Tuesday, May 3, 2011

A Day At The Goat Races

As you can see by my new and rather awesome beer mug, the annual Sly Fox Bock Fest and Goat Race was held this past Sunday. The girlfriend and I got up early to drive out to Pheonixville to partake in the festivities and with this being our first goat race, excitement filled the air.

The festival is held every spring in the parking lot of Sly Fox's Pheonixville location and features a handful of bock beers, some German grub, and live polka music. It's become one of the most renown beer events in the area and now I see why. It's not a day for beer snobbery or geeking out, just a good reason to get outside and enjoy a few brews with friends of both the human and goat variety.

We arrived at the brewery around 11:30 as the crowd was already forming. This was the first year patrons had to buy $5 tickets that would be redeemable for any food, beer, or even souvenirs which seemed to help quite a bit as the lines never got to be unbearable. While it was a bit cloudy out the weather was nearly perfect and I started the festivities with a mug of Slacker Bock. There was a lot of time to kill before the races so we milled around the grounds basically looking at goats and of course, as one often does, discussing goats. This became a little easier and more interesting as the mugs were being refilled.

I was pleasantly surprised by the number of families in attendance. I had the overwhelming sense that this is a real community event that just happens to place at a brewery, the "Bock Fest" was almost secondary. There was little to no douchebaggery to be found here except for a few unfortunate ladies who seemed to have a hard time controlling the volume of their voice and the pseudo-hippie girl who butted in front of everyone in line for the porta-potty.

I had run inside the brewhouse to use the facilities and fill up with one of the beers not available outside (I went with their Saison VOS, perfect for any sunny day outside) where the lines had grown substantially with people wanting to get one more beer before the races started. I made it back to our viewing spot just in time and the multi-heat races began. Goat racing is an interesting sport. In some cases, the human counterpart ends of dragging their goat down the track by the neck or tripping over the leash as the goat decides to turn around mid-sprint. I was honestly impressed with some of the goats abilities to run, maybe it was just motivated by fear as a couple thousand humans cheered and yelled at them.

There was a clear crowd favorite in the three legged goat named Peggy who was sponsored by a team from Weyerbacher Brewing Company. She garnered quite a bit of attention before the race as she was paraded around with her other three legged companion. Then of course there was Dax, the winner of the 2009 and 2010 goat races whose owner was a bit of a showman sporting a NY Giants that upset the crowd only slightly. As if written by the fates, both Dax and Peggy made it into the final race but the three-legged newcomer ended up winning the whole thing...and there was much rejoicing.

Immediately following the race, Peggy's owner and Sly Fox brewmaster Brian O'Reilly tapped the ceremonial first firkin of the newly coined Peggy Maibock with all of the pomp and circumstance you would expect. They let the firkin flow freely as the crowd rushed forward to fill their mugs. The Emil Schanta Band continued playing their celebratory tunes and there were plenty of Ein Prosit chants throughout the rest of the afternoon.

We decided to grab a late lunch in the restaurant but given the circumstances, I couldn't really tell you what this place is like on a normal weekend. I was surprised at how small the actual brewpub is. It lacks a certain flair that I had come to expect from Sly Fox, it just didn't have as much character as I had hoped it would. My pulled pork sandwich was fantastic and the beers followed suit so I would most definitely give it another shot and I would love to get over to the Royersford location for a full brewery tour.

This was a unique and wildly entertaining way of spending a Sunday afternoon and I hope to make the trip again next year. I would recommend bringing some chairs and setting up your own little compound with a good view of the race track. People are in pretty high spirits but get a little pushy as the race gets closer. Overall though it was a great time and something that any local beer (or goat) lover should strive to experience!

Zicke, zacke, zicke, zacke, hoi, hoi, hoi,
Zicke, zacke, zicke, zacke, hoi, hoi, hoi,


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