I’m already looking forward to this weekend and it’s not even Wednesday yet. Saturday, August 19th the PGA National Resort and Spa is hosting their third annual Craft Beer Bash. With 150 different craft beer and ciders available you won’t find a variety like this anywhere else this weekend. Oh, and did I mention it’s an indoor festival? That’s right! The Craft Beer Bash is air-conditioned! I love craft beer, but trying to enjoy a craft beer festival when it’s 95+ degrees outside is damn near exhausting. If the alcohol doesn’t get you, the sun sure will.
A portion of the proceeds will help benefit Bluewater Babes Fish for a Cure, an all-female fishing tournament. The money raised goes to local breast and ovarian cancer patients in financial need. Boat registrations for the tournament being held October 6th and 7th are still open. Since 2009, they have donated over $465,000 to long-standing local charities such as Cancer Alliance for Help and Hope, H.O.W. – Hearing the Ovarian Cancer Whisper and the Kristin Hoke Breast Health Program at Jupiter Medical Center.
The festival starts at 1:00 pm and continues until 4:00 pm at which time the party will continue at the iBar. Live entertainment will be provided by Sweet Justice and DJ/Electric Violinist Timothee Lovelock of Lovelock Music Group. There will be a number of time release tappings, a cider area, and a vendor village with specialty retail goods and food concessions (for purchase). Festival attendees will be able to vote for their favorite beers and ciders in a ‘People’s Choice Awards’. There will also be a Homebrewers competition. The winner will receive an estimated $1,200.00 prize package. Tickets are $39.00 in advance and $49.00 at the door. There will only be 200 tickets available the day of. For tickets and homebrew competition info visit Eventbrite. Room packages are also available. A single occupancy room including ticket starts at $149.00 while double occupancy with two tickets starts at $179.00. To reserve your Beer Bash room package, call 855-896-4762.
I’m looking forward to another weekend built around craft beer. Come join me at this year’s Craft Beer Bash! I hope to see you there, but if you can’t make it look for my review next week!
*All pictures provided by the PGA National Resort and Spa.
South Florida’s Inaugural FemAle Brewfest took place at Fat Village Arts District in Fort Lauderdale over the Memorial Day weekend. The festival was the brainchild of Fem Collective CEO Frances Antonio-Martineau. The Fem Collective is a South Florida women’s advocacy group supporting the missions, issues, and ambitions of women. A portion of the proceeds went to the Pink Boots Society, which inspires and encourages women within the beer industry to advance their careers through education. It was the first beer festival of its kind focusing on women in the craft beer industry. More specifically on breweries owned or operated by a woman or employing a female brewer or quality control head. Along with the beer, cider, and meads the festival also featured female music acts, industry associated vendors, and a number of South Florida’s top female chefs. Tickets started at $10.00 for designated drivers and went up to $40.00 for VIP.
The festival was scheduled to run between 1:00 and 5:00 pm. I arrived at 12:30 to get the lay of the land before the foamy liquid began to flow. Thankfully, the festival was held inside a warehouse space because it was a sweltering hot South Florida day. Air-conditioning was pumped into the space dropping the temp to acceptable levels. I did hear at least one person complain that it was a bit hot too which I was quick to remind them that we could be outside. After making my rounds and taking a few pics I stopped by the Islamorada Beer Company table to see what they were pouring and to say “hi” to head brewer, Stephanie Harper, and Director of Sales and Marketing, Jose Herrera. Stephanie was pouring ‘Sandbar Sunday’, ‘Channel Marker IPA’, and ‘Key Hoppin’ IPA’. ‘Key Hoppin’ was a bit hoppier than she typically brews.
After some small talk, it was one o’clock and time to drink some beer. My first stop was to Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing out of California who had traveled the furthest distance to be at the BrewFest. They were pouring crowlers of three of their brews. ‘Madame Grey’, a milk stout, brewed with Earl Grey tea was quite good. The aroma and taste of tea went very well with the lactose. Their Juice Box IPA was brewed using El Dorada and Azacca hops specifically for the festival. The Oathkeeper IPA was brewed on International Women’s Day with one pound of lavender and local organic strawberries. I can’t recall ever having an IPA brewed with lavender before. Together with the strawberries, it was one of the most interesting IPA’s I’ve ever tried.
Progressive Distribution provided and poured the VIP beers. Since they were just to the left of Santa Cruz they were my next stop. They were pouring Jester King’s ‘Le Petit Prince Farmhouse Table Beer’ as well as ‘Double Negative’ Imperial Stout and ‘Blackberry Orange Pop’ Berliner Weisse from Grimm Artisanal Ales. Both beers from Grimm were fantastic and two of my favorites of the day.
Next, I paid a visit to the Accomplice Brewery and Ciderworks table. They were pouring ‘Simple Apple’ (base cider), ‘Piñas Envy Pineapple’ (fan favorite), and their 8% heavy hitter ‘Cidewinder Cinnamon’ (apple pie). Accomplice is only about 15 minutes from my house, but I haven’t stopped in yet. My focus has always been on craft beer, not ciders. Having the opportunity to try to enjoy a few of their ciders as well as talking to co-founders, Felonice Merriman and Matt Stetson, has me curious to stop in and see what else they have to offer.
