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Hunahpu’s Day 2017: A long road to perfection

Hunahpus-Day-2017-Tease-300x300Back in 2010, Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout made its debut in the beer scene. The decadent stout aged on cacao nibs, Madagascar vanilla beans, ancho chilies, pasilla chilies and cinnamon garnered Cigar City a gold medal at the 2010 and 2011 U.S. Open Beer Championships catapulting it to the national beer scene’s attention.

In that first year, Hunahpu’s release day was a relatively small event held in the brewery tap room. Several hundred beer-lovers gathered to taste and purchase bottles of the beer with little fanfare. But, as word of the beer spread through the beer community, demand began to grow. The beer became a hot commodity on many beer trading websites and, as bottles became more scarce, demand grew to a fever pitch.

Taking notice of the demand for the beer, the brewery planned a bigger event for the second release date. Dubbed Hunahpu’s Day, in 2011 guest breweries were invited to bring their rare and specialty beers, set up tents and offer tastes of their beers on a pay-per-pour basis. Crowds were heavy, but manageable. Except for a few scuffles over line position, the event went well enough for Cigar City to plan the same type of event for the next year.

By 2013, the hype of Hunahpu’s Day had built to such a level that hundreds – perhaps thousands — of beer aficionados queued up to get their allotment of the brew. The line was so long that the line ran several blocks up the street from the brewery and into a nearby shopping center parking lot. Rabid fans began lining up as early as 8:00 p.m. the night before, camping out at the gates of the brewery in order to be one of the first to sample the cornucopia of rare beers brought by breweries from all over the country. Many brought coolers and shared beer as a way to whittle away at the time.

Complaints of long lines began within the first hour or so of the event. Crowds crushed in to lines at the most popular tents creating waits of more than an hour. Often, unscrupulous guests would cut the line and walk right up to the front much to the ire of those who had been waiting in the hot Florida sun. To make matters worse, a staffing agency had been hired to provide servers who had no training on how to pour beer causing even longer waits.

After the event was over, it was estimated 9,000 guests passed through the gates at Cigar City leaving over-flowing port-a-lets, mounds of trash and myriad complaints from guest who were unable to get beers they had set their minds on drinking. But, due to some quick thinking by Cigar City owner, Joey Redner who reduced bottle purchase limits from three per person to two, anyone who wanted a bottle of Hunahpu’s was able to purchase one.

The massive crowds of the past led Redner and Cigar City Brewing President Toni Derby to change the format to a ticketed event in 2014. It was also decided that the event would be limited to 3,500 attendees. Ticket holders were entitled to unlimited tastes of guest beers and guaranteed an opportunity to purchase an allotment of three bottles. When the tickets went on sale on Eventbrite, they sold out in less than two hours. In theory, by limiting the number of guests, the brewery would be better able to plan for the event and insure that there would be plenty of beer for everyone. Further, guests were to be issued a silver wristband upon entry that would be removed when they had purchased their bottles of beer. Guests were told that they could purchase their allotment of bottles any time during the day, but that at 4:00 p.m. remaining bottles would be available for purchase without limit.

Because of the popularity of the event in the past and the speed at which tickets sold out, a lively secondary market for ticket sales popped up on other online outlets such as Craigslist. Since tickets purchased on Eventbrite can be printed at home, at least one – and likely several – purchasers made copies of tickets and sold the copies online. As the counterfeit tickets began appearing at the festival gates, arguments between duped guests and ticket-takers broke out. The line to get into the event began to grow and tempers flared. A snap decision was made to open the gates to everyone. The influx of bodies filled the brewery parking lot to capacity and beer lines grew longer and longer.

Then, at 4:00 p.m. when open bottle sales began the crowd shifted from the tasting lines to the purchase lines. Thousands crowded in, vying to get extra bottles.  Many purchased the 22-ounce bottles in cases of 12. But, as the feeding frenzy escalated, it became apparent that there were many guests who still had their silver wristbands and had not been able to purchase their promised three bottles. Clashes broke out between those buying extra bottles and those trying to get their allotment.

By 5:00 p.m. the bottles sold out. Redner, looking frazzled, put his hands into the air and announced that there were no more bottles to sell and police officers moved in to close the metal bay doors. The crowd became even more agitated with several banging on the doors others chanting, “Cigar City sucks!” To many caught in the middle of the crowd, it looked as if a riot could break out.

