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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Hunahpu's Day® 2017: Was It Good For You, Too?

Yes! The answer is yes. 

On Saturday, March 11, thousands of beer fanatics descended upon Cotanchobee Fort Brooke Park in downtown Tampa for the 8th Annual Hunahpu's Day® presented by Cigar City Brewing. Estimated attendance was around 4000. Add 140 of the most respected and sought-after breweries from across the U.S. and around the world. Combine that with a bright blue sky along the Tampa Riverwalk. It all added up to an amazing afternoon in celebration of beer. 

If you're asking who or what Hunahpu is and what Hunahpu's Day is all about, first take a look at the preview story on this site from last week for the background info and a "before" look at how this "Huna Day Virgin" prepared for what is likely the most well-known beerfest in all of Florida (with a reputation beyond state lines as well).  


Upon arrival at the scene (pre-10 am), much of the crowd was already assembled in the designated "holding" area adjacent to Amalie Arena across the street from the park after having their pre-paid wristbands scanned. A pretty docile-looking bunch, or maybe they just weren't quite awake yet, as many were probably out enjoying Tampa Bay Beer Week events the night before ....


video


 Or, looking at things another way...


View from behind the "holding" area pre-11am entry time,
looking towards the fest grounds across the street.


Checking and scanning those wristbands!
Meanwhile (still pre-11am), in the upstairs ballrooms at the neighboring Marriott Waterside Hotel, crews were busy loading and unloading the precious boxes of Hunahpu's® Imperial Stout that the revelers would claim as part of their tickets:


Carriers of Huna everywhere!
Along the Tampa Riverwalk next to the hotel, people were milling about, and there were signs of the day ahead:


Waiting to fill that Huna glass!
On the fest grounds, volunteers and brewery staff were taking their deep breaths. Just before the fest opened, there was calm:


Pre-fest view from the Riverwalk looking in....

I made my way through the park toward the entry and faced the crowd across the street as they were about to be unleashed as the clock struck 11am. And, then it happened:


video

Hunahpu's Day 2017 is officially open! Fearing for my life as these excited beer fans crossed the street and into the park, I decided it was time to move to safer grounds. Plus, I needed a beer at that point! 


Beer tasting was organized under four long, large tents and a separate draft truck featuring all Cigar City Brewing beers. Each brewery had its own table, with overhead signage, and each space was separated by small white picket fences (added to the ambience, I thought). A merchandise tent was positioned in the center of the venue, and food trucks lined the street. Groups of portable restrooms were set in between the food trucks and the beer tents.

Many members of that opening crowd were instantly (or, urgently, as the case may be) headed to pre-determined breweries (and/or the bathrooms). Some lengthy lines began to form at certain breweries almost immediately. The brewery list was announced pre-fest on the dedicated Hunahpu's Day website and on the mobile app, so these guys knew what they were looking for -- well, most of them -- when some were asked why they were standing in a few of the longer lines, they weren't sure, but, hey, everyone else was there!  

Although I didn't specifically count each beer style on the list, it appeared that there was greater than a 50/50 split between Barrel-Aged beers (accounting for most, it seemed), and all other beer styles. Crowds were indeed noticeable at the tables of 3 Sons Brewing, J. Wakefield Brewing, Angry Chair Brewing and WeldWerks. For the most part, though, with all of those breweries on site, I found the lines to be manageable, and I never waited very long. (Admittedly, though, I wasn't on the high-ABV Barrel-Aged bandwagon).  I was even able to have short discussions with some of the brewery reps. I notched a number of new beers in my check-in list. 




As mentioned in the preview story, before the fest, I had created a printed spreadsheet from the "wish list" of new beers that I ticked on the Hunahpu's Day app. And, as anticipated in the preview story, I didn't make a dent in that list. I tried a number of different styles, from Blonde Ale to Doppelbock to Berliner Weisse to IPA to one of my favorite styles, Imperial Stout. I was pretty happy!

Not only were there beers of all styles, there were beers of all colors! With the bright colors of MIA Beer Co.'s (Miami) branding, there was a pink beer to match! This, the Encanto DeAmor Berliner Weisse, a tart 'n fruity brew made with raspberry and passionfruit (it even earned a Silver Medal at Best Florida Beer Championships the week before). 



At the opposite end of the color, flavor and style spectrum were beers like this one from Devour Brewing (Boynton Beach): Chocolate Coffee Fear Is Not an Option Russian Imperial Stout (9.5 ABV), made with coffee, cocoa nibs and vanilla -- pretty much everything you could ask for!



Or, how about more coffee? Faction Brewing (Alameda, CA) offered its Java World Stout (6.0 ABV), made with cold pressed coffee -- a creamy, coffee delight. Keep in mind this writer doesn't even drink coffee, except when it's in a beer!




