The German-American community is alive and well in Cincinnati. June 6, 2009 was German Day and the community turned out in large numbers. I traveled down on Friday night, mainly to meet up with friends from Ohio, Kentucky, and Ulm. My friend from Ulm had no idea I was coming to see here and I popped in on her at Barleycorn’s 5 Mile house in Northern Kentucky minutes after landing. It was great to see her and my other friends that evening and we enjoyed a lot of laughs.
On Saturday morning, more friends from Northern Ohio joined us. One, a young college student at Ohio State, is taking German and working on a project about the German-American community. Boy, did she come to the right place!
The German Day festivities began on Saturday morning at Findlay Market in the center of Cincinnati.
Performers included children’s groups, folks dancers, singers, and a brass band. All the German-American clubs and organizations had a presences: Germania, Kolping, Donauschwaben, and even the Händlmaier Mustard Club! After the entertainment and speeches, everyone in Tracht (Lederhosen & Dirndls) paraded around the market in a long procession. At the end of the parade, all members of the various German Clubs were invited to a private reception with Moerlein beer, sausage and sauerkraut. The Men’s Choir gave us an impromtu seranade – very nicely done!
After the festivities, I was walking back to the car with my friends when, suddenly, visions of breweries flashed through my mind. It’s said that smell is the greatest trigger of memory and I smelled the wonderful malty smell of beer being brewed. My buddy explained that we were, indeed, right around the corner from the Sam Adams brewery.
Our next stop was the Hofbräuhaus in Newport, Kentucky. As the new special ambassador to the Hofbräu, my buddy introduced me to the young brewmaster, Andy. This Hofbräu location is licensed to brew beer according to the original recipe from Hofbräu München. The Original, Sommer, Dunkles, and Weissbier are all brewed locally. Additionally, they do some special beers – a German style Pils was on sale and he was just hopping next month’s Bohemian style Pils. To see more about the brewing operation there, just click here. Does the beer taste just like in Munich? Of course not, but it is good and an admirably close to what you will taste in Bavaria. I like the place for its atmosphere: They have a beautiful and quite authentic beer garden and lots of tables inside, usually with live entertainment. Best of all, Lederhosen is welcome! After a few hours of Gemütlichkeit, we headed to my friends for a rest. In the evening, we visited another friend’s house for a private party with some wonderful folks, nearly all from the German-American community. We enjoyed a few cases of Spaten and some Weihenstephaner (and even a Schlenkerla!) before winding down for the evening.
Sunday morning found us all together in church. Downtown Cincinnati boasts the beautiful Old St. Mary’s church. In addtion to services in English and Latin, there is also a service in German (the attendance was exaclty 100 people) . The entire mass is done in German – the only exception is the sermon and the parish announcements. After the service, everyone gathers in front of the church and many eventually find their way downstairs in an adjacent building. Here there is a ton of Gemütlichkeit and I was able to enjoy a few Weissbiers with some great people. Since many were headed to the Hofbräuhaus for more German Day celebrations, a lot of Lederhosen and Dirndls were in evidence.
Arriving at the Hofbräuhaus, it was already filled with crowds in Tracht. We managed to secure two tables up front and settled in. Since the place was filled with other club members, we were able to roam around and chat with a lots of people. The beer flowed and the tables were filled with german food. We had great conversation and more laughs. Unfortunately, I had to leave just as the crowd was getting going and the folk dancing got started. I waited a bit too long to grab my taxi and was still dressed in my Lederhosen – my African driver was a little shocked, to say the least. Arriving at the airport, I ran inside to check in – again, heads turned to see the guy that was dressed funny. I decided I better risk it and stop off in the men’s room to change my clothes. I arrived at my gate just as boarding was almost finished, rushed to my seat, plopped down and promptly fell asleep.
Cincinnati is a very fun place with some great establishments. The German-American clubs are deeply rooted and a big part of the local scene. Perhaps even more importantly, they appear successful with retaining and recruiting the younger generation to participate.