What do goats, lent, spring and beer have to do with Cincinnati? A lot apparently. Cincinnati has a long and glorious tradition of brewing and drinking beer. In the late nineteenth century Cincinnatians drank more beer per capita than any other city in the country, by a measure of more than 2:1. Cincinnati was home to over 300 saloons and 18 different breweries. Over the Rhein, with it’s predominantly German population, was the center of this beer drinking nirvana. One popular type of beer was the Bock beer, traditionally brewed in the spring because it was a heartier type of ale that the monks drank while they were fasting during lent. Alas the twentieth century was not as kind to Cincinnati’s beer lovers. Prohibition brought an end to most of the brewers, the Over the Rhine neighborhood fell out of favor and we saw the rise and domination of Anheuser-Busch and Miller-Coors. As the century drew to a close the fortunes again shifted. Craft beer made a com-back, Christian Morelein is once again brewing in Cincinnati and OTR is being revitalized/gentrified/hipsterfied depending on who you talk to. In 1992 as Christian Moerlein was announcing it’s new Bock beer the company decided to sponsor a festival celebrating Over the Rhine’s brewing and German heritage. Bockfest was born.
The festival and the traditions surrounding it feel both pagan and modern. The goat motif of the festival is because bock is German for goat and although the beer was associated with lent to me bockfest seems much more like a raucous rite of spring than a preparation for 40 days of fasting. Of course if you are fasting on beer maybe the two things are interchangeable. The festival officially begins with a parade that leads from Arnold’s Bar to Bockfest Hall but leading up to it are Pretzlefest, the Sausage Queen competitions, Precipitation Retaliation (a snowman is burned in effige to prevent being snowed out) and the Bock tapping. Despite being a large and long lasting event it remains free to the public as well as quirkily independent.
This year I have a lot to look forward to about Bockfest. The League of Cincinnati Steampunks has once again been asked to walk in the parade as the part of the Arnold’s crew. Assuming we don’t get washed out or sucked up by a tornado you will find a small but dedicated band of steampunks proudly bearing our banner. Later on I will be dancing with Doctor Bombay and the Atomic Bachelor Pad as the open for Team Void in MOTR Pub on Main Street. Brave the rain and come out and help us celebrate a few of my favorite things: spring, Cincinnati and beer. You can hear all about how it went on Episode Ten of The Charlie Tonic Hour.