CINCINNATI -- Bockfest, perhaps the most irreverent of the Queen City's annual celebrations, returns for its 26th year Friday with an eclectic parade kicking off three days of drinking and merriment.
For those unfamiliar with Bockfest, here are the basics to know so you can fully enjoy this uniquely Cincinnati event.
What is Bockfest?
The Hudepohl-Schoenling Brewing Co. organized the first Bockfest in 1993 as a community event celebrating Cincinnati's German beer heritage and to introduce its Christian Moerlein bock-style beer. The festival kicked off with a parade at Arnold's Bar & Grill, the city's oldest bar. The parade wound through Over-the-Rhine to a vacant building that had been selected to host "Bockfest Hall," the hub for a weekend-long celebration.
The Christian Moerlein Brewing taproom, at 1621 Moore St., became the permanent Bockfest Hall after brewery owner Greg Hardman brought Hudepohl back to Cincinnati in 2004, six years after its production moved to Cleveland. The parade tradition kicks off this year at 6 p.m. Friday in front of Arnold's, located at 210 E. Eighth St.
What Is bock beer?
The BeerAdvocate, a brewing trade publication, defines a bock beer as "a bottom fermenting lager that generally takes extra months of lagering (cold storage) to smooth out such a strong brew." It is generally a dark amber to brown color. This year there will be rotating tappings of specialty bock beers inside Bockfest Hall and the adjoining festival tent.
There also will be "Bockfeast" events on Saturday and Sunday. For event times and ticket prices, as well as beer tapping times, visit www.bockfest.com.
How did goats get involved?
There is some dispute over this. Some will tell you Bockfest started marching goats down Main Street because “bock” means billy goat in some German dialects. This belief is bolstered by Germanic pagan traditions involving Capricorn, the weird half-goat-half-fish winter zodiac symbol, according to BeerAdvocate.
Others suggest “bock” is really a play on “beck,” which is short for the German town of Einbeck, where medieval monks home-brewed a strong amber beer for sustenance during Lenten fasts. Cincinnati's Bockfest split the difference by incorporating the beer, goats, Catholic friars and other completely random elements into the event.
Who's the baaaa-dest billy goat of them all?
Bockfest has an official "goat" ambassador, and his name is Schnitzel. The Angora goat leads the Bockfest parade each year. When he's not bleating his way down Main Street, Schnitzel calls Sunrock Farm in Campbell County, Kentucky, home.
Did you know there's a Sausage Queen?
Any event centered around Cincinnati's German heritage would not be complete without acknowledging its meat-packing history. Hence, the Little Kings Sausage Queen competition each year at Bockfest. There are four rounds of competition in the gender-neutral pageant before someone is anointed Sausage Queen in Bockfest Hall.
The 2018 Sausage Queen will lead next year's Bockfest parade while carrying a plate of Bockwurst sausages next to Schnitzel. The 2018 Sausage Queen will hand off their crown to the new queen after the coronation ceremony at 9:30 p.m. Saturday.
The Sausage Queen will get a king during the second annual Beard Baron competition. Despite the title, this pageant is also gender neutral. The "baron" will be selected based on the most original and outrageous facial hair starting at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in Bockfest Hall. The Beard Baron will join the Sausage Queen in leading the 2019 Bockfest parade. For more information about both contests click here.
What else is there to do?
Celebrate Over-the-Rhine's heritage with guided historic brewery tours running all weekend long. There is the "Mishaps, Malfeasance and Murder Tour," a new 90-minute walking tour that tells the stories of corruption, accidents and murder related to Cincinnati's beer history, and the new "Brushes and Beer Tour," a tour that celebrates the new public art along the Brewing Heritage Trail. There is also the Dr. Morgan’s Hangover Relief Tour on Saturday and Sunday, which brings together Over-the-Rhine's pre-Prohibition past and the neighborhood's reclamation and ends with a bock beer and discussion of what is happening today. Find ticketing and other information on the Bockfest website.