The Fascinating History Behind Sly Fox’s Bock Fest and Goat Race
The historic town of Einbeck, Germany, is a popular destination for those seeking cityscapes fixed with woodcarving and half-timbered architecture. The iconic buildings are what tourists see on Instagram and Pinterest. Yet, there is another side to Einbeck that brings travelers to its old town quarters, which involves a global delicacy–bock beer.
Historically speaking, German breweries would brew stronger beers late in the year and allow them to lager over the winter. This style of brewing produced what we know as bock beer. The name “bock” is derived from the town of Einbeck. Due to the similar pronunciation of “bock” and the German word for “billy goat,” (Ziegenbock) German breweries began including images of goats on bock beer labels.
Over the Atlantic Ocean in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, Sly Fox Brewing Company continues the tradition of bock beer by holding an annual event.
What is Bock Fest?
The first-ever Sly Fox Bock Fest was held as a debut celebration for the brewing company’s Maibock. According to the book Munich: Hofbrauhaus and History, the Bavarian law of 1516, Reinheitsgebot, cracked down on beer. With Reinheitsgebot, brewers were only allowed to have water, malted barley, hops, and yeast. The Sly Fox Maibock conforms to the tradition.
According to the Sly Fox team, “The recipe includes continental pilsner malt, a hefty percentage of Vienna malt which enhances the body of the beer, and some roasted caramel malt which contributes the beer’s deep amber hues and rich malt flavor. Delicate hopping with German noble hop varieties then imparts a delicate spiciness with subtle herbal and floral aromas. The beer is then fermented with German lager yeast at cooler temperatures, and undergoes 4-5 weeks of cold maturation to round out the flavor profile and produce a smooth and balanced finished product.”
The Goat Race
Now you’re probably wondering why there is a goat race at Bock Fest. Think back to the Ziegenbock reference, old breweries added images of goats to the labels. Former brewmaster Brian O’Reilly brainstormed the idea over 20 years ago to race goats at Bock Fest. The idea grew into today’s captivating event.
The race involves 30 to 40 participating goats and occurs on the field adjacent to the Pottstown brewery. There are 3 to 5 goats in each heat and advance in a tournament style.
You might be thinking, “Where are these goats from?” According to the Sly Fox team, they have a saying, “If you race them, they will come.” Goat owners travel from all over Pennsylvania and the surrounding states. The goats and their owners spend weeks, months, and even years to compete in the annual Sly Fox Goat Race, which is held on the first Sunday in May.
The goats are easily distracted, so the track is only 100 feet long. The furry competitors are assigned a handler who runs alongside them–no pushing or pulling. To win, the goat must cross the finish line.
Each race displays live on a jumbotron with the capability of instant replay. The champion is crowned at a ceremony after the final race. The bock is ceremonially tapped and the Maibock is named after the winner.
For instance, last year the Maibock was named “Princess Jenny.”
In the early years, Bock Fest started in a parking lot with a few hundred people. At the 2022 Bock Fest over 2,300 people attended.
If you’re looking for an exciting, hilarious, and traditional event, mark your calendars. The event is on Sunday, May 7 at 11:00 a.m. For more information on tickets, parking, and details visit the Sly Fox website here.
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