Tuesday, February 27, 2007


Some people have Christmas, others have Yom Kippur or Ramadan. Me, I've got Bockfest. It's just about the highest of my high holy days. And I'm a relative newcomer to the event. But I'm a zealous convert, to be sure. Here's the story.

For the last ten years the Capital Brewery in Middleton opens up the Bier Garten on the last Saturday in February. The occasion is to celebrate the annual reintroduction of their limited release Blonde Dopplebock. I was introduced to this blessed event last year, the morning after the inaugural E & C Martini Party, which resulted in a day in which memory does not serve reliably. This year was different. I had been eagerly awaiting this year's Bockfest for well over a month. And I had guests this time.

My friend Alex came up from Chicago with his girlfriend Lauren. They've come up several times before, and we usually hit the bars on State Street and generally have a decent enough time. This trip didn't start auspiciously, however. Wisconsin and the rest of the Midwest was hit by significant snowfall on Friday night, coinciding with Alex and Lauren's drive up from Chicago. It took them over five hours. The next morning most of the snow had been cleared, so there were no impediments to reaching the hallowed Capital Brewery Bier Garten. The next installment of snow graciously held off until later Saturday night, so we were treated with basically optimal Bockfest weather.

The basic premise of Bockfest is simple. Stand outside, drink beer, listen to a band play, and have a good time. As for the cold, after your one allotted Blonde Dopplebock (if, like me, you purchase the one-liter mug) the cold is not really an issue. I also augmented this with a couple of Maibocks, so as to ensure the absence of sobriety. When one first arrives, the taps of the Blonde are closed. Not until the brewmaster "blesses the bock" can you procure one. There are more than a few strange goings-on as well. Near the stage one is treated to the sight of snowmobile suit-wearing Wisconsinites dancing around, which, to be fair, is not a sight isolated to Bockfest by any means. But the strangest by far is the fish toss. For reasons beyond my grasp, at a certain point in the afternoon the brewmaster climbs up onto the roof of the brewery with a group of assistants. The band stops playing, and everyone in the crowd turns to look. At this point the brewmaster starts throwing whole fried fishes into the crowd, to everyone's delight. Well, nearly everyone. Alex was making his way back from the restrooms when he was struck in the side of the face by a fish. His confusion was to be expected, since I had neglected to mention this particular part of Bockfest in advance.

Several people were not in attendence. E Eugene was plowing snow, and despite my drunken calls he couldn't make it. Sarah also decided the weather would prevent her from joining the party, although ruefully. Here's who did brave the elements: Alex, Lauren, Paul, Amy, Adam, Mark & the illustrious Lt. Ramm. We assembled in the Bier Garten and drank beer outdoors in the Wisconsin winter. It was as great as it sounds. Lauren said it best when she said, "When I tell people what it is that I do when I come to Wisconsin, I guarantee that this will be the first thing that I say." And Alex summed up my feelings when he said later that night, "Only 364 more days until Bockfest!" Looks like another convert.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The Illustrious Saturn

Although not a great picture by any means, here is what I've got of my recently-washed car at the site earlier today. The gleaming Saturn is sitting in front of the Excursion driven by the project manager I usually meet on these trips. If cars could be friends, maybe these two would be chummy. They see each other often enough, to be sure.

Greetings from Fergus Falls, MN

This will have to be real fast, since I'm due to be at a tower site in a little over an hour. But here I am, in Fergus Falls, MN. This marks the second trip where I have taken the laptop on the road, mainly to check the work email while I'm out. Unfortunately our internet email server at work doesn't seem to be working. So it goes.

After my adventure today, I get to drive up to the Upper Peninsula for a couple of other sites tomorrow. Hurray for that. The good news is that I gave the Saturn a wash last night so it would look just a bit less salt-encrusted for the pictures.