“Bockfest is coming!” This shrill yell of excitement has been echoing throughout Cincinnati’s seven hills and Over-the-Rhine’s secret alleyways with a growing intensity for weeks. Now, the time for bock beer, monks, and goats is nearly upon us…
Bockfest is an annual Renaissance celebration of Cincinnati’s rich history and brewing heritage, Over-the-Rhine, bockwurst and bock beer, and the coming of spring. German monks originally brewed bock beer for sustenance during the Lenten fast due to its higher nutritional content and higher alcohol content than other lagers. In pre-Prohibition Cincinnati, dozens of Over-the-Rhine’s breweries would release their bock beer around Lent. In 1993, the tradition was revived by the Hudepohl-Schoenling Brewery Co. to celebrate the release of the brewery’s Christian Moerlein Bock. This event gave birth to Bockfest – a whimsical, eclectic and uniquely Cincinnati festival.
Bock means goat in German and goat references give bock beer its name. Goats play a role in Bockfest. The Bockfest Parade is led by a goat named Schnitzel pulling the ceremonial first keg of bock beer and the reigning Sausage Queen. The parade includes many festive floats including a perennial “Trojan Goat” that has become an unofficial symbol of Bockfest. Cincinnati’s Bockfest is the oldest and largest Bockfest party in the country.
Bockfest Hall is the center of the weekend’s festivities and serves as the starting point for the historic brewery and church tours as well as the starting and finish line of the Inaugural Bockfest 5K. Along with Bockfest Hall, 15 other venues are participating in Bockfest. A free shuttle will transport festival-goers to all the great Bockfest venues and events. The free shuttle will run from 7PM-1AM on Friday, 8AM-1AM on Saturday, and 10AM-7PM on Sunday.
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A number of preview events lead up to Bockfest Parade and the official start of Bockfest. The Beefsteak Club Dinner, Precipitation Retaliation, and the preliminary rounds of the Sausage Queen Pageant are some of them. This year, a couple new events (a 5K race and a fish fry) will be joining old favorites like the Sausage Queen finals, historic brewery and OTR church tours, and all the festivities at Bockfest Hall and participating venues.
The Inaugural Bockfest 5K is the first of three races that form the Christian Moerlein Beer Series. The Beer Series is a joint effort of the Flying Pig Marathon and Christian Moerlein Brewing Co. The Bockfest 5K will be held Saturday, March 2, and the other two races, the Little Kings Mile and the Hudepohl 14k and 7K Brewery Run, will be held May 3 and September 21, respectively.
Register to run, volunteer or view parking and course map info here.
Historic brewery and OTR church tours are two popular events held during Bockfest. The Brewery District CURC leads the brewery tours, both above and below ground. All 10 of the tours scheduled for Saturday have sold out. Some tours on Sunday are still available. Learn more and buy tickets here.
The church tours are jointly led by the OTR Foundation and American Legacy Tours and visit four 19th century churches in Over-the-Rhine: St. Francis Seraph, First Lutheran, Nast Trinity, and Prince of Peace. Tours will be held at 2pm and 2:45pm. To learn more and purchase tickets, click here.
Old St. Mary’s Church will host its first ever Bockfest Fish Fry from 5 to 9pm on Friday, March 1 in its parking lot at 13th and Main. Stay informed about the Bockfest Fish Fry on its facebook page.
The Sausage Queen is Bockfest royalty who helps lead the Bockfest Parade by carrying a symbolic tray of Bockwurst sausage. Contenders for the throne of Sausage Queen compete at local saloons prior to the pageant’s finale at Bockfest Hall on Saturday night of Bockfest weekend. Follow the Sausage Queen competition on facebook here.
The Sausage Queen is immortalized every year by artist Jim Effler: