How to Hunahpu’s: A Beginners Guide

A History

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.

Beer Mecca

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.

Where it All Goes Down

Cotanchobee Fort Brooke Park

601 Old Water St

Tampa, FL 33602

What Works for Me

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.

Wristband

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.

Register your wristband here.

Connect a credit card here.

To Drive or Not to Drive

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.

Bottle Pickup

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.

Beer Share

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.

Cheers!

Cigar City Brewing's Hunahpu’s Day

My Yearly Trek to Cigar City Brewing’s Hunahpu’s Day.

Hunahpu's day, florida craft beer, craft beer, craftdaddyblog.com, cigar cityCigar 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 thatHunahpu's Day, Florida craft beer, craft beer, craftdaddyblog.com 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?

Hunahpu's Day, Florida craft beer, craft beer, craftdaddyblog.comStarting 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 beautifulHunahpu's Day, Florida craft beer, craft beer, craftdaddyblog.com 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 3 Sons Brewing, Hunahpu's Day, Florida craft beer, craft beer, craftdaddyblog.comBrandy 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.Hunahpu's Day, Florida craft beer, craft beer, craftdaddyblog.com

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.

Hunahpu's Day, Florida craft beer, craft beer, craftdaddyblog.comAfter 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’sHunahpu's Day, Florida craft beer, craft beer, craftdaddyblog.com 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.

El Catador Club, Hunahpu's Day, Cigar City Brewing, Craftdaddyblog.com, craft beer, florida craft beerHunahpu’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.

Põhjala, Estonia, Hunahpu's Day, craft beer, florida craft beer, craftdaddyblog.com
The masterminds behind Põhjala.

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.

Cheers!