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. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Tuesday May 30

    Events

    Finding Neverland: The hit Broadway show follows the story behind playwright J.M. Barrie as he struggles to find inspiration to create Peter Pan, until he meets four young brothers and their beautiful widowed mother. 7:30 p.m., Carol Morsani Hall at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts, 1010 N MacInnes Place, …

    Mitchell Wray, Jordan Cole, Finn Faulconer and Ben Krieger as the Llewelyn Davies Boys in the National Tour of Finding Neverland. Photo by Carol Rosegg.
  2. Big rents and changing tastes drive dives off St. Pete's 600 block

    Music & Concerts

    ST. PETERSBURG — Kendra Marolf was behind the lobby bar of the State Theatre, pouring vodka sodas for a weeknight crowd packed tight for Bishop Briggs, the latest alternative artist to sell out her club.

    Sam Picciano, 25, left, of Tampa and Molly Cord 24, Palm Harbor shop for record albums for a friend at Daddy Kool Records located on the 600 block of Central Avenue in St. Petersburg, Florida on Saturday, May 20, 2017. OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times
  3. Restaurant review: Features Gastropub in Riverview is fine as movie theater fare, but unimpressive otherwise

    Food & Dining

    Movies aren't exactly dying. Despite all the sturm und drang of predictions that Netflix and streaming videos would kill the cinema, global box office receipts hit $38.6 billion in 2016, a 1 percent gain over the previous year. But that doesn't mean going to the cinema is precisely what it was a generation …

    Soft pretzels are displayed with a beer at the Features Gastropub in the Riverview 14 GDX  theater in Gibsonton, Fla. on Thursday, May 25, 2017.   The 5,900-square-foot Features Gastropub open in the . This element of the project is the brainchild of Philadelphia chef Brian Duffy, who appears frequently on NBC's The Today Show and the Spike TV show Bar Rescue
  4. From the food editor: I love that food is a huge part of Master of None's transcendent second season

    Cooking

    Deep into a late-night binge of Master of None, Aziz Ansari's Netflix series that returned for its second season May 12, I realized I was laying as far back on my couch as possible, blanket clutched up to my chin, eyebrows permanently raised.

    Dev (Aziz Ansari) and Arnold (Eric Wareheim) eat lunch in Modena, Italy, in the second season of "Master of None."
  5. Three 'MasterChef' contestants from the Tampa Bay area talk cooking inspiration and more

    Cooking

    When Gordon Ramsay's MasterChef begins its eighth season tonight, the Tampa Bay area will have three contestants to root for. A marketing director from Tampa, a dentist and Palm Harbor native, and an employee for a steel supply company are all trying to impress a trio of judges with their home-cooking skills.

    Jeff Philbin, from Tampa, left, Palm Harbor native Paola Annoni Patel, and Danny Flores, of Land 'O Lakes, will be competing on the season premiere of "Masterchef."