General Manager and Assistant Brewer, Maria Cabré, and newly promoted Account Representative, Alex Reyes, represented J. Wakefield Brewing. They were pouring ‘El Jefe Hefeweizen’, ‘Hop 4 Teacher IIPA’, and ‘Part Time Lager’. ‘Part Time Lager’ was brewed in collaboration with Jack’s Abby. At 9% it’s quite possibly the biggest lager I’ve ever tried. I have to say it was pretty damn delicious. The Black Cauldron Brewery and Taproom out of Orlando was up next. Co-owner and head brewer Jeanna Malines was pouring ‘Ancient Rites Belgian Blonde’, ‘Black Rose Immortal Stout’, and ‘Bleed Purple Blackberry Saison’. I enjoyed both the blonde and Saison, but wasn’t the biggest fan of the stout. I have yet to review the Orlando area so it was good to get a taste of what they have to offer.
Next, I hit Ballast Point to tick (check off) a couple of beers I had yet to try. Both the ‘Bonito Blonde Ale’ and the ‘Sea Rose Tart Cherry Wheat Ale’ were bottle pours. I enjoyed the ‘Sea Rose’ from its wheat malt beginning to its slightly tart pomegranate and cherry backing. The Big Storm Brewing Co. has tap rooms in both Clearwater and Odessa, Florida. Brewer Megan Michael and Director of Sales Kym Poon were pouring the ‘Helicity Pilsner’, ‘Wavemaker Amber Ale’, ‘Tropic Pressure Florida Ale’, and ‘Surfline Gulfcoast Lager’ from cans. I had never had the opportunity to try Big Storm before. Their offerings were impressive! I’m looking forward to visiting the brewery and trying a few things that aren’t in cans.
Lisa Siegel, part owner of the Craft Beer Cartel and Riverside Market was pouring ‘954 Pale Ale’ and ‘Honey Love Cream Ale’. Both beers are brewed by New River Brewing. which will be opening later this year in Fort Lauderdale.
The M.I.A. Beer Co. was next up and pouring their ‘Neon White IPA’ and ‘Tourist Trappe Belgian Trippel’. They are a brewery that I will be reviewing in the near future.
Lastly, I tried a refreshingly tart lime agave mead called ‘Tuco Style Freakout’ from the B. Nectar Meadery. After a day of beer, it was an interesting change of pace.
I think there are a few changes that should be looked at for next year’s festival. It’s generally frowned upon when brewers pour their wares from cans or bottles. As a lover of craft beer, pouring from kegs is one of the things that draws me to a festival. You will always sell tickets to beer festivals, but if you want the festival to really take off, kegs are definitely the way to go. Also, breweries should bring more than just their core beers. Again, if you want the craft beer community to support and look forward to your festival there needs to be the pull of something that isn’t readily available to the masses. Lastly, something that was missing and is a mainstay at festivals was the pour bucket. If I’m served a beer that I don’t like the first thing I want to do is toss it and move on to the next offering. Without a pour bucket, you’re forcing festival goers to either finish the beer or find a garbage can to pour it into.
Overall I really enjoyed the festival. As a first time event, the FemAle BrewFest was really put together well and even though it was a tad warm in the festival space, the fact that it was inside was a serious plus. I spent half of my time talking with the different brewery representatives. The rest was spent trying beers I hadn’t tasted before. With a few tweaks, I can really see this festival growing from year to year. The concept of celebrating women in craft beer is something that has been desperately needed in the industry. The few people I talked to about the festival from outside of the state seemed rather intrigued. I’m expecting a much larger showing next year and for quite a few more breweries to attend from outside of Florida. This is one of those if you build it, they will come projects. Kudos to all the amazing women who contributed to this year’s FemAle BrewFest and made it a huge success. I look forward to drinking with you again soon.
Cigar City Brewing’s Hunahpu’s Day took place on Saturday, March 11th, 2017 at Cotanchobee Fort Brooke Park in Tampa, Florida. This internationally attended craft beer festival is built around the once a year release of Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout. The beer itself has an 11% abv (alcohol by volume) and is aged on cacao nibs, Madagascar vanilla beans, ancho chiles, pasilla chiles, and cinnamon. Hunahpu’s enjoys a top rating of 100 on both beeradvocate.com and ratebeer.com. The festival pulls in people and breweries from around the world. The day made for one hell of a party with an estimated 4,000 festival goers, brewery representatives, and volunteers, 146 breweries, and 386 different beers, meads, and ciders.
The second Saturday in March has come and gone and in the craft beer world, that means you have either enjoyed the hell out of Hunahpu’s Day or you sat home wishing you hadn’t made the decision to skip it. Personally, I was lucky enough to attend for my fourth year in a row. Every year I tell myself I’ll head to Tampa for more than just Hunahpu’s Day and every year I do more or less the same thing. In a parallel universe, there’s a single version of me crashing at a buddies house. Waking up hours before first light to start the day by sitting at Cycle Brewing for their daily bottle release. Hopefully, the alternate me is smart enough to grab breakfast and take a nap before hitting the next release, tap takeover, ticketed event, or bottle share. I can see his (or is it my?) shit eating grin now as he’s sitting in line after line all week. Building up an arsenal of bottles just for that one big beer haul pic to post on Instagram. Let the trade offers pour in, he’s thinking. Back over on my side of the parallel I do everything I can to stay away for the shortest amount of time possible from my wife and two and a half-year-old son, but I think next year I’ll expand my trip by at least a day so I can experience an early morning line and Cycle Brewing’s BA Day.
