Steve Hampton: Making beer a tourist attraction

Steve Hampton, the driving force behind next week’s Bockfest celebration, knows a good beer when he sees—and tastes—one. And he knows that good beer draws a crowd. He’s hoping that this city’s brewing heritage will become a major tourist attraction through the Brewing Heritage Trail.

The Brewing Heritage Trail is an urban walking trail that, by the summer, will combine physical installations with digital and audio content. Iconic markers and the Brewing Heritage Trail app (under beta testing now) provide additional stories, photos and augmented reality experiences. Visitors can access self-guided tours, or guided tours.  

Bockfest gives visitors a preview of the full-blown Heritage trail with the new “Brushes and Beer” tour. “It celebrates and talks about some of the public art we’ve been installing along the trail through the neighborhood as part of the Brewing Heritage Trail,” said Hampton. “There’s almost a dozen public art pieces and you’ll get to hear some of those stories and learn how they’re tied to our brewing heritage.”

That’s in addition to the usual Bockfest tours that are scheduled throughout Bockfest weekend, including the new “Mishaps, Malfeasance and Murder Tour,” and the “Dr. Morgan’s Hangover Relief Tour,” both offered Saturday, March 3 and Sunday, March 4, and the “Below Bockfest Tour,” Friday, March 2 and Saturday, March 3, billed as the introduction to Cincinnati’s brewing heritage.

Also new this year to Bockfest weekend is the “Beer and Bygone Days” celebration on Saturday, March 3. “That’s a whole afternoon of not only the historic brewery tours but speakers, presentations, beer brewing demonstrations, everything good about beer and the history we have here in Cincinnati,” Hampton said.

Bockfest, Cincinnati’s annual celebration of Spring and the area’s brewing heritage, kicks off its 26th year with free activities through Bockfest weekend, March 2-4 throughout downtown Cincinnati and the historic Over-the-Rhine neighborhood.

The full schedule is available at www.bockfest.com, along with ticket and package purchase details for tours, food, and additional fun. Entrance to Bockfest is free to enjoy great Bock Beer, Music, and Entertainment.  

Bockfest weekend begins Friday, March 2 with the Bockfest Parade, which steps off at 6 p.m. and winds its way up Main Street to Bockfest Hall at the Christian Moerlein Brewery, 1621 Moore Street, where the ceremonial keg of bock beer is blessed and the party continues with live music, food, and cold bock beer. A free shuttle takes Bockfest-goers to the more than a dozen establishments participating in Bockfest Friday and Saturday night.

The weekend continues Saturday morning with the Bockfest 5K that runs through Over-the-Rhine and past historic brewery sites. Register at www.runbeerseries.com. After the 5K, dive deep into Beer & Bygone Days with local bock beer tappings, history speakers, beer homebrew competitions, stein and breweriana displays, and historic brewery tours.

Saturday night is the finals of the Bockfest Beard Baron and Sausage Queen competitions at Bockfest Hall. Winners of the five preliminary gender-neutral Sausage Queen rounds held at local bars compete in a rowdy pageant, led off by the Beard Baron competition. The night continues with the Billygoat Ball with live music, DJ dance party, and plenty of cold bock beer.

Sunday is a family friendly day at Bockfest Hall. Games, Germans, & Gemütlichkeit kicks off with the new Little Links kids pageant and features kid-friendly games, goat yoga, and music plus Bockfeast Dinner and Bock Bloody Mary Bar. Continental Sunday showcases our heritage with live German music and dancing, steins and breweriana, and historic brewery tours. In addition, participating bars and restaurants will be offering special deals all weekend long.

Take a tour and get a preview of the upcoming Brewing Heritage Trail with a historic brewery tour available all weekend long. Friday and Saturday evenings the Below Bockfest Tour celebrates how beer was made and consumed in pre-Prohibition times. Saturday and Sunday feature the Mishaps Malfeasance and Murder Tour with the stories behind the beer, including corruption, accidents, even murder. Saturday and Sunday also feature the Brushes and Beer tour celebrating art and beer, touring the public art along the Brewing Heritage Trail. Get tickets to all the tours at http://www.bockfest.com/historic-tours.html.

There is also a number of preliminary events in the weeks leading up to Bockfest weekend, including five Sausage Queen preliminary rounds at local bars, the Precipitation Retaliation Happy Hour where a snowman is burned in effigy, and the Schoenling Bock Keg Tapping. Visit www.bockfest.com for additional details.

The non-profit Brewery District Community Urban Redevelopment Corporation is the organizer of Bockfest. All of the proceeds of Bockfest support the non-profit Brewery District CURC and its mission to preserve, promote, and redevelop Cincinnati’s brewing heritage, including the building of the Brewing Heritage Trail. Presenting sponsors are Christian Moerlein Brewing Company, Arnold’s Bar & Grill, Brew City Sausage, Servatii, Decal Impressions, and The Johnson Foundation.

Want to learn more about the Bockfest celebration and the Brewing Heritage Trail? Go to www.bockfest.com and brewingheritagetrail.org for trail information. 

Alex ReillyPROFILES