Saturday, March 17, 2012

Bock Beer: Getting Our Goat One More Time

My post last year about this time celebrated bock beer. The origins of bock beer are quite fuzzy. Apparently back in medieval days German monasteries would brew a strong beer for sustenance during their Lenten fasts. A prevailing myth during my boyhood was that bock was a bottom fermenting lager that was created when breweries cleaned out their vats during a Spring cleaning. That apparently was a myth. Whatever its origins, bock beer has traditionally been advertised with goats, as noted last year.

The earlier post featured pre-prohibition images of the goat. This one begins in that era and then shows the goat images as they have evolved to our own day. The first image shows a German beer maid riding a goat. The Hell Gate Brewery was established by George Ehret, a German immigrant, in 1866. By 1900 he had increased production to 601,000 barrels a year and his became a major East Coast Brewery. When Ehret died in 1927 his estate was estimated at $40 million.

Because the goat was also identified with sexuality, bock ads frequently show Billy cavorting with a female, usually fully clothed but sometime, as shown here, in a state of undress. In this case the goat seems more surprised and alarmed by being grasped by the auburn-headed beauty.

A happier goat is the focus of a 1908 Narragansett Bock ad as it appeared in the Pawtucket R.I. Evening Times. The legend written on his side says, “Who wouldn’t be a goat?,” especially with a beer stein in hand. This brewery was founded in 1888 and at one time, the grounds of the Narragansett Brewing Company reportedly included a barn, a stable, a blacksmith, seventy-five horses, forty-five wagons, gas-powered trucks, electric trucks, twenty-five refrigerated train cars and its own ice plant. No mention of a goat pen.

The Clausen-Flanagan name was appended to a New York City brewery located at 262 10th Avenue and 450 26th Street from 1908 to 1915. Founded in 1860, the brewery had had a number of earlier company designations, including James Flanagan & F. Wallace Columbian Brewery (1874-1881) and Flanagan, Nay & Co. (1888-1908). The plant closed with Prohibition.

The next ad for bock beer shows a goat with a slightly crazed look in its eyes. It appears to be chewing a plant, presumably hops, but given the goat’s demeanor, it might be hashish.
The Cassville Brewery goat, by contrast, has a distinctly hung over look. Furnace Branch Creek Hollow in Wisconsin, so named because of the lead smelting operation it once contained, was the site of the Cassville Brewery. For many years Cassville boasted of its fine bottled beer and produced numerous cases for sale throughout the area. Today it's the labels and bottles that are hunted for and prized by collectors. The brewery ceased operation in 1938 and the buildings were later demolished.

One of my favorite bock goats was the product of the the Pabst Brewing Company of Milwaukee. The logo above the goat indicates that this is a pre-Prohibition framed sign. It would have been provided by the brewery, probably on a seasonal basis, for the walls of saloons featuring its beer,

Moving beyond the Prohibition era, the next goat image is from Germany where such animals regularly were decorated for Spring festivals. This one comes rolling in on a barrel from Lowen-Brau Brewery of Munich. The goat looks less than happy about its situation. A happier goat is the lip-licking goat. Unlike most of the herd, this one is just a kid amidst “the old goats.” The Acme Brewery of San Francisco was erected after the earthquake of 1906, as a branch of Leopold Schmidt's Olympia Brewing Co. The aftermath of the quake left the city with few operating breweries, and as a result a $1,000,000 order was placed with Schmidt's Bellingham Bay Brewery (and probably a like order with Olympia) for beer to be shipped to the city. Acme went out of business in 1954.

Another modern version of the traditional goat is from on the Columbus Brewing Company, one of the first brew pubs in Ohio. Founded in 1988, it is located adjacent to German Village in the historic Brewery District. Its goat has gone cubist and “tres moderne.”

There they are: Ten more bock goats, dating from the early 1900s to the late 1980s. These are just a few of the thousands of different depiction's of the beer-drinking ungulates that have been featured worldwide for centuries.


  1. Thank you so much for keeping us all informed on topics of such great importance. I am particularly interested in the subject of mold.
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  2. Dear All About Goats: My cousin raises goats and is quite fond of them. I raise molds in the shower stall and am not fond of them. Jack