Thursday, June 14, 2018

All Hail The Mighty Goat!

Beer Guzzling With Bleating Goats at a Czech Village Brewery.

Each year in June, thousands descend upon the otherwise quiet village of Velke Popovice to drink beer with live goats. Den Kozla or Goat Day, or Day of the Goat (which sounds decidedly more wicked), is a yearly celebration at the Velkopopovicky Kozel Brewery. Most beer labels in Europe have a dead king or an overweight noble dandy on the label. In the U.S., all the beer containers are as boring and bland as the beer inside. But not my favorite Czech beer, no sir. It's got a goat. A big, hairy bastard with twisted horns holding a foaming beer glass.

Spinning for beer and fabulous goat swag
I don't have too many rules binding my life, but I have beer rules: 1) in Germany, drink beer with a monk on the label, 2) in Czech, drink beer with a big wicked goat on the label.

Maybe I love the Mighty Goat because he reminds me of a simpler time when my religious parents forbade me to listen to hard rock music, so naturally I went to the music store (when they had those) and stared at the heaviest metal albums I could find. And they all enticed me with their red and black covers blazing with pentagrams and goats. Apparently, the goat represents the devil.
Hell yeah!

Den Kozla: Ancient Pagan Ritual of Beer Swilling

What are they feeding those goats?
Normally the wife likes to drag my lazy ass out to the woods to climb giant, slippery rocks or to get attacked by ticks and mosquitoes. If I don't feel up to plummeting to my death or contracting lime disease, I am always free to suggest a cultural event worthy of a discriminating European. Like a gypsy stomp. That's about as discriminating as it gets here in Czechia. But I tend to avoid organized hate rituals like we have in the States (tiki torch Nazis ferfuckssakes), so we just have to conjure up some culture from dead composers and artists in dull mausoleums.

Until the dawning of the Day of The Goat. Then we pagans don black robes, gather in a field, tie up a goat, dance around the writhing, bleating beast, rip its heart out, and then summon hellfire. Or we drink heinous amounts of goaty beer and suck down more sausages than a train station hooker. One of those. Either way, the shadowy figure of Pan smiles on us.

Despite its sketchy image in dark music, the Den Kozla goat fest rages on every year, and I've now been to three out of 26 of them. They never cater to metal heads by making a goat shirt with a pentagram, nor do they play headbanger music. It would certainly draw a crowd, as evidenced by the metric fuckton of mullets in this country. They would still make buttloads of money on beer. But maybe having a bunch of hopped-up headbangers chasing the goats around with meat cleavers is a bit awkward. So Czech folk music will have to do. And it does.

Helter Skelter in a Summer Swelter

It was a blazing June day at the brewery and shade was scarce. As an industrial building complex made up of mostly brick buildings and cement roads, shady spots were at a premium. People were crowding into small swathes of shade cast on metal fences along sloping lawns. Since I left my stained, rain-soaked old straw hat on Palatine Hill in Rome last month, I would need new head gear, pronto. The alternative is a hat-less fat dude drinking beer for hours in the hot sun. What could go wrong?

The Kozel Times
I grabbed my Den Kozla straw hat for 99 crowns. I would not bake my noodle in the sun and suffer heat stroke after all. What a bargain. I bought a Den Kozla shirt as well, not because I worship the Mighty Goat, not because I revere goat beer as the nectar of the gods, but because they actually had a shirt in my wide-ass size. I usually ask for size WBJ (Wide Body Jetsetter) or TFA (Tall Fat American). I am usually disappointed. But not this year! I found the only 3XL t-shirt within 500 kilometers. Maybe some genius finally figured out that some of the types of dudes who inhale beer and sausages all day might be a bit on the big side. Or maybe they've always had fat bastardware in my size, but all the fat dudes show up at 8 AM to buy them all. Which reminds me of yet another beer rule: I never drink beer at 8 AM unless I happen to have stayed up all night long drinking beer til 8 AM.

Coke or goat dark, kid?
As the day sweltered on, the cold refreshing goat beer was all that stood between the crowd and dehydration. I was right at that moment of the magical balancing act between the dehydrating effects of sweating in the sun and the diuretic effects of alcohol. One would think that after 6 or 7 beers, one would need to go to the toilet. One would be wrong. My plan was to slowly replace the liquid in my sweat glands with golden goat beer. After hours of walking around in a foggy haze of heat and alcohol, I stumbled into a cold stream of water spewing forth from the side of a fire truck. Children were splashing and running through the water jets chasing rainbows in the mist. It was suddenly like Harlem in the 1960s. With much better beer.

Den Kozla: Refreshingly Hipster Free

Brother from another mother
Nowadays you can't swing a dead cat around for more than five minutes before it sticks in some hipster's greasy beard. The beardos tend to congregate and coagulate around street food stands, 'farmers' markets serving up nothing ever eaten by farmers, and any event promising overpriced craft beer. But the Mighty Goat is keepin' it real: only three kinds of beer are tapped at Den Kozla: goaty original, goatesque amber, and goatacious dark. Served cold and cheap. One of the best things about Goat Day is that each year they release a new goat beer which is only served at the GoatFest. Once it has been tapped, drunk, and pissed into the bushes, it will never be seen or heard from again. This year's Goat Special was called Mistrův ležák (master lager), a pleasing amber lager with a crisp start and a smooth, refreshing finish.

No kale or gluten free hipster hovno here; the food stands are 100% Czech: pots of goulash swinging on chains over fire, deep friers cranking out massive potato pancakes, and enough klobasa to choke a dozen donkeys. You will not find one single avocado smashed on toast.

OGG: old gangsta goat
But you will find plenty of live goats and costumed goat people at Den Kozla. You can also visit Olda the Goat, the official mascot of the Velkopopovicky Kozel Brewery. He stands behind a fence under a shade tree waiting for your selfies while munching grass. This year, Olda seemed much older. He had shed some of the wild, curly goat hair of his youth, his goaty goatee was looking a bit gray, and he didn't seem like he could hold a foaming beer stein like he used to. I feel ya, OG.

We middle-aged old goats gotta stick together. I 'kid' you not.

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