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Monday, May 2, 2011

I fulfilled my goat quota for 2011!

For many people, spring is the season of rebirth, renewal and regrowth.  It embodies warmth, newness and natural beauty.  In Pennsylvania, spring produces colorful perennials, green grass and usually warm, temperate weather (when it isn't raining, of course).  Sunday, May 1 proved to be a perfect day to be outside; a good omen, as I was on my way to Phoenixville, PA's Sly Fox Brewing Company, host of arguably my very favorite of all annual beer festivals - The Bock Fest and Goat Races!

Thousands flock to the Goat Races!
 Held on the first Sunday of May each year in the parking lot of the brewpub, this festival attracts thousands of beer aficionados and goat fanatics alike (I fall proudly under both categories) to celebrate the festive spring season and the release of Sly Fox's annual Maibock beer.  The Maibock style is basically a Helles lager brewed to bock strength, therefore still as strong as traditional Bock, but lighter in color and with more hop presence.  Beer aside, nothing gets me excited for spring more than watching a bunch of goats race each other for little more than having a beer named in their honor.  OK, there are also bragging rights... even if the goat's handler reaps all of the benefits.   

Goat gridlock!!!
In addition to the goat races, a German menu is offered to complement what might be the largest offering of bock-style beers by any brewery in the United States at one time.  Brewmaster Brian O’Reilly and his crew produce a stellar lineup: Slacker Bock, Helles Bock, Instigator Doppelbock, two Eisbocks (Slacker and Instigator) and a Maibock. The day also celebrates the release of the Maibock, which is tapped immediately after the race and named in honor of the winner.  As always, the German band comprised of no members likely under the age of seventy-five was there, performing authentic German beer-drinking songs and priasing Sly Fox beer as "wonderbar!"  They also led in numerous "socials," whereby all participants chug their beer after chanting in unison the following phrase: "Ziggy Zaggy, Ziggy Zaggy!  Oye, Oye, Oye!!!"

The goat races are split into eight heats, whereby six or seven goats are pitted against each other in a mad dash to the finish line.  Then, each of the victors from the individual heats partakes in one final race to determine the winner.  While I typically like to show no favoritism, I do like to pick out a goat for each heat that either has a cool name (ie. Elvis, Oreo, Infected) or just looks cool... a hard feat, indeed, as I think ALL goats look pretty damn cool!

Goats of all breeds, shapes and sizes are entered into the race.  However, this year, around the fifth heat or so, there stood a cute little female goat named Peggy.  I was immediately drawn to her because she had the unusual distinction of having only three legs.  I thought to myself; there's no way that this poor little goat is going to win.
Peggy, the underdog!
I knew that Dax was a prime contender, having won the last two years in a row.  Unfortunately, Dax was greeted to a barage of boos due to his show-boating handler.  The NY Giants shirt didn't help either.  Still, how can you NOT root for a three-legged goat?!  Watching her intently, I could actually sense her determination at the starting line.  You could see it on her face.  She was in it to win!

Peggy and her handler, Colin

Now, anyone who knows me well, knows that, despite not being much of a sports fan, I have a soft spot for underdog sports movies.  Seabiscuit.  Remember the Titans.  A League of Their Own.  The Waterboy.  Major League.  Hell, even The Mighty Ducks.  To put it in perspective, I've seen Rocky probably twenty times in my life, and I cry at the end every time!  Well, if there ever was an underdog at the Sly Fox goat races, it was Peggy the three-legged goat.  I knew it was going to be an emotional race... for the goats, the handlers, and me!  In a major upset, Peggy beat out Dax in the final heat after Dax took a nasty spill in the final few paces of the race.  The crowd responded with uproarious applause!

Peggy's final strides toward the finish line!
After the race, Sly Fox tapped a fresh firkin of the "Peggy" Maibock, and attendees were able to fill their mugs for free (assuming one could get to the front of the line before they ran out).  I was lucky enough again this year to get almost a full mug of this tasty springtime brew.  It was a huge victory for Peggy, and I hope she races again next year.
Me, Peggy and Colin after Peggy's triumphant victory!

As I said before, this is an absolute must-attend event for me.  I'm there, rain or shine, in 90-degree heat or bitter cold.  It doesn't matter.  Pair up great beer with a bunch of goats running around, and I'm there.  If you've never been to the Sly Fox Bock Fest and Goat Races, do yourself a favor and make plans to attend next year's event.  I guarantee you will have a blast!

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