Unlike last year, I decided to leave the night before the festival so I could get a decent nights sleep instead of facing a three-hour drive at five in the morning. After getting an overly rambunctious kiddo to sleep, kissing the wife goodbye, and double checking that I had everything, I headed out the door around 10:30 pm. I’ve been rather lucky on these cross-state trips when it comes to traffic and was once again given clear roads. I pulled into Jason’s driveway around 1:20 am and unloaded. I spent about an hour unwinding from the drive by playing Mobile Strike on my phone. Damn is that game addicting! We woke up at 7:00 am, had a quick breakfast, and shot the shit for a bit before getting on the road. We parked at IKEA and took Uber to the general vicinity of the festival. A walk of a minute or two brought us to Cotanchobee Fort Brooke Park, where we quickly saw the major difference in the festival set up from last year. The park wasn’t fenced in this year like it was the year before. This was done so food trucks could be brought in and lined up on the road running alongside the park. Also, the four sets of tents were in a single line with Cigar City, mixed throughout, instead of having its own tent at the far end of the park. I think it was a great change as it spread people out a bit more and there wasn’t a mass of people in a tangle of lines all in one area for what Cigar City had to offer.
After a quick walk through the park, we started to search for the end of the line. The arena where the Tampa Bay Lightning play was ground zero and across the street from the park. We kind of wandered aimlessly for a bit looking for any indication of a line. After a few minutes, we discovered where we needed to be and at about 8:30 we were officially in line. The line itself moved surprisingly fast and soon enough we had our souvenir snifter in hand and were headed through Thunder Alley. Once through, we joined the rest of the line as a single mass of people. We were herded like cattle into a somewhat enclosed area to await the oncoming storm of nectar. After a phone call, I located the rest of the crew and headed their way. Like last year they had a plan worked out to hit all of the must-have breweries and meet back at a designated place. Unfortunately, I was nursing a back injury and decided running through the park with everyone else wasn’t the best plan of attack for me. To be honest, I hadn’t really set a plan of attack for myself knowing I wasn’t going to be overly quick on my feet.
The line holding the hordes of craft beer loving animals, who had come from near and far, was finally cut and the stampede commenced. I heard calls of “man down”, but couldn’t see the poor soul who had eaten dirt all in the name of craft beer. Since I had no plan, I more or less followed the crowd walking past Tent C and the massive line for 3 Sons Brewing. No, they are not just Florida hype folks! Tent D held the likes of the Voodoo Brewery, Mazurt Brewing, Garagiste Meadery, Bottle Logic Brewing, and J. Wakefield Brewing, which meant it was hit hard. The line for both Voodoo and Mazurt, who were side by side, were extremely long, so my first beer of the day was Westbrook Brewing’s ‘Willet Barrel Aged Mexican Cake’. They were right next to Mazurt and had absolutely no line. I decided then and there that my plan of attack was to not wait in a single line all day. The next few beers were good, but nothing really blew me away. They were Deciduous Brewing’s ‘Lambent’ Berliner Weiss with raspberries and passionfruit, Southern Brewing’s ‘Southeastern Berliner’, and Highland Park’s ‘Griffith J. Griffith’ Coffee Imperial Stout.
Somewhere around this point, I met up with my buddy Michael from North Carolina. He pointed out ‘Buckley’ Imperial Breakfast Stout from Transient Artisinal Ales and said I should try it and I’m extremely glad I did! I also tried Foeder #2 with De Chaunac Grapes from them as well. Both were damn good! Pinellas Ale Works and their 1888 Russian Imperial Stout aged on coconut was next. It was the first beer I have had from them and it showed me why Jason had mentioned, a few months back, that I should review them sooner rather than later.
August Schell Brewing brought two Berliner’s. ‘Tidal Disruption’, which was aged on blackberries and ‘Electrik Empress’, which was aged on plums. Pipeworks Brewing brought their barrel aged Milk Stout, ‘The Jones Dog’, which was one of my favorite beers of the day. A friend of mine was volunteering in the brewer’s tent and offered to grab me a pour of ‘ManBearPig’ from Voodoo Brewing. Since there was no way I was going to wait in Voodoo’s insane line I happily accepted. That’s a beer with a lot of hype behind it and I think it lived up to the hype. I tried ‘Citra High’, a Double IPA, and the white wine barrel aged ‘Levanto with Peaches and Lemon Peel’ from Madtree Brewing. Both were great beers and I really enjoyed how the barrel came through in ‘Levanto’. Devour Brewing Co., which is local to me, was next. I was telling Michael about their small brewery setup and how good some of their beers were so he was intrigued. We tried ‘Chocolate Coffee Fear Is NOT An Option’. It’s a Russian Imperial Stout aged with coffee, cocoa nibs, and Madagascar vanilla beans. It was a bit thin but turned out very nice. Surprisingly, I somehow missed almost all of the international breweries. The one I didn’t miss was Beavertown out of the U.K. I tried their Berliner Weiss called ‘Moonshiner’. It was aged for three months in Woodford Reserve Bourbon barrels and infused with lime zest. I don’t tend to see many bourbon barrel aged Berliner’s and this one turned out to be pretty damn tasty. The rest of the breweries I hit, in no particular order, were Sun King Brewing, Lord Hobo Brewing, Max Lagers Wood-fired Grill and Brewery, Modern Times Beer, Firestone Walker Brewing, Edmunds Oast Brew Pub, Jackie O’s Pub and Brewery, Ocelot Brewing, Central 28 Brewing, Melvin Brewing, Stillwater Artisanal Ales, Rapp Brewing, Haw River Farmhouse Ales, 18th Street Brewery, Black Project Spontaneous and Wild Ales, The Answer Brewpub, and Wild Heaven Beer.
