Throngs of people dressed as monks. Bock beer flowing like water. Goats pulling kegs (and doing yoga). These and other strange sightings can only mean one thing: Spring is upon us, and Bockfest has returned to herald its arrival.
Now in its 30th year, Cincinnati’s wonderfully weird festival takes over OTR this weekend with merrymaking, odd traditions, and that hardy, high-proof brew enjoyed by revelers at its eponymous fest. Legend holds that the name came from an epic bock drinking contest between two monks. One competitor fell over, likely due to the beer’s higher alcohol content, and blamed his slip on a pesky goat that wandered into the tavern. His opponent replied that the only goat around was in the beer they drank. However, it’s more widely accepted that the name and origin derive from the German city of Einbeck—which in a Bavarian accent sounds like “ein bock,” similar to the old German for “billy goat.” We think the legend makes for a much better drinking story.
Centuries later, the first Cincinnati Bockfest in 1993 celebrated Hudepohl-Schoenling Brewing Company’s Christian Moerlein Bock. OG festival activities included parading a keg from Arnold’s Bar & Grill, the city’s oldest saloon, to Old St. Mary’s Church. This and several other traditions stuck around along with new offerings, like the new Bockfest Hall at Findlay Playground this year.
Don your cloak, grab your pet goat, and check out our rundown of the bock-analia to come this weekend.
Tapping of the Bocks
The weekend festivities kick off early at Arnold’s with the Tapping of the Bocks, the ceremonious opening of 17 different beers at once. Franciscan monk Brother Tim will be on hand to bless the booze, and River City Roustabout performs at 6 p.m. Find the full list of beers to be tapped here.
Thursday, 7 pm, Arnold’s Bar & Grill, 210 E. Eighth St.
Official Bockfest Happy Hour and Beer Competition Awards Toast
Friday, 3-6 pm, Moerlein Lager House, 115 Joe Nuxhall Way, downtown
Cincinnati’s “funkiest” parade starts at Arnold’s and marches up Main Street led by the reigning Sausage Queen, the official parade marshal, and a goat pulling a keg. Expect to see hordes of monks, German bands, keg-men, “Goat Busters,” and costumed revelers celebrating Renaissance Germany and Cincinnati brewing heritage. Prizes will be awarded for Best Costume, Best Goat Representation, Best German Spirit, Main Street Choice, and more.
Friday, parade forms at 5 pm, starts at 6 pm, Arnold’s Bar & Grill, 210 E. Eighth St. Ends at Bockfest Hall, Findlay Playground, 1811 Vine St.
Party Like a Bockstar at the New Bockfest Hall
Past fests have been held at the now-closed Christian Moerlein MaltHouse, but the party goes on at Findlay Playground under a mammoth tent (conveniently located behind Cincinnati Magazine’s new HQ). Enjoy the food, bock beer, and live music from the Zinzinnati Bier Band and The Klaberheads. Parade awards and the Blessing of the Bock Beer start at 7:30.
Friday, 5–11 pm, Findlay Playground, 1811 Vine St.
Run (or, depending on how hungover you are, walk) past OTR’s historic brewing sites during this Saturday race. You’ll start and finish at Bockfest Hall, where a cold beer is sure to be waiting for you. Proceeds from the 5K, which is part of the TQL Beer Series, support the Brewery District and the Brewing Heritage Trail. Find out how to register here.
Saturday, 10 am, starts and ends at Bockfest Hall at Findlay Playground
Learn About Queen City Brewing Heritage
Head to Rookwood Pottery, around the corner from Bockfest Hall, to learn about beer heritage from local historians and browse “breweriana” vendors offering beer signs, cans, steins, and more. Plus, you can take an Instagram-worthy picture next to the fest’s giant Trojan goat.
Saturday, 10 am–3 pm, Rookwood Pottery, 1920 Race St.
Bock Beer Experience
More than 30 bock beers will be flowing at this year’s Bockfest, and you can sample them all during Saturday’s Bock Beer Experience. One $45 ticket includes 4 oz samples of all bock beers on draft at Bockfest and a commemorative pint glass.
Saturday, noon–5 pm, Bockfest Hall at Findlay Playground
Need a little nourishment to wash down your bock? Pre-sale has started for this weekend’s pig roast, which also features roasted split chicken, maple bacon sriracha cabbage, German potato salad, skillet corn, maple glazed carrots, and dessert. Servatti, Good Guyz Food Truck, and House of Brisket will also be on hand to satisfy your food cravings.
Saturday & Sunday, noon–6 pm, Bockfest Hall at Findlay Playground
Historic Hudepohl Brewery Tour
Immerse yourself in Cincinnati’s rich brewing history on afternoon tours of Hudepohl’s bottling facility and cellars, which have been closed to the public for many years. These exclusive tours are located around the corner from Bockfest Hall and are only available this weekend through the Brewing Heritage Trail.
Saturday & Sunday, 40 E. McMicken Ave.
Live Music at Bockfest Hall and The Billygoat Ball
Book it to Bockfest Hall for live music from Just Add Beer, The Turkey’s Duo, and My Brothers Keeper. Laginappe headlines the Billygoat Ball, which also features food, beer, and the culmination of the Sausage Queen competition at 9:30 p.m. The winner gets the honor of carrying the symbolic tray of Bockwurst sausage at next year’s parade.
Saturday, open 10 am–11 pm, Bockfest Hall at Findlay Playground
Sunday is the best time to bring the kids out to experience Bockfest. The Little Links Pageant invites kids to dress in their “Welcome Spring” attire, whether that’s German lederhosen, goat costumes, monk outfits, and anything else celebrating the spirit of the festival. Pre-registration is required. The kids can enjoy the Good Green Earth Farm petting zoo at Bockfest Hall from 11 to 2 and free kids’ games from the Cincinnati Recreation Commission from 11 to 4, while the adults refresh their senses with a Bockfest Bloody Mary. Tickets for Goat Yoga at 10 a.m. Sunday have already sold out, but you can join the waiting list here. Don’t miss live performances by the Donauschwaben Dancers and The Hot Magnolias.
Sunday, 10 am–6 pm, Bockfest Hall at Findlay Playground
.05K Fun Run
How far is 0.05 kilometers, exactly? It’s a 50-meter dash, or about 164 feet. Any way you measure it, athletes who complete this Sunday fun run will receive a limited-edition T-shirt, a medal that doubles as a beer opener, and a frosty beer to help you cool off.
Sunday, 3 pm, Bockfest Hall at Findlay Playground
Find more details and the full list of participating Bockfest bars and venues here.