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Bockfest and Pig Works: Celebrating Cincinnati

Monday, Feb 27, 2023
Bockfest and Pig Works: Celebrating Cincinnati

We’ve all seen the t-shirts that say “Will Run for Beer,” and while its intention may be to bring a chuckle, that saying is never truer than for Pig Works’ TQL Beer Series, which kicks off Saturday, March 4 with the Bockfest 5K, one of the anchor events for Cincinnati’s 31st edition of Bockfest weekend.

While the other two legs of the TQL Beer Series – the Fifty West Mile and Hudy 14K/7K – have their own personalities, the Bockfest 5K is truly a celebration of Cincinnati’s beer heritage as part of the three-day Bockfest party.

So what is Bockfest and how did it get started? Steve Hampton, the executive director of the Brewery District Community Urban Redevelopment Corporation (CURC) gives us a quick history lesson on all things Bockfest, including its namesake, bock beer.

“Bockfest is all centered around beer, bock beer, specifically,” said Hampton. “We were one of the biggest brewing centers in the country pre-Prohibition, and we saw a very proud brewing tradition.”

That tradition, of course, took a hit with Prohibition, and many of Cincinnati’s brewers just couldn’t survive.  “One of our last local breweries, Hudepohl Schoenling, in 1992 had their Christian Moerlein premium beer, a really good beer, celebrating Cincinnati’s brewing heritage. Well, they created a new bock beer for spring. And they wanted a way to celebrate that and harken back to those brewing traditions.

“Bock beers are a seasonal beer, always released during Lenten fasting time, so breweries would release their bock beers at the same time in the spring. Hudepohl Schoenling took that idea and released Christian Moerlein Bock Beer in 1992, and they partnered with Arnold’s and the merchants on Main Street in OTR to create a festival to celebrate that.”

From that, Bockfest weekend was born, including a Friday evening parade through OTR, Saturday beer tastings, tours and beer-themed, and Sunday family events. “Bockfest is such a fun festival, for so many reasons,” Hampton said. “It’s always in springtime, sometimes we’re still dodging snow, but one of the things it celebrates is the coming of spring, so it’s the first big outdoor festival of the year. And it’s always so positive, people are just excited to be out after being cooped up all year.”

n 2013, the Flying Pig joined the Bockfest party by adding the Bockfest 5K on Saturday morning, with the route going past some of the landmarks of Cincinnati’s brewing past. And that, according to Hampton, is the whole idea of Bockfest and the Brewery District CURC: Let people see and experience the history of Cincinnati’s brewing industry.

We’ve been operating Bockfest for over 15 years now,” Hampton said. “We do a lot to preserve and celebrate that history. We’re building and designing the Brewing Heritage Trail as a permanent celebration of our brewing history through the neighborhood with wayfinding medallions set in the sidewalk, permanent signage, public art, smartphone app, guided tours, including the old lagering cellars and old breweries. It’s something we do to preserve and celebrate, but also use it to help bring our neighborhood back.

“The key thing that we always focus on is, it’s a festival of the neighborhood. You couldn’t take Bockfest and move it somewhere else. It needs to be in the neighborhood in some form or fashion, so we’ve always continued to involve local businesses and venues. As we move forward in future years, who knows? Things change, locations change, but one way or the other, I think it will always be here in OTR.”

2023 Bockfest is now SOLD OUT! Participants are still able to register however, they will NOT receive a medal and there is a limited supply of shirts. Register here.

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