With the "running of the blondes" and the "tapping of the bock" the arrival of Spring can't be too far behind. Despite what our recent weather pattern seems to be telling us, Capital Brewery of Middleton did its best on Saturday to signal the change of seasons with its annual Bockfest Celebration. The event marks the public release of the brewery's well-known Blonde Doppelbock beer.
Doppelbocks are deep golden to bronze-colored lagers with lots of sweet caramel malty tones. Bock beers, customarily, are brewed in the fall and drunk in later winter to celebrate the coming spring. Monks in the 16th and 17th centuries fasted during Lent and found nourishment from strong, hearty bock beers they referred to as liquid bread.
But back to more modern times, just what is Bockfest you ask? Well, one of our bloggers (Rosemary) summed it up fairly and accurately, "Standing outside in winter, drinking beer, waiting for a toilet, getting pelted with fish bits and shinny beads? Sounds odd, but it's fun." This year's event ranked as one of the largest crowds ever, topping over 3300 attendees on the day. That isn't necessarily a good thing if you are standing in line waiting for beer or the toilet.
Colleen Ewell and Tony Uhlenkamp just moved to the Madison area a month ago. This was their afternoon out of the house since arriving from Ames, and it was also their first time at Bockfest. "We were looking for something fun, something unique and heard from friends at work there would be good beer." Colleen and Tony weren't disappointed; they tried Capital's Island Wheat, the Wisconsin Amber, and the Blonde Doppelbock. While they both like the malty sweetness of the doppelbock, both said their preferred the Amber. While holding beers in both hands with a smile, Colleen observed, "We've just got to learn more about Wisconsin!"
Capital's Bockfest started eleven years ago when brewery executives wanted to hold a winter beer festival on par with an ice-fishing contest. While there is lots of beer, live music in the beer garden (Pupy Costello & His Big City Honky-Tonk), costumes, and the 1K run (a.k.a., the "Running of the Blondes") the highpoint is when Capital Brewmaster Kirby Nelson arrives on the roof of the brewery riding a green dinosaur. He then proceeds to throw smoked chubs to the thousands below.
Catching one of the exploding fish is rather "gutsy" because it disintegrates upon impact, spraying the catcher or anyone nearby. Catching an intact fish head means a free beer. Nelson is quick to quip, "We believe that anyone willing to get fish thrown at them should have a chance for more than a bad stink!"
Jonathan Trujillo, a med student at the University of Iowa, came for the weekend with five friends who made the trip from Iowa City. "I'm amazed at how people from all over come here for the doppelbock." When asked, was it worth the trip? "Yes, without a doubt," responded Trujillo. Trujillo, was actually in it for the fish as much as the beer. He caught two frozen chubs on the day, but seemed disappointed that he only came up with one fish head that he could redeem for a beer. "My friends were covering up their mugs, and told me to stay away with my fish," added Trujillo.
As for the arrival of spring and complaints of our "smelly" weather the day proved to offer two sides to the story: on one-hand there's still need for a snow shovel; and, in the other there's a Blonde Doppelbock.