In the end, the festival was concluded early and, as the dust settled, Redner made an apology and a promise to get Hunahpu’s to any who did not get their allotment. Later, in a statement, he said, “I am acknowledging defeat. That was the last Hunahpu’s Day. The beer will go into distribution next year and hopefully spread out among many accounts, it will get to consumers more fairly.”

But, though it looked as if Hunahpu’s Day would never happen again, Cigar City surprised consumers and announced that there would indeed be a Hunahpu’s Day 2015. But, the event would be a strictly controlled, ticketed event limited to 2,000 attendees with a ticket price of $200. Each ticket included four bottles of Hunahpu’s to be handed out as guests left the festival. They also included food and unlimited tastings of guest beers.

The event went off without a hitch.

Then, in 2016, the brewery decided to take its show on the road and hold the event at Cotanchobee Fort Brooke Park on Tampa’s waterfront. The change of venue allowed the event to stretch out a bit and kept it from feeling so crowded. It also allowed the event to grow to include more brewers and that meant more exceptional beers to taste.

This year, Cigar City’s Hunahpu’s Day will once again occupy Cotanchobee Fort Brooke Park with even more brewers than 2016. The lineup includes such luminaries in the brewing business as Anderson Valley, Black Project, Crooked Stave, Firestone Walker, Fremont and Toppling Goliath. In addition, there are 16 breweries from 13 different countries as far flung as Russia, New Zealand and Sweden that will afford beer lovers tastes of beers they may never otherwise be able to try.

The 2017 edition if Hunahpu’s Day takes place Saturday, March 11 from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at Cotanchobee Fort Brooke Park, 601 Old Water St., Tampa, Fla.

Cigar City advises all attendees to plan on taking Uber to the event.

 
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Posted by on March 8, 2017 in Beer, Beer Festival, Beer Releases

 

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Cigar City 2017 release dates set

CigarCityBrewingFor many Florida craft beer fans, the brewery that epitomizes great Florida beer is Cigar City Brewing Company. Based in Tampa, the brewery was founded by Joey Redner in 2009 with his flagship brew, Jai Alai IPA. The beer was a hit with beer lovers both locally and throughout the Sunshine state and Redner quickly grew his business.

Today Cigar City is still known for its highly-rated flagship brew, but it is also known for its many specialty releases. Beers like the legendary Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout and Marshal Zhukov’s Imperial Stout cause quite a stir in the craft beer community. So much so that Hunahpu’s has its own release day festival that features more than 100 top-tier breweries bringing their best beers for fans to enjoy. This year, Hunahpu’s Day falls on March 11. Tickets are still available and can only be purchased online at here.

For the rest of Cigar City’s release dates see the calendar below.

January

Nitro Series: El Coco Coconut Flan Ale

Special Release: White Oak Jai Alai

February

Nitro Series: El Coco Coconut Flan Ale

Special Release: White Oak Jai Alai

March

Nitro Series: Hornswoggled Red Ale

Special Release: Marshal Zhukov’s Penultimate Push

April

Nitro Series: Hornswoggled Red Ale

Special Release: Guayabera Citra Pale Ale

May

Nitro Series: Vanilla Maduro Brown Ale

Special Release: Vanilla Maduro Brown Ale

June

Nitro Series: Vanilla Maduro Brown Ale

Special Release: White Oak Jai Alai,

July

Nitro Series: Horchata Tropical Ale

Special Release: White Oak Jai Alai

August

Nitro Series: Horchata Tropical Ale

Special Release: Marshal Zhukov’s Imperial Stout

September

Nitro Series: Good Gourd Imperial Pumpkin Ale

Special Release: Good Gourd Imperial Pumpkin Ale

October

Nitro Series: Good Gourd Imperial Pumpkin Ale

Special Release: Guayabera Citra Pale Ale

November

Nitro Series: Cafe Con Leche Sweet Stout

Special Release: Vanilla Maduro Brown Ale

December

Nitro Series: Cafe Con Leche Sweet Stout

Special Release: Cafe Con Leche Sweet Stout

Visit Cigar City Brewing’s website (www.cigarcitybrewing.com) for more beer information and to find the CCB beer closest to you.

