Monday, February 25, 2008


This weekend I had the unfortunate displeasure of attending Capital Brewery's Bockfest, held on their grounds annually in Middleton, Wisconsin.

The event celebrates the special limited release of Capital's blonde bock, as well as their Maibock, which is supposed to herald the arriving of spring. It generally features a band, contests, and for some reason, fish that are thrown off the roof into the crowd below. In other words, it has all the makings of a good time: unfortunately, it wasn't.

Bockfest was a tragic victim of its own success. We arrived at 12:30, a mere half an hour after the taps opened, and the grounds were already well over what should have been its capacity. The "grounds" were essentially just a series of large lines; in fact, I would guess that 90% of the people actually at the event were waiting in a line.

Perhaps line is even too generous of a description; it was more "totally disorganized mob waiting for beer." There was absolutely no order to the lines, which made waiting in them, or even finding the end of them, extremely challenging.

Now, I don't mind waiting in lines for things; I've been known to frequent a crowded bar. But the prospect of getting beer in these particular lines was slim; they didn't seem to be moving, and stopping interlopers from accessing the mob at all points was impossible. We waited in line for 90 minutes before we gave up and left.

My primary gripe was of course the lack of access to beer. A secondary gripe was in the crowd that the event seemed to attract. This wasn't the beer lover class that I see at the Great Taste of the Midwest, or other beer related events; this was a weird mix of sorority girls, UW college drunks, and small town folks bussed from outlying bars who had bought ticket packages to get there and get beer. It felt more like Milwaukee's Summerfest on a Friday night than a beer celebration (full disclosure: I have NEVER had trouble getting beer at Summerfest, no matter how crowded it gets; I'm definitely not slamming the 'fest).

All this for the privilege to pay bar prices for beer!

I'm not sure how Capital can save this event, but it definitely needs to be saved from itself. My advice would be to sell pre-sale tickets. I think this would have the effect of limiting attendance, while guaranteeing admission to those who are genuinely interested. If Capital wanted to keep costs for attendees down en lieu of the door price, they could lower beer prices slightly. I'm sure that although the attendance would be lower, the brewery could clear as much revenue by actually selling more beers to fewer people.

As it stands, I would advise anyone to avoid Bockfest until Capital can save it from itself.

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Colin said...


Drinking beers at the Dane saved me from being in a completely bad mood the rest of the afternoon.

The crowd was the worst part, imo.

Irene C said...

Hi Beer on the Brain - I don't mind if you incorporate one of my pictures into your blog... but could you give me some credit for it?

Thanks :)

RyanSimatic said...

Fair enough.

Check out Irene's blog loyal readers!

Irene C said...

BTW, good blog.

We used to go to the Capital Bockfest festivities each year, but it became too much of a mess, as you've noted.

I'd rather pick up some Blonde Doppelbock and stay home with friends than face that again!