The biggest mistake I made was not starting at Põhjala Brewery. They are from the country of Estonia and were my favorite brewery last year. Unfortunately, I missed out on two of their barrel aged beers, which I was excited to try after what they brought last year. Luckily, they had two other beers still on. The first was ‘Must Kuld Colombia’ a delicious chocolate covered raspberry coffee Porter. The second was one of my favorite beers of the day. Scotch Ales are a favorite style of mine, so I was pretty excited to try their barrel aged version. ‘Mel Gibson’ was aged for months in Highlands and Islands Scotch Whisky barrels. It is one of the best barrel aged Scotch Ales I’ve had to date. It was so good I had a couple more pours. Hell, I even started directing people to their tent as they walked past. I had met their Managing Director, Enn, last year, so I was happy to see him again. Unfortunately, their Head Brewer, Chris who happens to be Scottish, wasn’t able to make the trip again. In his place was their Sales and Marketing head, Peeter. I spent the rest of the festival shooting the shit with them. What can I say? I’m a fanboy of the brewery. Next year they will be my first stop without a doubt. I won’t miss another of their offerings again. I’ll also try to plan out the breweries I want to hit because I missed a lot by not venturing to both sides of the tents.
Jason eventually located me at the Põhjala tent and after a bit, we headed to the opposite end of the park to see the awards ceremony for the best breweries and beers of the day, which were voted on by the festival goers. First place for best ‘brewery’ went to Garagiste Meadery (Tampa, Fl) and best ‘beer’ for ‘Goober Vitis’ a peanut butter and jelly mead. Second place went to 3 Sons Brewing (Davie, Fl) and second best beer for ‘Double Barrel Summation’. Third place went to Proof Brewing (Tallahassee, Fl) and third best beer for Bourbon Barrel Aged ‘Grandma’s Goodies’. Typically I don’t miss Proof Brewing at a festival, but this time I did. Once the ceremony was over we headed to the Marriott to pick up our bottles. Just like last year, the process went smoothly. We walked away from the crowded area and ordered a Uber. Once back at Jason’s I took a much-needed nap. Around 7:00 pm we met up with Jerry for a quick in-person trade. Jerry brought bottles down from Canada and in exchange, I unloaded a couple of my Huna bottles to him. We then headed to The Stein and Vine to meet Jason’s good friends and owners of Garagiste Meadery, Chad and Sarah, along with their two kids. It was nice to talk to them about their big win earlier in the day and even nicer to discover how good the food was. I had a Caesar salad and a burger with fries. I’ve heard good things about the place, but now that I have the first-hand experience I know what I heard is true. The burger was about as perfect as a burger could be. After dinner, we headed back to Jason’s house and vegged on the couch for a couple of hours before calling it a night.
The next morning I headed out the door at 8:30 and located the nearest Dunkin Donuts. I ordered an apple fritter and large hot coffee with cream and sugar. I lucked out again on the way home and didn’t hit a single bit of traffic. I pulled into my driveway around 11:30 am and carefully unloaded. Once in the house, I said hi to my wife and patiently waited for my son to come home from his grandma’s house. There’s nothing like a hug from my son in general, but especially after I haven’t seen him in over 24 hours. It’s just one of those things that can’t be understood unless you’ve experienced it.
There it is folks. Another Hunahpu’s Day goes down in history as an absolutely kick-ass time. I’ll most certainly be back next year and maybe, just maybe for a day or two longer.
Did you attend Hunahpu’s Day? What were your favorite breweries and beers?
Cigar City Brewing’s Hunahpu’s (pronounced Hoon-ah-poos) Day is the biggest craft beer event in Florida. It all started as a celebration of Cigar City’s anniversary and for the once a year release of Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout in 2010. The 8th annual event has morphed into a full-blown international craft beer festival with breweries coming from as far away as Sweden. This will be my fourth time attending. My first year was 2014, which was the year counterfeit tickets were sold. Tickets were $50.00 and offered you the chance to buy bottles of Hunahpu’s for $20.00 apiece. The crowds swelled from the ticketed 3,500 to an estimated 6000 – 8,000. The bottles of Hunahpu’s quickly disappeared, leaving a whole lot of people unhappy. I had a great time that year and left with my full allotment before things really got crazy. I was one of the lucky ones. In 2015 the setup was changed to more of a festival feel. Tickets were $200 and guaranteed you as many pours as you could consume and four bottles of Hunahpu’s. The festival went off without a hitch. The location was moved from Cigar City’s parking lot to its current home in Cotanchobee Fort Brooke Park in 2016. The area of the park is spread out giving attendees a lot more room to move about. It’s a serious upgrade from Cigar City’s parking lot. Tickets were in three separate tiers. Entry to the festival and four bottles was $200, entry and eight bottles were $300, and for El Catador Club members $400 reserved 12 bottles. There were a few long lines, but overall I had a great time. This year tier prices were the same, but the third tier was available to anyone. I’m expecting another kickass time drinking absolutely incredible beer from the world’s finest breweries.
