Hunahpu's Day 2014: When Bad Things Happen to Good Festivals

Categories: Beer Beer Beer

Doug Fairall
Couldn't even see the end... The festival had been going on for over two hours already.

"How far down does it go?" I asked one of the visibly annoyed but still in good spirits line standers.

"All the way to 275," he said. Looking down, I could not see the end. From the brewery to the highway is almost a half-mile.

That's not ideal, but people are getting in.

By 3 p.m. though, the venue became filled with so many people that it became almost impossible to move about. It soon became MC Escher Day as lines snaked into other lines. The roadblocks of so many folding chairs didn't help matters at all. By this point, most of the super-rare kegs had kicked and I noticed a disturbing trend among my fellow beer aficionados: a lot of them still had their silver wrist bands, meaning they hadn't yet picked up their allotted three bottles of Hunahpu's that they could buy. CCB had signs posted everywhere stating that those wishing to purchase their bottles should do so before 4 p.m., when it would become a veritable free-for-all.

This is possibly the linchpin to the controversy surrounding this year's festival.

As 4 p.m. nears, the line/amoeba surrounding the loading docks where the bottles were being sold began to compact. Cases began to be sold. Realizing the time and what that could mean to their chances of bottles, helpless people with their wristbands still intact attempted to push in vain to the front of the line, but it barely moved.

After almost half an hour of waiting and seeing bottles move overhead by the case, to many, the unthinkable happened.

Shut down. Depleted. Out of stock. Gone.

It was a surprise to many, and a few of the more impaired persons began to make a scene. "Time to get out of here," I heard a couple nearby tell each other, as they and some others realized this could get out of hand quickly. Luckily it didn't. (Even if I did get a nice shove from one of Tampa's finest. I don't think he liked the reporters' notebook).

Cigar City wrote the following on Facebook shortly after.

So, today did not go as expected. We realize that there were a lot of issues with duplicate tickets, way too long waits in lines, and all of that. We can promise 100% that we are going to make it right, whether it be refund, or whether we brew a batch of beer that we will bottle and make completely free to all attendees that had issues today. We're completely sorry for all issues that happened today. It really sucked. We completely understand how much it sucked and hate how much it sucked. We don't want it to suck ever again. We will do what we can to make it right.

Then, another development.

As we figure out how to make up for the nightmare that happened today, we'd line to start with this mea culpa: all draft beer in the tasting room tomorrow [Sunday March 9th] will be FREE. We will not charge a dime for any beers served in the tasting room tomorrow. We are going to try and tap all of the remaining kegs leftover from today, too.

And finally.

Regarding Hunahpu's Day:

If you purchased a ticket to Hunahpu's Day directly through, you will automatically be refunded your money. We will begin these refunds starting tomorrow.

If you paid for your ticket with cash or credit card in person, please email and we will directly communicate with you to determine the best way to get your money back.

So there it is.

Is this a learning experience for CCB? I would hope so. As many have already stated in some online message boards like BeerAdvocate and Reddit, flaws in the festival such as a bottleneck at check-in, a relatively small festival ground for the size of the event, and no clear delineation between certain core waiting areas all coalesced into a slow decline in participants' morale.

What's to come next? We'll keep our eyes glued to Cigar City's social network. But it wasn't a total loss. After all, attendees were able to sample some pretty stellar beers and then -- through some unfortunate circumstances -- ended up doing so for free. It's a mad, mad, mad, mad, mad beer world, for sure.

It appears that this will be the last Hunahpu's Day. Cigar City's founder Joey Redner told The Full Pint, "I am acknowledging defeat. That was the last Hunahpu Day. The beer will go into distribution next year and hopefully spread out among many accounts it will get to consumers more fairly."

Doug Fairall is a craft beer blogger who focuses on Florida beers and has been a homebrewer since 2010. For beer things in your Twitter feed, follow him @DougFairall and find the latest beer pics on Clean Plate's Instagram.

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