Cincinnati’s Bockfest is the city’s unique celebration of the arrival of spring (a quick Google search turned up only one other Bockfest listing, for a small event at a brewery in New Ulm, Minnesota), but for the past few years, there has been a decidedly wintery aspect to the party, with freezing temperatures and fitful precipitation.
This year, however, after a long, cold winter, the weather is cooperating for the annual three-day beer-and-foolishness party. When the Bockfest Parade stepped off from Arnold’s Bar at 6:00 p.m. on Friday, March 7, it was nearly 60 degrees, and the overflow crowds at Bockfest Hall, at the end of the parade, spilled out into the street, where tents were set up in parking lots serving sausage, fish, hot pretzels, and other treats.
The parade was bigger this year, too, although it arrived at Bockfest Hall in waves, perhaps sent across the main streets of downtown in sections to facilitate rush-hour traffic, which also seemed busier than usual. There were plenty of great entries in the parade, including the Over the Rhine Pipe Club, a group of dapper fellows with meerschaums; the Bock Dachs, a whole gaggle of adorable dachshunds; and the Bocking Dead, the requisite zombie contingent. There were also plenty of faux monks and goats of all kinds—live goats, wooden goats, and a large and scary Chinese dragon goat. Some folks dressed as buildings, others in German costumes, and many were riding bicycles.
The Sausage Queen’s wagon led the parade, and it looked like all of downtown Cincinnati’s horse carriages came along, too. The crowd parted each time a horse-drawn carriage made its way down Moore Street past Bockfest Hall in the Christian Moerlein Brewery.
Another reason for the increased size of the crowd and the festivities in general is the proliferation of local breweries in Cincinnati. Arnold’s Bar announced on Friday that their basement was full of kegs of various kinds of bock beer from breweries around town, and more than a dozen local brewers are involved in the festival this year. There are brewery tours offered throughout the weekend, although they do sell out early.
At one point in the evening on Friday, the line to get into Bockfest Hall was many blocks long. Although there were plenty of tents offering food outside the hall, you had to get inside to buy a beer, so there was quite a bit of grumbling about that flaw in the setup. Fortunately, there were other venues in Over the Rhine and downtown Cincinnati where the beer, bock and otherwise, was flowing, and shuttle buses were making the rounds to get partiers to the bars on Main Street and Vine Street as well as more far-flung locations, including Washington Platform on Elm Street, Rhinegeist Brewery near Findlay Market, and the biergarten at Grammars.
Bockfest continues Saturday, March 8, and Sunday, March 9, and the weather will continue to cooperate except for a bit of rain—or snow—Saturday evening. Head down to Over the Rhine for a uniquely Cincinnati celebration of spring—and beer. You can find all the events and venues at the Bockfest 2014 website.