A Middleton Tradition — Bockfest

Beer lovers unite to celebrate craft beer at Capital Brewery’s annual Bockfest held in late February (snow, sleet, rain or shine).

With seasonal beer flowing, live music playing, “blondes” bar-hopping, and smoked fish soaring, you’re in for a great time at Capital Brewery & Bier Garten’s annual Bockfest winter festival.

For 27 years, beer lovers have gathered in Capital Brewery’s Bier Garten in Middleton, Wisconsin, to celebrate the seasonal release of the brewery’s platinum award-winning Blonde Doppelbock and Maibock beers. These two malty, semi-sweet German-style beers are only available for a limited time each year, and thousands gather to celebrate their annual arrival.  

This year’s Bockfest is set for 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 24 (2024), at Capital Brewery & Bier Garten, downtown Middleton. VIP ticket holders receive early access and are welcome in at 10 a.m. Ticket, lodging and parking info below. Or click HERE to purchase tickets now.

Bockfest is much more than your average festival. The event’s energy is driven by a love for beer and several quirky traditions. Here is everything a first-time Bockfester needs to know:

The Blessing of the Bock

The festival commences with the “Blessing of the Bock,” which takes place promptly at 11:45 a.m. and is led by Capital Brewery’s head brewmaster, Tanner Bresthorst. Shortly after the blessing, the season’s first kegs are tapped and attendees’ complimentary plastic beer steins are filled.

A group of people holding beer glasses.

Live Music by Sixteen Candles

The bier garten is an open area with a large stage, some picnic tables on the periphery and a few insta-worthy backdrops to commemorate the day. But the best part of the festival is really the music. All day, the atmosphere at Bockfest is filled with electric live music performed by Sixteen Candles, a 1980s party band based in Chicago. Sixteen Candles has performed at Bockfest for the past six years. Bresthorst also joins the band on stage with his harmonica for a song or two and is usually the one who instigates the fish toss.

A crowd of people standing in front of a stage.

Tossing of the Fish

Make sure to stick around until mid-afternoon for the annual fish toss, where you may receive a little extra luck. Capital Brewery staff sends flying (dead) smelt fish into the crowd. Whoever catches the fish is said to have good luck for the coming year. Don’t worry, there are plenty of chances to catch some luck as multiple fish are thrown into the crowd; and the fish toss is announced so there is also time to get out of the way.

Bockfest attendees gather around stage for "fish toss."

Running of the ‘Blondes’

The “Running of the Blondes” is another comedic annual tradition at Bockfest. “Runners” take more of a leisurely stroll around the block, led by a Capital Brewery staff member, stopping at a few downtown establishments for a drink, before returning to the bier garten. Usually, many of the participants sport bright blonde wigs in honor of the Blonde Doppelbock’s release.

More Than Just Bock Beer

Even though Bockfest is the day to celebrate Capital Brewery’s two bock beers, attendees are welcome and encouraged to try the other award-winning brews on tap. And for those wanting a quick bite to eat, besides all the restaurants within walking distance of the brewery, Middleton BBQ’s food truck will be on premises. Outside food is prohibited within the bier garten during Bockfest — though there are picnic tables just outside the gate — and attendees are welcome to wear “snack necklaces,” typically pretzels, cheese and beef sticks strung on a string or yarn necklace.

The Festival Prevails, No Matter What

The festival goes on no matter what February weather brings — rain, snow, sleet or freezing cold temperatures.  Dress for the weather and in case of rain, the bier garten has a waterproof tent that can be put up. Do note that ticket sales are final and no refunds will be available.

A group of people posing for a photo at an outdoor event.

Schedule of Events, SATURDAY, FEB. 24, 2024

10 a.m.VIP Admission
11 a.m.General Admission
11:45 a.m.Blessing of the Bock
11:50 a.m.Tapping of Blonde Doppelbock and Maibock kegs
Noon-4:30 p.m.Live music by Sixteen Candles
12:30 p.m.Running of the Blondes
2 p.m.Fish Toss
4:15 p.m.Taps Close
4:30 p.m.Event concludes

Packing Essentials:

  • Warm weather gear
  • Snack Necklace
  • Comfortable shoes

Ticket Information:

  • Click here to purchase tickets
  • General Admission Includes: 11 a.m. entry and a plastic Stein beer mug
  • VIP Admission includes: 10 a.m. early entry, plastic stein beer mug, one annual or seasonal beer (excludes Blonde Doppelbock)


Coming in from out of town? The Fairfield Inn & Suites in Middleton is offering a special rate of $139-149/night, which includes TWO FREE TICKETS. The deadline to book with this discount is Jan. 31. Use code BOCKFEST when booking. 

Middleton has nine hotel properties to choose from; book your stay here.


  • All parking in Middleton is free; click here for parking map
  • Park along Terrace Avenue
    • Parking is prohibited on the north side of Terrace Avenue, directly in front of Capital Brewery (from Highpoint Road to the end of the brewery’s property), the day of the event.
  • Terrace Avenue parking lot allows 24-hour parking for overnights

Modified January 9, 2024