So you’ve finally decided to head to Tampa for Hunahpu’s Day. Well, there are a few things you should know. Last year we were told not to line up before 10:00 am. I showed up on time to a long ass line. I’m not sure why this surprised me. This year they say not to show up before 9:00? Well, you get the idea. The quicker you get inside, the faster you and your compatriots can hit the breweries you have listed as must haves. The last thing you want to do is rush to the 3 Sons Brewing just to find on arrival that everyone else ahead of you had the same plan. Map out your targets and each person in your group grab his or her designated pour of whatever has been deemed worthy. Designate a meeting spot and split up the booty. By that time, the crowd will be large enough that you will be waiting in your first real line.
Last year after getting the must haves out of the way a buddy and I hit a whole list of breweries with short lines and tried some amazing stuff. If people haven’t heard of a brewery, odds are that brewery’s line will be short or non-existent. For example, last year my favorite beer of the day came from the Põhjala Brewery in Estonia. I had no clue they even existed. Hell, I had no clue Estonia had a craft beer scene. I would have completely missed out if I bypassed them because I had never heard of them. Keep in mind there will be a lot of international breweries. These are the breweries that don’t distribute here and only come to the states for big time festivals so odds are you won’t see them again.
By now you should have received your wristband in the mail. DO NOT take it out of the box and tighten it to your wrist. The last thing you want to do is risk damaging the RFID (Radio-Frequency Identification). Please make sure you register the wristband and if you plan on spending a few dollars on t-shirts or other merch connect your credit card to the wristband. Not only will cash not be accepted in the festival but not having to access and swipe your credit card makes the line move faster. Also come prepared with a driver’s license, passport, or military ID. You will not be allowed in without both your ID and corresponding wristband.
Do not drive to downtown Tampa! I don’t say this because you will be drinking all day, which on its own is a Good enough reason. I say this because downtown Tampa will be absolutely swamped with people. There is a Tampa Bay Lightning game, a Fun Run, St. Patrick’s Day parade, and music festival all within three miles of Hunahpu’s. What I’m saying is there will be no parking available at all whatsoever. Cigar City says there will be a deal worked out with Uber, but those details have yet to be released.
There’s an App for That
Cigar City has released an app specifically for the festival for both Apple and Android. You can use the app to view the breweries, beer, the map of the festival, and vote for your favorite beer and brewery. Before the festival you can peruse the beer list and add your must haves to the apps wish list.
What to and Not to Bring
There are a few things you can and a few things you can’t bring into the festival. The following items can be brought inside. Suntan lotion, plastic or metal refillable water bottles and backpacks/purses are allowed inside the festival. Bags will be subject to search on entry and water filling stations will be available in designated areas. No children, pets, weapons, chairs, tents, coolers, or glass is allowed within the festival grounds. Outside alcohol will not be allowed inside the park and Cigar City strongly suggests against drinking in line or in any other public areas. There will be plenty of beer available inside and at the number of beer shares around town following the festival.
Just down the street from the festival grounds sits the Marriott Waterside Hotel at 700 South Florida Avenue. Bottle pick-up will be held there between 9:00 am and 5:00 pm. Do not enter the hotel through the lobby. The line for bottle pickup will be through the Riverwalk entrance. You will need your wristband for pick-up. You can leave the festival at any time, pick-up and drop your bottles off at your hotel, and return to the festival using your wristband for re-entry.
There are a number of shares going on after the festival throughout the area. Here are a few I’m aware of. The Westin Tampa Waterside, Tampa Marriot Waterside Hotel, and the Howard Johnson’s Hotel on Dale Mabry. Typically the shares will start at the hotel pool until the staff moves everyone inside due to the closure of the pool for the night. Odds are if you’re staying in a hotel listed on the Hunahpu’s site there will be a share in your hotel. If not, you now know where to go. You’re welcome!
I hope you have found the information above useful. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to ask. Let me know how you enjoyed your weekend in Tampa. I would love to hear about your experience. You can read about last year’s festival here.