I stopped at the Aardwolf Brewing (Jacksonville) table and spent some time chatting about beer with Lance and Preben. Aardwolf also racked up a couple of medals at last week's Best Florida Beer (to go with a few it already had). This is one of Jax's favorites, and no wonder with all of the creativity that flows here (for more background info, see the anniversary story from last year on this site). Aardwolf brought four beers, including its Rum Barrel Aged White Russian Imperial Stout, Eater of Dreams Fruited & Foeder Aged Dark Sour, Must be the Peaches Berliner Weisse, and Hop Oddity #5 Hazy IPA.  I put some puckering peaches in my glass. Preben must have been curious as to what was going on, as he got in on the photobomb:




Last week at Florida Brewers Guild's FBG Fest in Tampa (see recap story), I visited with Pair O'Dice Brewing (Clearwater). Owners Ken and Julia said I had to come back to see them this time around to try some of their Pit Boss Triple IPA. Well, turns out that beer won a Silver Medal at Best Florida Beer. So, after mugging it up with these two (always a fun time), we enjoyed that Triple IPA (11.5 ABV), a smooth and balanced concoction featuring citrus, pine and tropical flavors, with a hint of sweetness. I think I had a couple of those (who's counting?)!



And, by the way, nice cans, Ken:

The guys from up-n-coming Brevard Ale Works (Space Coast) also made the trek to Huna Day. They've been pouring their own craft beers at beerfests along the Space Coast, and they're already got more than a few fans looking forward to this new brewery opening down the line. They're no strangers to beerfests and photos on this site!



Eventually I found my way to the Red Cypress Brewery (Winter Springs) table. I had heard good things about its "Carl IPA," and that was on my list. First, there was another fruit-colored beer (this time bluish-purple), in the Never Nude American Wheat. Made with blueberries -- 2000 pounds of 'em -- this is one refreshing brew that isn't too sweet. 



The Carl IPA (7 ABV) is a hoppy, juicy, tropical and fruity beer, with noticeable grapefruit and a hop bite on the backend. The name? Well, there's no real reason behind that, it seems. I first met these guys over a year ago at DeLand Beer Fest, and it's a booth I always look forward to.  One of these days I'll even get over to the brewery....



I won't go over each beer I tasted, but trust me, there were a  number of highlights. One of the more unique beers I tried was Carton Brewing's (New Jersey) Cupid Chocolate Malted Stout (6.6 ABV). This stout was full of chocolate, along with floral notes from rose petals (yes, rose petals in the beer). 


But, this was a fest hosted by Cigar City Brewing, after all!  In addition to the CCB draft truck which offered a number of CCB beers, the namesake Hunahpu's Imperial Stout was also pouring at several other tents. The Strawberry Creamsicle IPA (7.5 ABV) was another of my favorites (I had a few of these, too). The beer doesn't really need a description, because the name says it all - yes, it was even creamy! 

The 2017 Hunahpu's Imperial Stout (11 ABV) displays intense chocolate flavor, along with espresso, and notes of cinnamon and vanilla. I found that this year's version brings the heat, with ample chili on the back. It's one to savor. 




Cheers to Cigar City Brewing for an amazing afternoon! Fest entry included four tickets for tapas-portioned foods from a number of food trucks which offered a wide selection of different items. With 4000 people in one place, the venue handled it, and even with temperatures in the mid-80's, everyone seemed pretty cool. While some additional seating may have been welcome, it was a fest made for exploring the many beers. 

"Monster" water stations were set up around the grounds, and it was easy to fill water containers. 




Of course, beer began to run out, some early on. Still, there was plenty of beer right up until 4:45, when last call happened. And, where did everyone go?



Some were still claiming their 4, 8, or 12 bottles of Huna as the fest came to an end. Other than observing a few folks dauntingly pondering the sight of the stairs to and from the upstairs bottle claim, the pick-up also appeared to go smoothly. 




Last, but not least, the winners of the Best Brewery and Best Beer, by vote were: 
Third: Proof Brewing  - Brewing Bourbon BA Grandma's Goodies;
Second: 3 Sons Brewing  - Double Barrel Summation; and
First: Garagiste Meadery - Goober Vitis (peanut butter and jelly)
Congratulations!

Overall, this Huna Day Virgin fared well on the inaugural visit, and the answer is yes! It was one helluva fest and a great time.  I'm looking forward to next year!

Thanks and Cheers to Cigar City Brewing for a job well-done! I can now say that I've been to Huna Day!  And, yeah, it lived up to the hype, in this writer's opinion. 

Another beer fest in the books! While Florida beerfest season is winding down, there are still more events on the way!  Be sure to check 'em all out right here on brewnymph.com. See you in Florida Somewhere around a beer ...

Cheers!
Til next time,




Linda









Linda Johnson, Certified Cicerone®


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