A huge man in traditional German lederhosen with the physical build of an old oak tree moved deftly through the crowd of people surrounding the doors of the Sly Fox Brewery. He looked like the evil German henchmen from the movie Beerfest, fully equipped with suspenders and the alpine hat with feather.
“That dude’s bigger’n you are,” I said to Kingpin, wiping the sweat from my brow and taking that first sip of my Phoenix Pale Ale. We were at Sly Fox Brewery’s annual Bockfest and Goat Race – a yearly tradition for the Pottstown Brewery. We had traded our money for paper tickets, and then traded our paper tickets for oversized beer mugs of high-ABV suds. The glass beer steins were so big that Sweet T couldn’t even hold her mug and her camera at the same time. I was currently holding one of the big, glass mugs in each hand while Sweet T snapped shots of the crowd.
“He’s bigger’n you too,” Kingpin replied. He was wearing the classic white TD2BD tee with its sleeves cut off, and all three of us were sweating freely. We were walking towards the goat pen where about half a dozen goats were standing in a haphazard line with their mortal masters in waiting. Children and adults crowded along the outside of the pen, craning their necks over each other to see the spectacle.
A person holding a goat in their arms strolled by us. Another goat on a leash pulled its ambling master as they walked together like man and dog.
I took a sip of beer. It was hot out, and I had I to do a double-take to make sure I had in fact seen a free-range goat here on the brewery grounds.
There were people everywhere. It was the first truly nice, hot, cloudless day of mid-spring. The sun was beating; the beer was cold and there were fucking goats everywhere.
“You do this every year?” I asked Kingpin. He was wiping dark, frothy beer from his mustache. The beer mug he had purchased was twice the size of the ones Sweet T and I were drinking from. It was half emptied by the time we were reached the stage and Kingpin showed no signs of slowing down.
“This is the first year they’ve held it here in Pottstown, but yeah, this is a yearly tradition for me,”
“The fuck is this?” I said, pounding more of the ale and motioning at the crowd ahead of us. We were approaching the stage where lately an authentic German Oompah band had been playing. An announcer was beginning to speak as the final tuba quieted, and he waved his hand towards the participants onstage. A dozen men (and at least one woman) stood onstage with a glass mug filled with a liter of cold, frothy Sly Fox held out in their outstretched arms. In most cases, a competition like this would appear to involve chugging.
“They gunna drink those?” Sweet T asked.
“Alright folks!” the emcee yelled into his microphone, “Gather round for MASSKRUGSTEMMEN!”
The emcee went on to explain that ‘Masskrugstemmen’ – which translates to “Beer-Stein Holding” – is a competition in which the participants attempt to hold a beer stein filled nearly to the brim with chilled suds. The last man or woman standing with their arm still outstretched without dropping a single drop of beer would be declared the winner. The contestants varied in size from muscular to rotund, from stocky to string-bean. As seconds turned into minutes, all but the most determined began to falter. Steins started to sway and then splatter beer to the ground. Before long, most of the men and women had been eliminated. The winner was Jim Thompson from Pottstown, who declared that his success due largely to the fact that he drinks lots of beer. Our kind of guy.
I sipped from my mug and used Sweet T’s to cool my forehead while she got a picture with the winner. She took the mug and downed the remainder of that crisp, golden nectar. It was hot, and there was no better water than beer. I looked over at Kingpin and he was downing the last sip of his first liter of ale.
“I haven’t eaten anything yet today,” he said as he wiped more beer from his mustache.
“I could use a bite,”
“I could use another beer,” Sweet T said, turning the mug over and dumping the last bit of liquid onto the grass. Booze won over food, and so the three of us stood in line to get another drink before the next round of goat races went underway. After a sweat-soaked wait in line for the most refreshing beer ever, Sweet T was off to the races, elbowing children and the elderly in order to snap pics of these cloven-hooved quadrupeds as they raced down the roped off grassy pen that served as a racetrack. Well, some of them raced. Many of them were simply being pulled by their mortal masters down the green expanse, staring and standing impishly in a way that only animals with no understanding of the task at hand can do. In the end, Penny the Goat was the supreme victor of the day, defeating her goaty brothers and sisters. She has earned herself a place in the annals of goat racing history.
“Mmmmmm, now I’m drunks,” Kingpin said. He was wiping the dregs of his second liter of beer out of his burly mustache. I’ve seen Kingpin truly drunk one other time: The Last Burlesque Show on Earth – New Year’s Eve 2014, where Kingpin consumed more than thirty alcoholic beverages in a three hour period on an empty stomach. If you should ever be so privileged as to see Kingpin truly wasted, do yourself a favor, and cut off his alcohol supply. Large men are often very hard to carry.
Sweet T was clambering over children and old women in order to get away from the goat pen. She was sweaty and her beer stein was nearing empty as well. She may have only drunk half the volume of booze that Kingpin did, but she was a third his size. You do the math. My compadres were drunk.
“Babe, you got tick- *hic* -tickets left? We need to gets food!”
I finished my beer stein, my stomach rumbling in hunger at the mention of food.
“Nah, man. We’re all out of ticke – dudes look! Another goat race is starting!”
A gaggle of goats on leashes came trundling by.
“Dude,” Kingpin said, “those are just goats on leashes,”
I was drunk too, apparently, which meant it was time to go. Staying here at the brewery would only lead to madness. As we walked past the milling throngs baking in the May sunlight towards the shuttle stop, Sweet T turned and – facing the crowd – summed up the whole day’s experience with a single, exuberant cry:
The bottom line:
This was Sly Fox Brewery’s first year holding Bockfest at their Pottstown location. In previous years, the event had been held in Phoenixville. Despite the location change, the event was a huge success. The people were friendly, the goats were goaty, the beer was cool and delicious. Sly Fox may have changed the event’s location, but they have not changed the spirit of the Bockfest or annual Goat Race.