January is one of my favorite times of the year for a few reasons. The holiday madness is over, the Christmas decorations are down (hopefully), and the Jupiter Craft Brewers Festival is back once again. The Jupiter Craft Brewers Festival is held at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, FL. Roger Dean is the Spring Training home of both the St. Louis Cardinals and Florida Marlins and the festival is held on the outskirts of the stadium itself. This year there were 85 breweries, cideries, and meaderies on hand to help tickle your taste buds. I arrived around 11:30 and quickly headed over to the cash line because in typical fashion I procrastinated just long enough and missed the chance to buy a ticket online. The festival, which is in its 11th year, releases 1,500 tickets online and 1,200 tickets in person at the gate. As luck would have it, I got a call after waiting for a grueling 5 minutes in line, which was just long enough to have my ID checked and bracelet received. The call was from my buddies who had located a ticket while they waited in the pre-purchase line. For those planning to attend in the future, buy your ticket online. It saves you the hassle of watching everyone else visit tent after tent while you’re still waiting to pay your $35.00 entry fee. After joining my friends in the pre-purchase line and exchanging cash for a ticket, I was handed a cup from my buddy and told to dig into the bottles that were already popped. The first beer, of four, that I sampled in our mini beer share was the 2016 version of Wicked Weed Brewing’s ‘Angel of Darkness’. I always forget how damn good that beer is! The next offering was ‘JDawg Porter’ brewed with pecan and vanilla from Fat Point Brewing in Punta Gorda, FL. It wasn’t a bad beer, but it was overshadowed by the other three we sampled. Next was an Imperial Stout with coffee that was brewed in a collaboration between Trillium and Evil Twin Brewing called ‘Dusk Trill Dawn’. If you can get your hands on this beer, you should! It was fantastic! Funky Buddha Breweries ‘Last Buffalo in the Park’ was the final beer poured just a few minutes before the gates were opened. That was my first opportunity to try the Buffalo and it did not disappoint.
I always tell my wife I’m a champion in the art of multi-tasking and I proved that by finishing my beer while getting my ticket scanned AND explaining to the volunteer at the gate that we were indeed allowed to bring backpacks into the festival. I guess I was pretty convincing because that’s all it took for her to let us through. I mean, where am I supposed to put all of the festival schwag that I collect throughout the day without a bag? Once through the ticketing portion, we gathered in the stadium concourse like cattle ready to begin our afternoon grazing session. A salivating mass waiting in anticipation of the brews that lay ahead.
A few minutes pass and the countdown to 1:00 pm begins. The gates are opened and it’s Black Friday at the neighborhood box store all over again with people heading in different directions to gain their first taste of the beautiful nectar that we so affectionately call craft beer. My first stop was Proof Brewing. I’m a big fan of pretty much everything I have tried from them, plus the only time they are available in South Florida is at a festival. They brought ‘Tropical Uprising Ipa’, a Belgian Strong Ale called ‘Peach Tea Litany of Angels’, and their ‘Coffee Creatures in the Dark’ Milk Stout. All three were certainly worth the wait in line, but I was a bit disappointed that they didn’t bring one of their Berliner Weisse down this time since it’s one of the samples I look forward to every year.
Next, I hit Copperpoint Brewing for their B. Rabbit Espresso Cream Stout and the Walking Tree Brewery for their ‘Limey Sailor’ Berliner Weisse and ‘Duke Sniders’ Imperial Stout. At that point, one of my buddies got my attention and said I needed to head over to the Finback Brewery tent because they were pouring an amazing black Gose. Finback Brewery is out of Queens, NY and has become friends with Civil Society Brewing so they were not only in town for the festival, but also to brew a chocolate IPA with the Civil boys. Back to the Gose. ‘The Sun is Too Bright Black Gose’ aged in red wine barrels was absolutely mind-blowing. The red wine wasn’t overpowering and everything seemed to meld together so very well. They were also pouring their Double IPA ‘MK Ultra’ which was delicious. I noticed a few cold cans behind the table and asked for a pour. I was delighted to receive a taste of ‘Red Shift’, which is a sour brewed with cranberries and the Japanese fruit Yuzu.
Tampa Bay Brewing had their golden ale named ‘Quat’, which is brewed with Kumquat and is very citrus forward. I stopped at Coppertail Brewing to try their ‘Guava Pastelitos’ Berliner Weisse and was once again blown away by it. Brewzzi was next on the list. Matt Manthe, who will be opening Odd Breed Wild Ales early this year, was representing Brewzzi with a barrel aged sour Porter called ‘Adjunct Fever’. It was brewed with cherry vanilla and cacao nibs. I was already eager for his brewery to open, but this beer just added to that excitement. I can’t wait to see what he comes up with for his new brewery.
I tried a Serrano Pepper Amber Ale called ‘Son of Sea Biscuit’ from Barley Mow Brewing, which was very well done. Just enough heat to keep you interested, but not enough to set your face on fire. I also tried their ‘Maven Chocolate Milk Stout’, which was a nice calming beer to follow the peppers. Devour Brewing brought a Mango Tea IPA and their Blizzard of Darkness Milk Stout aged on toasted coconut and Madagascar vanilla beans amongst others. I had tried both beers before and rated them a tick higher this time than I had the first time. Chip is definitely stepping up his game.
The Native Brewing Company brought a Scotch Ale aged in rye whiskey barrels called ‘Beam Me Up Scotchy’ that was marvelous. The Scotch Ale is a favorite style of mine, so I tend to be a tad picky and this one did not disappoint. The Brooklyn Brewery was only pouring from bottles, but I did stop to try their newest addition, the ‘Bel Air Sour’, which is a nice crisp dry-hopped sour. I happened upon the 26 Degree Brewing tent at the just right moment because they were having a timed release of their ‘Bourbon Barrel aged Scotch Ness Monster’. Talk about the beer gods being on my side! It was what Scotch Ales and bourbon barrel aging were meant to be. I really need to make it down to Pompano Beach to review these guys.
