend after Thanksgiving, it celebrates harvest season, rural landscapes, and fall flavours. From the scenic shoreline of Lake Huron to the picturesque rural landscapes keep reading to find out why Huron County is a farm-to-table craft beer (and wine) destination, has no shortage of fun activities to enjoy and why I highly recommend you mark this event on your calendar next year!
I had the chance to visit 4/6 breweries (I’ll save the wineries for another "professional") in the area that were a part of the weekend-long Oktoberfest Event where you could purchase a passport and explore each brewery and sample their beer paired with a local food dish. From drinking in an orchard, feeling like I was in a quaint pub in Nova Scotia to a live concert on a farm this weekend filled up my heart with autumn colours, flavours and weather; it was perfect.
💀🍎 Bad Apple Brewing Company is a family-owned, family-run and family/dog-friendly craft brewery located in Zurich in #HuronCounty, it's a must-visit so add that to your ongoing list of Travelling Pint recommendations! 🍻
The brewery sits on a small orchard where they grow fresh produce that is used in many of their beer & cider recipes. The taproom is in a picturesque renovated century barn with an option to sit outdoors in the orchard where their Biergarten is located. 🍎
I first met owners Jason & Sarah 5 years ago on my first visit there and was so stoked to be back and see how both the space and beer list has grown. As a part of Ontario's West Coast Oktoberfest, this was my first stop and eagerly stamped my passport and indulged in a pint of Brown Ale and a Smoked Pulled Pork sandwich with seasonal slaw and apple chutney being served up on-site by local chef James Eddington who owns Eddington of Exeter restaurant in the area.
🤎 The Brown Ale was medium-bodied with a flavour that was toasty & caramel-like with a nice balance of rich maltiness and hop bitterness. The finish offers clean dark malt with just a touch of raisiny fruit. I love how many Brown Ales I have come across this year as they are often scarce and overlooked but a Brown Ale can be just as complex, innovative and tasty as any other style/
👀 If you are looking to try something innovative try their West Coast White! with a 4:1 ratio of Hefeweizen to cider it is a refreshing spin on a Hefe as the slight tartness on the finish invites you in for another sip. Each Saturday Bad Apple Brewing hosts live music and you can follow them on IG to find out about brewery events, beer releases and more. Thanks again for being wonderful hosts and I promise not to wait 5 years until I return! #shameonme
I have been this way quite a few times this summer with Point Farms Provincial Park being one of our favourite camping destinations and how we’ve never stopped in the picturesque town of Bayfield before when in this area is beyond me. Luckily it is where I am based for this trip and it's the cutest little town with shops, restaurants and Inns galore and of course, it has a brewery!
Located downtown Bayfield is Bayfield Brewing Co. which has a quaint little taproom and brewery on one side and a larger Brew Pub on the other. I saddled up to the bar, as I do, and grabbed a flight of beer that included their Shoreline Cream Ale, Hazy Sunset NEIPA, Woolen Ship Brown Ale and Captain Ron IPA named after the owner Ron. All the beers where on point, brewed to style and went down quickly which gave me a chance to also try their Snook Stout. Roasty and dry with stronger notes of dark malt and coffee it was a treat.
They have a great-looking menu full of food featuring many of Huron County’s own fresh ingredients but I chose to get another stamp on my #TasteofHuron Passport and opt for a pulled pork slider and some coconut shrimp which went so well with the NEIPA.
Ryan is the brewer and makes magic happen in their small brewhouse and is the son of Ron. It was such a welcoming vibe here and I felt like I was on a trip to the east coast. They have a dog-friendly large patio out back of the brewpub where they offer local music at times as you sit amongst the trees and sip away the day. I highly suggest a visit to this cute town and indulge in dinner and drinks at the brewery, get the destination list back out and add Bayfield!
Looking to make a stay of it? You should and The Little Inn of Bayfield is just steps away from the brewery and where I stayed for the night and they offered a delicious buffet brunch with seafood, eggs bennie, fresh fruit, tasty pastries and much needed coffee.