 
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Posted by on January 3, 2017 in Beer, Beer Releases

 

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3 Things Cigar City’s sale to Oskar Blues will mean

CigarCityBrewingSo, a few days have passed since the beer world was rocked with the news that Tampa’s Cigar City Brewing Company sold to Longmont, Colo. based Oskar Blues itself patially-owned by capital finance firm, Fireman Capital LLC. The sale reportedly was worth $60 million and came just two days after Cigar City’s uber-popular Hunahpu’s Day Release party.  But, what does the sale mean to the Florida brewery that has built a reputation for brewing high-quality and sometimes irreverent brews?

The first thing it will mean is an influx of capital and savvy. With nearly 20 years of beer brewing and marketing experience, Oskar Blues is poised to help Cigar City grow in an ever-expanding craft beer landscape.

“Cigar City is facing next-level challenges,” Said outspoken Cigar City founder and CEO, Joey Redner. “And we needed to develop next-level skills and resources to meet them.”

Oskar Blues brings the knowledge, skill and mindset that fit nicely with Redner’s way of seeing things.

“We got into beer out of passion and an unwavering desire to travel our own path.” Redner explained. “We didn’t want to just shove our round peg into some f*cking square hole and hope for the best.”

Secondly, by partnering with a like-minded brewery, Redner seems to ensure Cigar City’s spirit of adventure will continue while locking down solid production and marketing processes.

“What Cigar City has done for the community of Florida craft beer is impressive.” Said Dale Katechis, Soul Founder of Oskar Blues. “It’s important for our culture to do business with people we want to hang out with and Joey and the gang fit.”

In its seven years of existence, Cigar City Brewing has shown near constant growth reaching a production level of nearly 60,000 barrels in 2015, placing the Tampa Bay area and the state of Florida on the craft beer map.

The third thing this new partnership brings is the stability and infrastructure to insure Cigar City will be around to continue producing its outstanding brews and remain in Florida for years to come.

“Florida craft beer drinkers want something they can proudly stand behind.” Redner continued. “These guys (Oskar Blues) get that. They wrote the book on keeping it real.”

Redner will remain CEO of Cigar City after the merger

 
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Posted by on March 17, 2016 in Beer, Beer News

 

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Details announced for controversial Hunahpu’s Day Festival

HDAY-announcement-300x300Cigar City, the brewery behind perhaps the most controversial annual beer festival in Florida has just announced details for the 2016 Hunahpu’s Day event. The event, to be held Saturday, March 12, 2016, celebrates the release of the brewery’s coveted Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout. Over the event’s storied history there have been many missteps, yet the event marches on.

First released in 2010, Hunahpu’s is a rich, decadent stout weighing in around 11% alcohol by volume. Described by the brewery as “An Imperial Stout aged on cacao nibs, Madagascar vanilla beans, ancho chilies, pasilla chilies and cinnamon,” the beer garnered Cigar City a  gold medal at the 2010 U.S. Open Beer Championship catapulting it to the national beer scene’s attention.

In its first year, Hunahpu’s Day was a relatively small event held in the brewery tap room. Several hundred beer-lovers gathered to taste and purchase bottles of the beer with little fanfare. But, as word of the beer spread through the beer community, demand began to grow. The beer became a hot commodity on many beer trading websites and, as bottles became more scarce, demand grew to a fever pitch.

Taking notice of the demand for the beer, the brewery planned a bigger event for the second Hunahpu’s Day in 2011. Guest breweries were invited to bring their rare and specialty beers, set up tents and offer tastes of their beers on a pay-per-pour basis. Crowds were heavy, but manageable. Except for a few scuffles over line position, the event went well enough for Cigar City to plan the same type of event for the next year.

By 2013, the hype of Hunahpu’s Day had built to such a level that hundreds – perhaps thousands — of beer aficionados queued up to get their allotment of the brew that the line ran several blocks up the street from the brewery and into a nearby shopping center parking lot. Rabid fans began lining up as early as 8:00 p.m. the night before, camping out at the gates of the brewery in order to be one of the first to sample the cornucopia of rare beers brought by breweries from all over the country. Many brought coolers and shared beer as a way to whittle away at the time.

Complaints of long lines began within the first hour or so of the event. Crowds crushed in to lines at the most popular tents creating waits of more than an hour. Often, unscrupulous guests would cut the line and walk right up to the front much to the ire of those who had been waiting in the hot Florida sun. To make matters worse, a staffing agency had been hired to provide servers who had no training on how to pour beer causing even longer waits.

