Hunahpu’s Day is held each year on the second Saturday in March at Cigar City Brewing in Tampa FL. It is the official release each year for their Hunahpu’s Stout. Last year Lee and I made our way to the festival and it was one of the best beer experiences of my life (Tap List: Hunahpu’s Day 2012). In fact without that trip I don’t think Brew/Drink/Run would exist at all (but that is a another story for another day). Cigar City blocks off their entire parking lot and sets up one of the biggest beer parties of the year. Needless to say I was more than excited to head back again this year. Unfortunately Lee could not come with me this time, but I convinced my wife Emily (ever the craft beer widow trooper) and my dad to join me. Emily and I packed a suitcase and our daughter in the car on Friday and headed to my parents’ house which is not far from Cigar City. We got up at about 5:30 am on Saturday since the gates were supposed to open at 7:50 am. They opened earlier but we will get into that later. Lee and I learned a few lessons the year before so this year we packed: three collapsible chairs, LOTS of water, sunscreen and hats. By the time we showed up there was about four times as many people lined up as there were the year before! The line to get in went at least 2 city blocks and then snaked into the neighboring shopping center. I knew we were in for a long day and so set up shop at the end of the line and waited for Hunahpu’s Day 2013 to begin:
- Hunahpu’s Stout: Ultimately that was the reason I was there, and between the three of us we were there early enough to get our allotment of 3 bottles each. The first 4000 people in the gate were guaranteed 3 bottles, the next 1000 2 bottles. Anything left after that went on sale the next morning in the taproom.
- The Draft List: Again this year there was a plethora of amazing Cigar City beers and guest taps. I was able to try CCB Snack Attack! for the first time, but due to the massive crowds that was about the end of my wish list beers.
- Beer Tokens: They did this same job as the generic tickets that were available last year, but they seemed much easier to keep track of… and looked cooler too.
- Water: There was a major lack of drinking water available last year, but there seemed to be several clearly marked water coolers this year. Since we were smart enough to bring our own bottles this year I’m not sure if/when the water ran out, but my dad said he saw the water being restocked several times.
- Bottle Sharing: There were a lot of beer guys and gals sharing very rare and hard to find beers that they brought into the festival. Thanks to generosity of the guys at Super Pint Bros. I was able to try Foothills’ Sexual Chocolate for the first time. Cheers!
- The Crowd: If last year’s festival was crowded, this years was out of control! I would guess about 8,000 people were there at any given point, and that’s a lot of humanity to be in the CCB parking lot at one time. If you weren’t stepping over a sea of beach chairs you were excusing your way thorough some line or another to who knows what.
- The Lines: The lines for a beer, not one of the rare beers mind you just something to drink, was anywhere from 50 minutes to 1 1/2 hours long. Want to go to the bathroom? You better plan 30 to 40 minutes ahead!
- The Draft List: Although there were just as many awesome beers this year that I wanted to try, it was almost impossible to figure out what beer was where. Last year on the flip side of the map they gave out was a list of what beers were being poured where. It made it easy to decide what lines to wait in. This year there were only poster boards set up on the actual tents near the taps. By the end of the day I was pretty disappointed in the overall amount of fun and new beers I got to try.
- Not Enough Facilities: I read in the paper the next morning that they were expecting upwards of 10,000 people at the event, and if that was true shame on them for the amount of portable bathrooms that were on site. There were a fraction than what was needed at the event, and honestly there seemed to be less than last year!
- Pre-event Management: As I mentioned earlier the line to get in ended up in the neighboring parking lot. Although all of the folks waiting in line were peaceful and in good spirits, the Home Depot management was not to happy about the situation. Before long the police were called, causing the event organizers to open the gates about 50 minutes earlier than expected. The worst thing about whole situation is that if the line was simply formed the other way none of that would have happened.
- Hoarding: After waiting in line for an hour + for a beer most of us, myself included, got as many beers that we could carry! In the end all this did was slow down the lines even more and lead to a drunken mob mentality. It became less about trying awesome beer and more about getting drunk.
- Drunkenness: We saw a woman being carried towards the entrance who had urinated in her pants. This was before 8 am as we waited to get in! I had never felt so embarrassed for someone in my life.
- Littering: You would be surprised at how many stellar craft beer bottles and packaging that I saw was dumped on the ground on the way into the event. Unacceptable.
- The Crowd (Again): Trying to get though a line to our seats my petite wife was beat to heck and had half of her beer spilled on her by too eager beer drinkers. No one took the time to apologize or help her through. The frenzy to “get a beer” was totally out of hand by 9 am.
- Drunk Staff: Later in the afternoon the guy who took my tokens at a beer tent was so drunk he couldn’t remember what I ordered. Literally the words he slurred to the both me and the other me he saw were, “I don’t know… these beers… here!” I got two of one of the beers I ordered and at that point I figured, whatever, at least I only waited in line for 30 minutes!
LESSONS LEARNED/FINAL IMPRESSIONS
The big rumor going around the grounds this year was about how the festival has gotten too big and has to change. A lot of the people I ran into were talking about the CCB owner stating that next years event would “look a lot different”. Clearly the space could not hold the amount of people there. I don’t know if they need to move the venue or sell tickets to keep the numbers manageable. As for me, all the negatives will probably not keep me away next year. A chance to have bottles of Hunahpu’s Stout is worth almost any amount of hassle. I will say that I learned a valuable lesson from the Super Pint Bros.: Bring your own bottles to drink and share. The fun is in being able to meet beer lovers like yourself, not in having to fight the crowds for a 8 oz pour.