Make us your home page
Instagram

Craft beer lovers go to extremes for shot at Tampa brewery's rare offering

TAMPA — Thomas Buchanan was out of the house at 5:15 a.m. Saturday to get to Hunahpu Day at Cigar City Brewing.

He skipped class at Full Sail University in Winter Park to be among the elite thousands to try this year's limited-release imperial stout. But Buchanan's early-morning efforts were a drop in the bucket compared to Sarah Marquis, who worked until 5 a.m. Saturday as a bartender in Miami, chugged a Red Bull and hopped a plane to be at the Spruce Street tasting room before the Tampa brewery's beer started selling at noon — a limit of three bottles each to the first 4,000 people in line, $20 for each 22-ounce bottle.

But even Marquis' commitment paled when compared to that of Miami beer distributor Cesar Vazquez, a big guy in a bright yellow Cigar City Brewing T-shirt with the words "The Line Starts Here" on the back. As he has done the past three years, Vazquez was the first in line, setting up his camp chair just outside the tasting room at 4 p.m. Friday. The shirt was a gift from head brewer Wayne Wambles and other Cigar City staffers, but his was far from the only beer T-shirt in the crowd. Beer aficionados from around the world convened in Tampa on Saturday, many shirts emblazoned with their hometown brews or those cult craft beers that have prompted so much fervor in the past couple of years.

By 8:30 a.m., the line snaked from Cigar City's front door a quarter-mile down Spruce Street's sidewalk and back to Dale Mabry Highway, the Home Depot parking lot looking like the tailgate at a Grateful Dead show with coolers, strollers and a whole lot of thirsty-looking people. The showstopper event at this year's Tampa Bay Beer Week, Hunahpu was expected to draw up to 10,000 people.

Scottsdale, Ariz., resident Dakine Beckman has been at every Hunahpu release. He says the first one four years ago drew only a couple of hundred people, with no limit on the number of bottles that could be bought.

So why has Hunahpu gotten so huge?

"We're in the middle of a craft beer revolution," says Beckman. "Joey Redner revolutionized beer for the whole state. In 2008, Florida was a beer wasteland. And Hunahpu is off the wall — you don't expect all this in a beer. It appeals to everyone with its cinnamon, vanilla and chocolate up front, and the chili spiciness on the back part of the palate."

Beckman says limited-release events like this draw beer "mules," people you bring along and equip with cash to ratchet up the number of bottles you can take away. He says until this past year on eBay (which has since curtailed alcohol sales) bottles of Hunahpu imperial stout were being sold for as much as $250.

As with many highly prized commodities, scarcity is key.

"It had to be a special beer to get a draw like this, and imperial stout is a quality beer. But I think the major attraction comes from the fact that it's such a limited quantity (roughly 10,000 bottles were available for purchase on Saturday) — when it's gone, it's gone," said attendee Lauran Cifizzari, who works for Blue Point Brewing Co. in Long Island, N.Y.

For serious craft beer drinkers, Hunahpu Day went on the calendar a year ago, drawing people from Philly, Minneapolis and as far away as Sweden for the chance to take home some rare bottles.

Still, with dozens of other Cigar City beers and guest brews on tap, 10 food trucks and live music, plenty of people were just there for a big party on a gorgeous Tampa spring day.

For Randy Strange and Amy Ritterskamp, both from Kansas City, Mo., the Hunahpu phenomenon is 50 percent merit and 50 percent hype. Strange noted how well the event was publicized in the craft beer community, while Ritterskamp said it was an excuse for a holiday from colder climes.

"He's a craft beer nerd. I wanted to go somewhere warm — I figured I could convince him if it relates to craft beer somehow."

Laura Reiley can be reached at lreiley@tampabay.com or (727) 892-2293. Follow @lreiley on Twitter.

Craft beer lovers go to extremes for shot at Tampa brewery's rare offering 03/09/13 [Last modified: Saturday, March 9, 2013 8:04pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Until this song, Alan Parsons Project stood on much higher ground

    Blogs

    Listening to yesterday's Keats song made me pine for more Alan Parsons Project music and today we dig deeper into their catalogue with Standing On Higher Ground.

  2. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for July 23

    Events

    Marie Antoinette: Freefall 411: A contemporary look at the historic pariah looks at Marie Antoinette through the lens of society's obsession with celebrity. Through August 13. A brief talk prior to the performance provides insight to the production. 1 p.m., show starts at 2 p.m., Freefall Theatre, 6099 Central …

    Lucas Wells as King Louis XVI, left, and Megan Rippey as Marie Antoinette in Freefall Theatre's "Marie Antoinette."
  3. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for July 22

    Events

    Snooty the Manatee's 69th Birthday Bash: Snooty, documented by Guinness World Records as the oldest known manatee in captivity, turns 69 and celebrates with children's games, art activities, cookies, drinks , interaction with Snooty the mascot and reduced price museum admission. 10 a.m., South Florida Museum, 201 …

    Snooty the manatee poses for a photo Thursday morning while three young manatees are unloaded from Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa Thursday morning at the South Florida Museum in Bradenton.
PAUL VIDELA/pvidela@bradenton.com 12/20/07
  4. Spring Hill to mark golden anniversary with celebration at Lake House

    Events

    SPRING HILL

    It was 1967 when the Deltona Corp. began selling homes in western Hernando County, a rural area that previously had been little more than a vast forest of oak and pine trees.

    This photo, taken in 1967, shows Spring Hill’s signature waterfall at the intersection of Spring Hill Drive and U.S. 19. The community will celebrate its 50th anniversary on July 27.
  5. Cridlin: Linkin Park's Chester Bennington had a wail that stood apart

    Music & Concerts

    For all the old-timers' talk about how they don't make singers like they used to, about how rock vocalists of the 21st century can't hold a candle to the frontmen of yesteryear, here's a fact no hater could deny:

    Chester Bennington could flat-out wail.

    Chester Bennington of Linkin Park  performs at Steinbrenner Field in Tampa for the 2014 Carnivores Tour. [Photo Luis Santana | Times]