After the event was over, an estimated 9,000 guests passed through the gates at Cigar City leaving over-flowing port-a-lets, mounds of trash and myriad complaints from guest who were unable to get beers they had set their minds on drinking. But, due to some quick thinking by Cigar City owner, Joey Redner who reduced bottle purchase limits from three per person to two, anyone who wanted a bottle of Hunahpu’s was able to purchase one.

The massive crowds of the past led Redner and Cigar City Brewing President Toni Derby to change the format to a ticketed event. It was also decided that the event would be limited to 3,500 attendees. Ticket holders were entitled to unlimited tastes of guest beers and guaranteed an opportunity to purchase an allotment of three bottles. When the tickets went on sale on Eventbrite, they sold out in less than two hours. In theory, by limiting the number of guests, the brewery would be better able to plan for the event and insure that there would be plenty of beer for everyone. Further, guests were to be issued a silver wristband upon entry that would be removed when they had purchased their bottles of beer. Guests were told that they could purchase their allotment of bottles any time during the day, but that at 4:00 p.m. remaining bottles would be available for purchase without limit.

Because of the popularity of the event in the past and the speed at which tickets sold out, a lively secondary market for ticket sales popped up on other online outlets such as Craigslist. Because tickets purchased on Eventbrite can be printed at home, at least one – and likely several – purchasers made copies of tickets and sold the copies online. As the counterfeit tickets began appearing at the festival gates, arguments between duped guests and ticket-takers broke out. The line to get into the event began to grow and tempers flared. A snap decision was made to open the gates to everyone. The influx of bodies filled the brewery parking lot to capacity and beer lines grew longer and longer.

Then, at 4:00 p.m. when open bottle sales began the crowd shifted from the tasting lines to the purchase lines. Thousands crowded in, vying to get extra bottles.  Many purchased the 22-ounce bottles in cases of 12. But, as the feeding frenzy escalated, it became apparent that there were many guests who still had their silver wristbands and had not been able to purchase their promised three bottles. Clashes broke out between those buying extra bottles and those trying to get their allotment.

By 5:00 p.m. the bottles sold out. Redner, looking frazzled, put his hands into the air and announced that there were no more bottles to sell and police officers moved in to close the metal bay doors. The crowd became even more agitated with several banging on the doors others chanting, “Cigar City sucks!” To many caught in the middle of the crowd, it looked as if a riot could break out.

In the end, the festival was concluded early and, as the dust settled, Redner made an apology and a promise to get Hunahpu’s to any who did not get their allotment. Later, in a statement, he said, “I am acknowledging defeat. That was the last Hunahpu’s Day. The beer will go into distribution next year and hopefully spread out among many accounts, it will get to consumers more fairly.”

But, though it looked as if Hunahpu’s Day would never happen again, Cigar City surprised consumers and announced that there would indeed be a Hunahpu’s Day 2015. But, the event would be a strictly controlled, ticketed event limited to 2,000 attendees with a ticket price of $200. Each ticket included four bottles of Hunahpu’s to be handed out as guests left the festival. They also included food and unlimited tastings of guest beers.

The event went off without a hitch.

The event in 2016 will be similar to this year’s event with the exception of the change of venue and several new ticket tiers.

According to the Cigar City website, tickets will be available in three tiers:

  • $200, includes 4 bottles of Hunahpu’s® Imperial Stout
  • $300, includes 8 bottles of Hunahpu’s® Imperial Stout
  • $400, includes 12 bottles of Hunahpu’s® Imperial Stout (exclusive to El Catador Club members only)

Tickets include:

  • Bottle allotment
  • Four (4) meal tickets for tapas-sized portions served by a dozen food vendors
  • A bottle tote bag
  • An acrylic sample glass
  • Unlimited access to drink 400+ beers from 150+ breweries from all over the world

Ticket purchase details have not been released, but the brewery promises that they will be soon. For more details and rules regarding the event, go to the Cigar City Hunahpu’s Day website.

 
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Posted by on December 3, 2015 in Beer Festival

 

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Growler fight subject of short documentary film

beerbattle-300x165 (1)On a more serious note, readers of this blog are familiar with the fight going on in Florida over growler size. For those who are not up to speed on this issue, in a nut shell a group of mega-brewery beer distributors have been maneuvering to block all attempts by Florida’s craft beer producers and community to legalize 64-ounce growlers.