I stopped into the Civil Society Brewing tent for a bit to try their mouth-watering Double IPA, ‘Seventh Wonder’, and hang out for a bit. The craft beer community is filled with some really fantastic people and the folks at Civil run at the top of that list for me. After a bit, I headed to the Orchid Island Brewery tent where head brewer and co-owners Alden and Valerie Bing were pouring ‘Je Ne Sais Quoi Saison’ and a Berliner Weisse called ‘Beachside’. For the Berliner, you had the option to add one of two house-made syrups using either locally farmed Honeybell oranges or locally farmed key limes. All three were absolutely amazing! I shot the breeze with Alden for a while until we were joined by Civil Society’s Evan Miller for a bit of craft beer shenanigans. It was the perfect way to end yet another successful Jupiter Craft Brewers Festival. Once the festival started to shut down at 5:00 pm I visited with a few friends before walking over to Civil Society to close out the day.
If you haven’t been to this festival yet, I would highly suggest planning for it next year. It makes for a really entertaining day between all the beers and the continuous live music flowing through the crowd. Just make sure to have a plan for getting home after this drinking session as you probably won’t want to drive. If you’re coming from out-of-town there is a hotel within walking distance. If possible, try to get your hands on tickets to the exclusive event the night before, which is called the Field of Beers. Tickets are $100 apiece and there are only 300 available. Fifteen teams of brewers and Palm Beach area chefs are paired up for a beer and food pairing unlike any other. It was named the USA Today Readers’ Choice 4th best craft beer festival in the nation in 2016. Plus in all seriousness, there isn’t a better part of the country to be in during this time of year. It’s hard to beat a sunny 70-degree day in late January while sipping on some of the finest craft brews.
Cigar City Brewing’s Hunahpu’s Day is a craft beer festival held on the 2nd Saturday of March and built around the once a year release of Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout. The beer itself has an 11% abv (alcohol by volume) and is aged on cacao nibs, Madagascar vanilla beans, ancho chiles, pasilla chiles, and cinnamon while enjoying a top rating of 100 on both beeradvocate.com and ratebeer.com. Cigar City upped their game this year allowing for three different ticket options. There was the choice of a four bottle option for $200, an eight bottle option for $300, and strictly for El Catador members, a twelve bottle option for $400. A few weeks before the festival bracelets containing RFID chips were received. Each bracelet bearing the number of bottles that were purchased. The festival pulls in people and breweries from around the world. 3500 festival goers, 166 breweries, and 500+ different beers sound like one hell of a party.
When preparing for a 36 hour round trip to one of Florida’s biggest craft beer events, and definitely biggest bottle release, there are preparations that need to be made. I had to stop at my new favorite brewery, Civil Society, to pick up a few crowlers to share in whatever beer share I ended up at after the festival. God forbid I just pick up the crowlers and leave. That would be silly, so, of course, I had a beer while I waited the 5 minutes it takes to fill the crowlers which turned my time into a half hour. Once home, I ran down my mental list. Do I have the beer and water set aside that I’ll be throwing in the cooler in the morning? Do I have the Hunahpu’s bracelet? Clothes and other essentials?
Starting the trip at 5:15 a.m., Saturday morning, wasn’t so bad. Dunkin Donuts were my first stop because there was no way I was going to make the drive across the state on adrenaline alone. Large hot dark roast with an espresso shot, please! Damn it! I forgot the water that was sitting right next to the beer. So much for my mental list. The drive was uneventful and I pulled up to my buddies at 8:15 a.m. A quick omelet, more coffee, some bullshitting, and we were on our way. It turns out that not only was Tampa hosting Hunahpu’s Day, but they were also hosting the Gasparilla Music Festival so finding a parking spot took some time. Something came up out of nowhere and my buddy had to haul ass. That left me and my GPS a quarter of a mile walk which is nothing when the end point is a beer mecca.
This year, unlike years past, Hunahpu’s Day was held at Cotanchobee Fort Brooke Park in beautiful Downtown Tampa, Florida instead of the parking lot at the Cigar City Brewery. I wasn’t very surprised to find that a line had already formed even though festival goers were told over and over not to line up until 10:00 am. I found my spot in line next to a few buddies from home. The gates weren’t scheduled to open until 11:00 so there was some time to kill. I took a few pictures and a plan of attack was slowly hatched out. There were four of us and we were close enough to the front of the line that we could knock out a few of the must haves before the lines bulged with the 3,500 attendees. We agreed that two of us would hit Side Project for Derivation Blend #5 and Smooth, one would hit Bottle Logic for Fundamental Observation, and one would hit MAZURT Brewing for their barrel aged coconut stout that is actually served out of a coconut. Yeah I know, badass! Then we would meet in front of the 3 Sons Brewing tent.