My final stop of the day is located just north of Bayfield at River Road Brewing & Hops, a farm-based, sustainable brewery dedicated to providing delicious and quality crafted beers. The ingredients that go into making their beer are grown right on the farm giving and though they have been open for several years now I had yet to visit here as well. More than beer was awaiting me at this stop as a part of the Oktoberfest Celebration you could purchase a ticket to the outdoor concert being held on the farm that evening. It was so nostalgic to see Bif Naked as one of the bands playing and brought me right back to high school in 1994 as she loudly played her hits such as "Daddy's Getting Married", "Spaceman" & "I Love Myself Today". Too young to remember her? Look her up as Bif has an interesting story and a real punk edge to her music, it's great!
The headliner was another Canadian musician, Coleman Hell. I had heard of his one radio hit "2 heads" but I had never heard the rest of his music and was unaware of his quirky stage presence, high energy and sweet sweet side swept mullet. I quite enjoyed his set and he was such a great reminder to be yourself, wear what you want and don't let anyone dull your shine. It was such a rad venue for a concert and with lots of people scattered around in their camp chairs, others gathered around picnic tables and a group dancing I'd say it was a success.
Ok back to the beer...
They had the outdoor area / biergarten licensed and a take out beer window set up as the brewery & taproom where closed for the event. I indulged in a Stout and Pale Ale and though I couldn't have a good chat with the staff to discover what ingredients they had grown may be in my selected beers I was a fan.
They served them up in Ball Aluminum Cups and with the chilly autumn wind blowing about that night the beers stayed nice and chilled. I was sad to not try their Country Bumpkin Dark porter mashed in a pumpkin (yes…right in the pumpkin) with subtle holiday spices as they had a limited list available for the show but upon a little website research I am pleased to find a wide variety of beers they offer and lots on the maltier side like Scottish Ales, Coffee Stouts and Red Ales.
So River Road Brewing is not quite checked off my list as I feel another visit is needed to truly sample their selection of brews, chat more with the crew and pet the sheep in the yard.
Square Brew is another brewery on the passport worth visiting. I had just spent some time there the previous week so let me tell you a little about Goderich's only craft brewery!
Yet another brewery that the last time I visited they were still finishing the inside and not quite open for visitors. I love returning to see it all done and with fermentors and kegs full of beer.
The brewery is named after the downtown square of Goderich which is the shape of an octagon, it only seemed fitting for owner Alex to embrace this quirky custom and make it a part of the logo.
They offer both indoor and outdoor seating in an open concept taproom and with welcoming and chill vibes it's easy to spend an afternoon chatting, playing games and sampling your way through the beers. Founder and brewmaster Alex Menary is a UK-trained brewer who previously worked at Block 3 Brewing and Amsterdam Brewery and from their German Pilsner and Vienna lager to a variety of IPA's and Stouts there is a nice mix of styles to suit all occasions and cravings.
Where to Stay...
There is a great list of options for Bayfield and beyond here from hotels & Inns to B&B's the choice is yours. For this trip, I was hosted at The Little Inn of Bayfield which is attached to The Willow Room restaurant where I enjoyed a much needed brunch and coffee on Sunday. The Inn itself is a designated heritage building built of local buff brick, it is a fine example of early Ontario architecture. The beds were comfy, the fireplace cozy and the food delicious.
Well folks that's a wrap and if you're not thirsty at this point go back and start from the top and pair with a beer. ;)
Looking for more than food & beer? Huron County has something for everyone and is full of beaches, history, wineries, charming small towns, stunning views, theatre and more
Ready to plan your trip but still need some help? Let Ontario's West Coast Site guide you or feel free to send me a message!
Though this was a #sponsoredtrip I want to assure you all these words and thoughts are mine and honest reviews. If you’ve followed along with Travelling Pint for a while you will know I speak my truth and wear my hop on my sleeve. I hope you find as much enjoyment in this area as I did and my Instagram Stories from this trip are saved in my IG highlights, under Huron County, if you want to travel along with me!