Some look to a groundhog to mark spring's arrival. On the first full weekend of March here in Cincinnati, we herald in spring with a goat and a big, funky festival called Bockfest.
And oh my GOATNESS is it fun... and free! Here's the scoop on how to take part in this year's Bockfestivities and "party like a bockstar".
Why’s it called Bockfest?
First things first. You're going to need a know a bit of history. This festival is all about paying homage to Cincinnati's german roots and brewing legacy.
The origin of the festival ties back to German monks who would brew the lightly hopped, but strong malty beer for sustenance during the spring Lenten fasts.
There are several myths that trace back to the the Bock name (which means “Goat” in German). This story from local beer blogger Gnarly Gnome sums up the most common story: “During a legendary drinking contest back in the day, two brewing monks were facing off with each other. Upon losing the competition one of the monks toppled over in his chair. In his embarrassment, the monk blamed his upturned nature on an errant goat that had wandered into the tavern. The winning monk, upon hearing this, told his companion that the only goat that had knocked him over was the beer itself.”
The Bockfest celebration got it starts when Christian Moerlein launched its Bock brew decades back with a big parade and gathering to celebrate the beer's special heritage. The OTR neighborhood joined in on the celebration and the rest, as they say, is history.
Now in its 26th year, Bockfest is the longest-running and largest bock beer festival in the world. And there’s truly something for everyone at this festival.
The festivities officially kick off with an outlandish parade on 6pm on Friday, March 2. The parade begins at Cincinnati’s oldest saloon, Arnold’s, travels up Sycamore Street to 12th Street to Main Street before ending in OTR at Bockfest Hall.
The parade includes a traditional cast of characters: Schnitzel the goat pulling the ceremonial keg, faux-monks pulling a Trojan goat (with a stylized keg belly for good measure), the reigning Sausage Queen and an assortment of local parade entries dressed in a range of comedic costumes, floats and fanfare. The parade ends at Bockfest Hall for the blessing of the bock beer, "best of" parade awards and a lot of partying. Last year, a couple even got married on a parade float!
You can preview the experience from Paste Magazine's 2017 parade gallery.
Full parade details: http://www.bockfest.com/parade.html
Bockfest Hall (Festival HQ)
The storied Christian Moerlein’s brewery located at 1621 Moore Street in Cincinnati’s Brewery Heritage District, serves as the main headquarter for revelers. Celebrations last long into the night with live music, german food, and 15 different bock-style biers flowing.
Saturday evening inside the Bockfest Hall is officially dubbed as the Billygoat Ball and as the festival site says “amps up the energy like a kick from a billygoat!”
The highlight of the event centered around royal celebrations: the crowning of the renowned Sausage Queen and for the first time, an expansion to the royal court, the crowning of the Bockfest Beard Barron. No modesty here, this gender-neutral pageant is always a spectacle. Who will become the reigning 2018 Sausage Queen? You’ll have to be there to find out.
Details: Admission to Bockfest Hall is free. You can elevate your experience by purchasing a Bockfest ticket package complete with Bockfest swag, brewery tours and added food experiences.
Bock Brunch and Continental Sunday
Keep the party (or recover from the one the night before) at Sunday’s popular Bockfest Brunch featuring hearty german and regional faves, goetta and cheese strata, bockwurst and sauerkraut, german potato salad and an Blood Mary Bar.
The final day of the festival also includes family-friendly activities with authentic games reminiscent of OTR in the 1800s hosted by the area German-area Society.
Additional Bockfest Bocketlist Items:
•Local and rare bock beer tappings, beer competitions and tastings inside Bockfest and at participating venues
•Take a ride on the free bockfest shuttle and stop at participating bars and restaurants throughout OTR and downtown Cincinnati (many offering specials and unique events)
•Cincinnati is home to the largest collection of pre-prohibition brewing heritage buildings and architecture. Learn more about the city’s brewing heritage with special tours and lectures all weekend long.
•Work off all that Bock beer by participating in Saturday morning's annual Bockfest 5k race through the OTR Brewing Heritage District
Cheers! For complete festival information, visit http://www.bockfest.com/.