April always kicks off our season of festivals and we always look forward to meeting up with our friends at Milwaukee’s Bockbierfest. Sponsored by the Spielmanzug club, the festival features the Alte Kameraden Band, German food, and a selection of German beer. Since we have many friends in the area, we’ve turned this event into a weekend gathering. This year, we met up with friends from Milwaukee, Chicago, Texas, and New Jersey.
On our first evening, we met in a hotel conference room. Projecting images from our many trips to Bavaria, we enjoyed 13 different types of German beer while telling stories and enjoying each others company. One very special treat was several cases of Lammsbräu beer. We visited this brewery in March and it was the most fascinating brewery that I have ever visited. Lammsbräu made the decision to go “organic” back in the ’70s – well before it was the cool thing to do! Not only are all their ingredients tightly regulated and certified 100% organic, they brew “Old School.” Lammsbräu interprets the Reinheitsgebot tighter than any other brewery: The water is untreated, the malt germinated and roasted in house, and the full hop is used. In contrast, even breweries that adhere to the Reinheitsgebot are allowed to “treat” their water – of course that can mean using chemicals to adjust the pH of the water. Malt is almost always bought from a company like Weyermann in Bamberg (or Briess in the USA). And almost all brewers use Hop Pellets instead of while hops. So, if you ever see the chance to try a Lammsbräu, don’t miss you chance – just keep in mind it’s 100 times better at the brewery!
Saturday was our big party day. At 10:30 AM, we walked through a steady drizzle down to the Old German Beerhall on Milwaukee’s Old World 3rd Street. The beer hall agreed to open early for our group of 15 and we enjoyed the om-pah music along with our Weisswurst, Pretzels, and Weissbier. Naturally, we brought along our own Händlmaier Mustard. The sausage was produced across the street at Usinger. I wish I could tell you how wonderful it was, but, truthfully, it wasn’t nearly as good as the “real” thing. Also, the Beer Hall wasn’t too sure on how to serve it and they piled the Wurst on a platter instead of leaving them in the hot water. Next time we’ll have to be more careful and be sure they are served properly. In case your wondering where the best Weisswurst in America is, I’ve had good luck with Bavaria Sausage, also from Wisconsin. Anyway, the Hofbräu Weissbier was very tasty, and after one or two of those, the troops were awake and ready to face the day!
Our next stop was the Lakefront Brewery in Milwaukee. Started in 1987, owner Russ Klisch has a quirky little brewery next to the Milwaukee River. Even though brewery tours can attract hundreds of visitors on a Saturday, the brewery still manages to produce some very interesting beer. Their most famous beer is the Riverwest Stein Beer and maybe also the Eastside dark. Both are well made and interesting Lagers. I also enjoyed the Local Acre – a beer produced with all Wisconsin ingredients. Several of our gang did the tour, but I few of us just hung out in the brewery’s Palm Garden area. Since Jersey Bill and I were sporting Lederhosen (because beer is then 1/2 price at the Old German Beerhall), we attracted lots of attention and posed for a lot of photos. We met a great group of ladies from Manitowoc and Two Rivers as well as brewery owner, Russ Klisch.
After the tour, we boarded our bus and descended on a German-style bar called Von Trier’s. We met some fun people there and enjoyed a few more beverages. When we discovered the offered our beloved Schneider Weissbier, we ordered up a few of those and had the bright idea to call Simone and Oliver in Munich. Simone’s first words to me: ” Do you know what time it is here?” Oops! Sorry Simone!
After a brief respite at our hotel, we boarded the bus for Hart Park in Wauwatosa, the site of the Bockbierfest. Located in a curling hall, the band was all warmed up and we invaded the far corner of the place. I was happy to see our BayernTrips banners and coasters throughout the place. We decorated our tables with white and blue tablecloths, flags, etc and enjoyed the happenings.
I was very happy to have my nephew, Kyle, along for his first German Festival. He’s a young man just graduating from college and has really started to enjoy the merits of great beer. He’s getting a good start! With his girlfriend, they enjoyed the Bockbier and the entertainment. There was some great music, including one fellow you can play the anvil.
It was a fun night and a long day of beer enjoyment. We rolled out of the festival shortly after it closed at 11:00 PM! Vonia and I left for Florida the next morning at 8:00 AM and not a soul was to be seen in the lobby.
Can’t wait for next year!