State law in Florida currently allows both 32-ounce (one quart) and 128-ounce (one gallon) growlers. But, because of “safety and public health” concerns the state — under pressure from powerful lobbyists from the above mentioned distributors — has torpedoed all  challenges to the current law.

The fight has been the subject of many articles and news accounts and is now surfacing as the topic of a short documentary shot by Florida State University student, Hunter J, Truman. Truman shot the film for a school project and includes interviews with Joey Redner of Cigar City Brewing Company, Byron Burroughs of Proof Brewing Company and Josh Aubuchon, lobbyist for the Florida Brewers Guild.

Beer Battle from Hunter J. Truman on Vimeo.

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Click HERE to sign up now!

 
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Posted by on August 11, 2014 in Beer Education

 

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Cigar City Brewing up award-winning beers

Tampa Bay, Fla., has a rich history of brewing beers for the state and the region. Indeed, Tampa was the site of the first brewery in the state, the Florida Brewing Company. The brewery, which was later renamed the Tampa Florida Brewing Company, was located in what is now Ybor City. It was established in 1896 by cigar industrialists who saw a need for a local brewery. Since then the Tampa area has been called home by numerous breweries and now hosts six including Cigar City Brewing.

Established because of owner Joey Redner’s passion for beer, Cigar City carries on the fine traditions of Tampa’s brewing history by producing award-winning beers using only quality ingredients.

“I had long lamented the lack of a packaging brewery in Tampa,” Redner said. “Finally, I decided to be the guy to open the brewery I had been dreaming of.”

Guided by an inspiration that came out of the craft beer industry as a whole, Redner set out to create a brewery that would produce memorable brews in styles other than those played out by the macro lagers of the world. The results of his efforts include the company’s flagship Jai Alai IPA a big, hoppy IPA that blurs the line between IPA and Imperial IPA. Maduro Brown is another favorite that presents itself as a Northern English-style brown ale, but with higher alcohol content and a roasty chocolate flavor that has earned it an exceptional rating by Beer Advocate.

Cigar City is also known for its exceptional seasonals that tend to cause a big stir in the beer aficionado world. Releases like fall’s Good Gourd – Cigar City’s version of a pumpkin beer with pumpkin spices including Ceylon cinnamon, Jamaican all-spice, Zanzibar cloves and nutmeg – regularly sell out within days or even hours of release. A summer release, Cucumber Saison, garnered rave reviews and sold incredibly fast. The fresh, lively Saison evoked the herbal essence of cucumbers straight from the backyard garden.

Redner sees the craft beer industry returning to the roots of local brewing and becoming more regional in nature. But, there will always be a few breweries that grow and become more wide-spread like Sierra Nevada and New Belgium, he concedes. “There is a lot of room for new breweries, though,” he says. “Especially in Florida where the small brewery Tasting Room model has proven to be viable.”

Recently, Cigar City has undergone a significant expansion in their production and packaging capacity. In order to keep up with current and anticipated future demand, the brewery expanded its original 15 barrel, two vessel brewhouse to a 30 barrel, four vessel production brewery. In addition Cigar City has purchased a used canning line from their Colorado friends, New Belgium and is looking into a new rotary bottling line.

In its short history, Cigar City has garnered an impressive collection of awards from a Gold Medal for its Humidor Series IPA in 2009 at the National Beer Championships to a Gold Medal at last year’s Great American Beer Festival for Minaret ESB. Redner hopes to continue the brewery’s winning ways at this year’s GABF in Denver next month. He has entered 10 of his brews this year including the previously mentioned Cucumber Saison(5% ABV) and Good Gourd (9% ABV) brews.

The other eight Cigar City brews entered this year at GABF are:

Hotter Than Helles, Munich-style Helles at 5.2% ABV

Xenu Honey Cream Lager at 5% ABV

Oktoberfest, German-stlye Marzen at 5% ABV

Ligero, German-style Schwarzbier at 5% ABV

Kalevipoeg, Baltic-style Porter at 9% ABV

Jai Alai IPA, American-style Strong Pale Ale at 7.5% ABV

Minaret ESB, Extra Special Bitter at 5% ABV

Maduro Brown Ale at 5.5% ABV

Redner says he has, “Always had the mentality that you have to look really hard for and go out of your way to get beer you like.” With brews like those produced by Cigar City, now you just have to look to Tampa for exceptional quality beer.

 
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Posted by on September 13, 2012 in Beer, Craft Beer Brewery

 

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