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More ambition, plenty of surprises at Festibière

Our Gatineau neighbours know how to throw a beer party

Festibière is an ambitious beer festival that celebrates the glory that is Quebec’s beer culture and has two iterations: one in March and the other in July.

Dozens of breweries are represented and each promises beer lovers something unique from the imaginations of their brewers.

The weather couldn’t have been better and arrived in full sun as a backdrop to the tropical-themed setting. The fully operational ferris wheel sat there like a beacon directing people to where the fun was.

The beach at Festibière

The beach at Festibière. Ralf Joneikies/Ottawa Lookout

I had arrived early on the first day for opening remarks by festival organizer and owner Alex Van Dieren and we were treated to a selection of excellent beer.

Once the gates opened to the general public, it wasn’t long before the inflatable flamingos were carrying happy visitors around the large above-ground pool.

The pier at Festibière

The pier. Ralf Joneikies/Ottawa Lookout

This year the layout was more ambitious with a living garden area featuring all manner of growing vegetables and even more seating with umbrellas for shade than in previous years.

The speakeasy

The speakeasy. Ralf Joneikies/Ottawa Lookout

Last year the entrance to the very popular speakeasy, retrofitted inside a reefer truck, was hidden behind a porta-potty door. This year the entrance is once again hidden but I’m revealing nothing. Let that be part of your fun.

Sans Facon creation Festibière

Sans Facon creation. Ralf Joneikies/Ottawa Lookout

This year’s newest feature is a beer and food pairing event staged inside an old shipping container. Three foods created by talented chefs from Sans Façon, Caméline and Bistro CoqLicorne are each paired with a beer.

You and nine others are seated at a long table facing large flat screens on which appear the chefs who talk to you about the food you are about to experience. Built into the table are three sliding wooden doors and you are prompted after each video to open one of these doors revealing the chef’s creation. Pair that with the brew in front of you.

It’s a thoroughly modern and inventive idea and a relative bargain at $28 for the experience. Only one dish missed the mark a little for me but the fish fritter created by the chefs at Sans Façon was the highlight.

With each incarnation, Festibière shows imagination and a willingness to take new directions. In fact, despite the name, it’s not just for drinkers of alcohol. Two friends, who don’t drink at all, went on the weekend and had a very good time. Turns out Festibière appears to have something for everyone. Ferris wheel included.

Festibière runs until July 29 at Place des festivals Zibi just across the Ottawa River.

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