Party Like it’s 1799!

Medieval Drinking Times

By Matt Shaw

Come with me if you will on a voyage through time and space, across the Atlantic to early nineteenth century Bavaria. The warm summer climate has given birth to a surfeit of beer garden celebrations, or Volksfests, to praise God for a bountiful harvest of barley and hops. The fruit of this harvest – we call it beer – is consumed by the stein as its thirsty imbiber reconnoiters with all that is good and right in the world: sunshine, beer, and all the townspeople you could cram into a plaza.

Yep, those Bavarians sure knew how to party.

Flash forward to the here-and-now. While nineteenth century German beer culture is hard to come by on the modern-day streets of Worcester, there’s one place you can go to reconnect with your Bavarian roots, even if you don’t have any: the Spring Beer Fest at the Higgins Armory Museum.

Steven Manuel, who organizes the now-biannual event, has invited each of the roughly thirty microbreweries in the Northeast to the museum to showcase their wares. To date, fourteen breweries have agreed to show, including Allagash, Berkshire Brewing, Dogfish Head, Smuttynose, and Magic Hat. Manuel urges beer fans to check the website (www.higgins.org) for an up-to-date listing.

The event, to be held at Higgins on June 14th from 6 – 9 p.m., is the sixth of its kind and the first to be held in the summer. Past events have been held in the fall, a sort of Central Massachusetts Oktoberfest, and have been wildly popular. “We sell to maximum capacity – about 400 people – every year,” Manuel said. “This year we’re moving it outdoors, so we can accommodate even more.”

A set list of specific beers will be available on the web site as the Beer Garden approaches, Manuel says. Given the time of year, visitors will probably be treated to such seasonal brews as Dogfish Head Festina Pêche and/or Aprihop, Berkshire Hefeweizen, Shipyard Blueberry, and Wachusett Green Monstah. (Sorry, ancient beer lovers. No mead this year.)

Tickets for the event can be purchased via PayPal on the Higgins website, by Visa or MasterCard over the phone, or at the information desk at the museum. Tickets include admission, a souvenir tasting glass, and, of course, free craft beer. Food will be available for purchase, too. Though the Beer Garden takes place after museum hours, all visitors will receive a coupon good for free admission to the museum when they buy one ticket. There’s plenty of free parking, and Bob Largesse will even provide the services of his draft horses to cart patrons back to their cars after the event.

The best part? Proceeds will benefit the museum’s youth education programs. That means you don’t even have to feel guilty about spending a whole Saturday evening drinking beer with hundreds of your neighbors.

As for Manuel, you can go up and introduce yourself at the event. “You’ll know me when you see me,” he said. “I’ll be the guy in full Gothic armor.”

That’s fine, Steve. Just keep the lederhosen at home.