Bockfest: Beer for a Cause

They say drinking is not a solution, and while that might be sage advice, there is always a rare exception. Bockfest, now in its 4th year, is one of them. The Great Dane Brewpub hosts this charitable indoor winter beer fest as a benefit for The Road Home. Since 1999, The Road Home has been working to provide stable living and housing solutions for children and families with children here in Dane County. They serve over 150 families each year. The winter season is a bitter reminder of the challenges of homelessness. Day-of-the-event raffle ticket sales support a worthy cause.

Bock beers are traditionally brewed and lagered for a springtime release. (February is close enough for us in Wisconsin; we are optimists.) Heavier, stronger, and maltier than pilsners and not so dark or heavy as the stouts of winter, it’s a nice bridge beer between the seasons, and as a typically lightly hopped bottom-fermenting lager, a break from the popular hoppy pale ales.

The 4th Annual Bockfest took place last weekend at The Great Dane Brewpub at Hilldale. The brewpub’s back room, a wide open, high-ceilinged space popular for TV sporting events, made a nice fest “grounds” on a mild winter day.

Freiberg Gastropub brought in freshly made pretzels and various dips. True to the spirit of the fest, 25 bock beers were being served (plus a few bonus beers that included Fishin’ in the Dark Imperial Schwarzbier from Capital Brewery and Cupid’s Envy, a barrel-aged espresso porter from Wisconsin Brewing Co.)

The Great Dane was built on a bock beer. Co-founder/brewer Rob LoBreglio was so impressed by a bock beer on a trip to Germany years ago that he came home obsessed with brewing a damn good one. The result was John Jacob Jingle Heimer Schmidt Dunkel-Doppel-Hefe-Weizenbock, possibly the longest beer name ever and partly singable if you went to elementary school in Wisconsin. The Dane had all nine of its bocks on tap — JJJHSDDHW, Golden, Caramel Weizenbock, Tangerine Dream, Velvet Hammer, Dominator Doppelbock, Octoppelbock, Rauchbock, and Überbock — plus seven variations of them, including a bourbon-barrel-aged Golden Bock and six Eisbocks (bocks with water frozen out to strengthen and enrich them).

Vintage Brewing brought back Bock’s O’ Chocolates (chocolate doppelbock) in time for Valentine’s Day. Karben4 Brewing served a nice doppelbock (King Topper), and Lakefront Brewery featured their Maibock. Madison’s newest brewery Rockhound poured Ice Shanty Bock.

Brewmaster Kirby Nelson was on hand to serve Wisconsin Brewing Company’s doppelbock Wiskator aged in bourbon barrels, and Capital Brewery’s brewmaster Ashley Kinart poured Maibock in addition to her Schwarzbier.

The fest lasted five hours, so it was never overly crowded and getting a beer didn’t require standing in a long line. For beer drinkers who appreciate a malt-forward German-style brew, this annual celebration of bocks is excellent. But the fest’s mission to help improve the lives of the vulnerable and less fortunate in our community makes it unmissable.

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