After a quick tasting of everyone’s offering, 3 Sons was the next whale producer to slay. It only took five or so minutes before two of our friends disappeared, leaving two of us to plot out the next must-haves. After trying two of 3 Sons offerings, Apple Brandy Kona Summation and Dank Ness Monster, we more or less hit a number of places that didn’t have insanely long lines. I like to target places that you typically won’t see again and there were a number of breweries that fit that bill from outside of the U.S. We had the pleasure of trying Odyssey 005 (a blend of dark beers aged in a combination of scotch whiskey and bourbon barrels) from Siren Craft Brew, a brewery out of the U.K. Vanilj (a vanilla bean sour) and Hallon (a raspberry sour) from Brekeriet, a brewery out of Sweden. Feel the Beat (a Berliner Weisse made with beets) which had an absolutely amazing, almost neon reddish-purple color and a Bourbon Barrel Blueberry White Chocolate Berliner Weiss from Sahtipaja, another brewery out of Sweden. Finally, a brewery from Estonia named Põhjala that brought a black IPA called Pesakond, an imperial Baltic porter called Öö, a sherry barrel aged imperial stout called Pime Öö PX and a cognac barrel aged spiced imperial stout called Taanilinn Cognac BA. There were a number of breweries from the states spread amongst the international group as well, including Against the Grain, Angry Chair, Casa Agria, Fonta Flora, Fullsteam, Oskar Blues, Terrapin, Three Floyds, and Yazoo.
My buddy wanted to check out the Cigar City tent so we made the trek across the park to get into one of the many lines leading to the semi-trailer of CCB taps. We finally ran into our other friends again and were lucky enough to be at the front of the line when Apple Brandy Vanilla Marshal Zhukov went on tap. I proceeded to work my way towards the back of the line and offered up a few tastes to folks that were so far back they would never be able to get even a sniff of it. A couple of the other Hunahpu’s treatments I actually remember having were Rum-soaked Oak Coconut and Cherry. Both of which were outstanding with Coconut being a step above Cherry. By now it had to be pushing 4 pm and I hadn’t eaten since the omelet at 8:30 that morning so I wandered off to use my food tickets which were included in the ticket price. I had a couple of BBQ pork sandwiches, a BBQ chicken sandwich, and two helpings of arroz con pollo (chicken & rice), all of which were fantastic.
After a couple more beers it was time to head over to the Marriott and wait in line to pick up my bottles of Hunahpu’s. The line moved relatively fast and in no time I had picked up my case of Hunahpu’s. Being an El Catador Club member I had the option, which of course I took, to buy twelve bottles instead of the other options of four and eight. Miraculously, my first buddy showed back up and we were on our way to the Arco Iris Restaurant, which specializes in a combination of Cuban and Chinese food. I had the carne asada (roasted beef) which was delicious, especially after a day of drinking. Arco is definitely worth checking out if you’re ever looking for a quick meal at a reasonable price. A few texts back and forth led us to the Westin Hotel where we encountered a beer share already in progress. I opened a 2013 Bourbon BA Gonzo from Flying Dog to jump into the fray. I had the pleasure of trying a number of beers I had never had the opportunity to try such as Casey’s The Cut: Peach, Casey’s East Bank, Goose Island Brewpub’s Nutulhu, La Cumbre’s Project Dank, The Ale Apothecary’s Be Still, Tired Hands Milkshake, Night Shift’s Hogarth, and J Wakefield’s Harbinger amongst others. The share was a great way to end a fantastic day of drinking and meet a bunch of great people.
The next day I headed to the Denny’s down the street from Cigar City Brewing for a quick meal before heading over to get into line and pick up my El Catador bottles at 11. After a short wait in line, I had my bottles and the bottles of the two guys I trustee for. I hung out at CCB for an hour or so with some folks from the home front shooting the shit about the previous day. After a few quick goodbyes, I was on my way back home much more awake than I was on the trip over. Thankfully, it was another uneventful 3-hour trip. I walked in my front door to see my wife and 19 month old son for the first time in 36 hours. To me, there isn’t a better greeting than having my beautiful baby boy say “Dada!” and run over to me for a hug.
Hunahpu’s Day is absolutely a festival that should be put on your craft beer bucket list. Hell if you can swing it, go to Tampa for the entire week. Hunahpu’s Day encompasses the second to last day of Tampa Bay Beer Week, which showcases all of the area’s breweries and is closed out by 7venth Sun Brewing’s Hunahpu’s Hangover Day on Sunday. A number of the breweries release bottles during the week or in the case of Cycle Brewing a bottle named for every day of the five-day work week released on those corresponding days. I’m hoping that next year I’ll be able to spend another day or so in the Tampa area so I can get more of the experience that TBBW provides.
A few side notes. The festival goers had the opportunity to vote for their favorite brewery and favorite beer. The results for top breweries from 1st to 3rd were 3 Sons Brewing Co., J. Wakefield Brewing Co., and MAZURT Brewing Co. The top honors for favorite beer from 1st to 3rd went to 3 Sons Brewing’s Apple Brandy Summation, 3 Sons Brewing’s JBM35, and MAZURT Brewing’s Coconut Apple Brandy. Personally, my favorite brewery of the day was Põhjala from Estonia. Their cognac barrel aged spiced imperial stout called Taanilinn Cognac BA was absolutely fantastic. The sherry barrel aged imperial stout called Pime Öö PX was also delicious, but not quite up there with Taanilinn. It’s always nice to find a brewery I’ve never heard of from a place that I had no clue even had a craft beer scene. Throughout the rest of the day, I sent everyone I could to the Põhjala tent. Unfortunately, they don’t currently distribute to the U.S.
Were you at Hunahpu’s Day too? Did you have as good a time as I did? Did I leave anything out or is there something else you would have liked to hear about the festival? Please don’t hesitate to leave me a comment below.