The Riverwest Brew Fest, Featuring the 31st Annual Blessing of the Bock
Blessing of the Bock History, by Lakefront Brewery Co-Founder Jim Klisch
“Celebrations often blend events and traditions from various sources into a single purpose. Such is the case in the creation of the Blessing of the Bock. The Catholic Church blessed Beers, particularly in some European countries, and has an actual blessing for beer. Italian homes have the blessing of food baskets during St Joseph’s fest day. The Trappist Monks have a great history of brewing beer and the Pauliner Monks sustaining themselves with doppelbocks during the Lentin fast. Being familiar with these traditions Lakefront Brewery decided to create the Blessing of the Bock.
The first “Blessing” was held at The Gordon Park Pub (now Nesum Dorma) at 2778 N Weil St. in Milwaukee Wisconsin. It was held on the Feast Day of St Joseph, March 19th, 1988. A ¼ barrel of Lakefront Bock was placed on the floor of the Pub and was blessed by Father Michael Barrett. The holy barrel was consumed fasted then communion at a 6 AM Mass.
Surprisingly, two other Milwaukee Breweries attended and had their beer blessed. They were Sprecher and Water Street Breweries. This started the idea of doing the festival as a beer fest.
John Zutz organized the next year’s event, which was held in the cafeteria of St Casimir’s school. In 1990 homebrewers were invited to attend with their offerings. The “Homebrew Alley” was created in a hallway of the school’s classrooms.
The event grew bigger outgrowing the school and moved to the Milwaukee Art Museum. The Blessing was renamed “The Milwaukee Beer Festival featuring the Blessing of the Bock”. The Viet Nam Veterans Against the War and The High Ground peace park were recipients of the festivals proceeds.
During subsequent years the event was held at such various places, including The Rave and Serb Hall. The celebrants at the Blessing were as varied as the venues, raging from men and women of other religious denominations as well as a Wiccan Priest.
In 2007 Mr. Zutz decided not to do the event any longer, and it was taken over by Jeff Platt AKA “Whispering Jeff.”
2008 marked the 20th Anniversary of The Blessing of the Bock. The event was held at The Falcon Bowl, 801 E Clarke St.
This year’s event returns to the Falcon Bowl for its 31st consecutive year, appropriately being renamed “The Riverwest Brew Fest, featuring the Blessing of the Bock,” allowing the inclusion of non-Bock beers, once again.
This year’s highlight will be the “Riverwest Brewery Syndicate,” featuring Lakefront, Gathering Place, Black Husky & Company Breweries.
The 31st Blessing of The Bock will begin at 12:15pm SHARP, blessing commercial Craft, Import, as well as the return of homebrews.*
Current verbal Bock, Doppelbock & American Bock commits include
– Metro Milwaukee’s Lakefront Brewery, Sprecher Brewery, Water Street Brewery, St. Francis Brewery & Black Husky Brewery;
– Kloster Andechs Doppelbock Dunkel & Weltenberger Kloster Asam Dark Doppelbock, both courtesy of S&H Brands Sales Manager (& Riverwest resident) Jerry Patzwald;
– Steven’s Point Brewery: – Chicago’s Revolution Brewing, courtesy of RevBrew owner Josh Deth.
The event will be held on “Milwaukee Day” “4-14” 2019 from Noon to 4pm.
* Entry fee is $15, with a $5 discount for homebrew Bock-style beer donations.
Proceeds will help benefit the Falcon Bowl, which suffered water damage to its lanes.