First things first.
Some housekeeping items: I’m not a writer. I don’t blog. I don’t do reviews. And, I most certainly do not have a refined beer palate of any sort. So, if you’re looking for a write-up that is going to discuss the earthy notes of every beer, cider and mead that I tried at the 2017 Hunahpu’s Day Festival, you’ve come to the wrong place. I will promise you a few things: I will avoid those cliché words like epic or stellar; I won’t use those over used one word sentences such as: “Best. Festival. Ever.” (although they would all most certainly apply).
Where to start.
This morning during my commute to my 9-5, I started to think about this year’s festival. I suddenly had the urge to write or say something about the 2017 Hunahpu’s Day Festival to spread a few words for it. From the location to the event itself, it was all an experience that I hope that all can enjoy one day.
Each year on the second Saturday of March, Cigar City releases one of the most highly anticipated bottles of the year, Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout, named after one of the Mayan Hero Twins associated with Mayan Civilization folklore. According to Cigar City, the slain father of the twins, Hun Hunaphu, was slain by the Dark Lord’s of the underworld, returning back to Earth as a cacao tree.
Much like Hun Hunaphu, Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout comes back each year with a new bottle release that seems to get better each year. It’s worth mentioning that I do not consider myself a porter guy, in fact, I avoid them. This one is different, it’s special, and lucky for me, I have four bottles of it that was included in my ticket price.
Tampa Bay. Probably one of the most underrated metros in Florida, pushed aside for the likes of Miami and Orlando, Tampa Bay should be at the top of everyone’s “Must Visit” list. Especially for anyone that has a love for craft beer. From the historic areas such as Ybor City, to the multiple museums such as the Salvador Dalí museum in St. Petersburg, Tampa Bay has something for everyone. Lest we forget the craft beer scene. With over 40 craft breweries in the area, Tampa Bay has one of the fastest growing and best craft beer scenes (not to mention the emerging meaderies like Garagiste) in the industry that shouldn’t be missed.
I’m an introvert. Huge drunken crowds in tight spaces are things that I tend to avoid. Not to mention hearing about events past with disorganized lines and counterfeit tickets made me a little leery of joining in on the festivities. But I’m glad that I was talked into attending the 8th Annual Hunahpu’s Day.
The festival seemed to run like a well oiled machine with every detail being thought of. From bottle pick-up; event check-in; the event waiting area (a.k.a. Thunder Alley) and the food trucks (with 4 free meal tickets no less), Cigar City has certainly come along way from the bad headlines of 2014.
With the festival kicking off at 11 am, the line quickly formed by 10 am with 1,000s of craft beer enthusiasts from all over the country at Cotanchobee Fort Brook Park. The park, which sits directly in front of the Amalie Arena, sprawls over 4.5 acres in the middle of Downtown Tampa providing the perfect size and location for the event.
When I say that these folks thought of everything, they did.
The bottle pick-up was held 2 hours prior to event start, giving festival goers plenty of time to grab their bottles from the Marriott, which was conveniently located directly adjacent to the event, and store them prior to heading to the festival. Pick-up was controlled and efficient. Perhaps it was only good timing on my part, but I arrived at the hotel and headed straight in without delay or line to collect my bottles.
Upon arrival to the festival, all guests were efficiently checked-in after passing through a bag check where we were given our own “tasting glass” and food truck tickets. From there, everyone was sent down into “Thunder Alley” to wait in the shade for the event to start.
From local favorites to breweries from as far as New Zealand, Hunahpu’s Day had over 100 breweries that made sure there was something for everyone and no one left thirsty. The two standouts for me personally were the “She Wore a Raspberry Bochet” by Garagiste Meadery (from Seminole Heights in Tampa, Florida) and the “Rum Oak Pineapple IPA” by Cigar City Brewing (also from Tampa, Florida). I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention that Garagiste Meadery took home the top prize for “Best Beer” AND “Best Brewery”.
Other Small Details.
The food trucks, wow. I wish I had paid more attention to the trucks I visited because they were all great. From barbeque to Spanish tapas, they had a little bit of everything, and best of all, it was included with my ticket.
Ice cold water. There were several locations throughout the festival that made sure that everyone had a place they could refill their water bottles.
Bathrooms. Being a germophobe, one thing that I always try to avoid is the dreaded port-a-potty. There were so many of them that there was never a line and for the most part, they were clean.
It’s very apparent the folks over at Cigar City know what they are doing. They take feedback and lessons learned from Hunahpus past to make sure they have a better festival next year. This festival, in addition to a visit to the Cigar City Brewery should be experienced by anyone who loves beer, ciders and/or meads that aren’t mass produced by the big guys.
In closing, I have one question to ask, “When is the 2018 Hunahpu’s Day?”.