It’s my favorite time of the year: Tampa Bay Beer Week
The Tampa Bay Area spends all week drinking, supporting local breweries,supporting local bars, and celebrating the craft of beer. Tampa Bay Beer Week is a recent Tampa celebration, started in 2012, that was ignited by our city’s growing love of craft beer and the explosion of local craft breweries in the area. TBBW’s mission statement – “Celebrate Tampa Bay beer culture and showcase the area as an emerging and vibrant craft and specialty beer destination.”
Yeah, it’s pretty much amazing.
Every year TBBW usually falls around the first week of March. Every night of the week has at least one event to attend; highlighting a brewery, style of beer, or food pairing dinners. I usually pick one event every night to attend and spend my whole week sampling amazing beer (and gaining 5 pounds). Unfortunately, I am a big girl this year, I have a job and responsibilities (and I am saving up for an extremely exciting vacay). So, this year I picked 2 events that, in my opinion, are the best events to attend. I also went to a new event thrown by a brand new brewery to the area.
EVENT ONE – BREWER’S BALL
So the week chosen for Tampa Bay Beer Week isn’t random. It comes right after the Best Florida Beer Championships. So what is Brewer’s Ball? An all-you-can-drink beer festival featuring all of the beers that medaled at the BFBC. It’s a flat fee ($30) for unlimited drinking. The event is a pour yourself event, which is very efficient. They have live music, a raffle, and this year the Columbia Cafe was selling cubans and their amazing 1905 salad. Tampa classics. Check out the winner’s/beer I was drinking here: Best Florida Beer
After that event, we drank more beer. My friends and I headed over to the Independent, it ended up becoming the “after party.” If you’ve never been to the Independent before, I highly recommend it. It used to be an old gas station, then it was converted into an amazing craft beer bar in Seminole Height (my hood) with an attached cafe that has DELICIOUS sandwiches. I am a huge fan of the outdoor area, and so is my dog Renly. More pics of beer:
EVENT TWO – GREEN BENCH BREWING’S FOEDER FOR THOUGHT
Green Bench Brewing is new to the Tampa Bay area. They opened an absolutely beautiful brewery and tasting room in St Pete (right by Tropicana Field) around September of 2013. This was their first TBBW as a brewery and decided to host their own event, Foeder for Thought: A Wood Fermented Beer Tasting.
I arrived to the event via the Tampa Bay Brew Bus (also known as Brew Bus Brewing). It was $20 each to take us to and from the event safely with unlimited drinking on the bus. Im obsessed with the Brew Bus. Even if it wasn’t owned by one of my bestest friends in the whole wide world, I would still rave about this company. It does private events, brewery tours, First Friday events, sporting events, beer festivals, you name it. And the bus is always filled with all you can drink Brew Bus Beer! Are Wheat There Yet and Rolling Dirty are their most popular beers and are distributed to bars and craft beer shops around the Tampa Bay Area. It’s Awesome.
The Foeder for Thought event was a free event. You had to buy the beers via tickets (tickets started out at $3 a piece but would get cheaper the more you bought, a little pricey for the smaller pours). Once you purchased a ticket, you were given a souvenir glass for pours. Most beers were one ticket while the more ‘rare’ beers were 2 tickets. Unfortunately for me, I have been on a sour beer kick lately and all of those beers were 2 tickets. Another unfortunate thing, that didn’t stop be from drinking all of them. My favorite of the night – Green Bench Brewing’s Brown Sour Ale. So good.
While the event had a few food trucks on site, Joe and I can never say no to the Bodega. Right across the street from Green Bench is this amazing bodega and I LOVE their cuban sandwiches. Cubans and beer, yet again.
EVENT THREE – HUNAHPU’S DAY
Hunahpu’s day is always the perfect way to end TBBW. Cigar City Brewing, the Tampa Bay Area’s most popular local brewery, releases their famous Imperial Stout: Hunahpu. If you’re from the North and are familiar with Dark Lord day, then you have an idea of what Hunahpu day is all about.
The event is an all day beer festival that of course features this year’s batch of Hunahpu along with hundreds of other Cigar City Brewing beer. Local breweries show up with kegs of their favorites, breweries across the U.S. like to send CCB a few kegs, and the Home Brewer Associations set up camp as well so you can try some real home brews. There’s also food trucks galore, live entertainment, local merchants, and the bottle release of Hunahpu.
Everyone is talking about this year’s event. Whether you have heard the good, bad or ugly stories; here is mine. I love this event. I used to be a Cigar City Brewing employee, and I can tell you first hand how much planning and hard work goes into putting together this event for the community. CCB is such an amazing company and they truly are all about supporting local businesses and the Tampa Bay area.
In the past, the event has been a free event and you pay for your beers as you go. Last year 9,000 people showed up. The CCB property is large, but not large enough to accommodate 9,000 people. In hopes of containing the event, CCB sold a limited 3,500 tickets ($50 a piece) for an unlimited drinking festival. Awesome right?! Those tickets sold out THAT DAY. I honestly want to say in a few hours it sold out but I don’t have the specifics. So what did people do? They saw an opportunity for investment. It looks like some people made copies of their Eventbrite ticket and sold them. Stubhub, craigslist, outside the event, just made multiple copies and took advantage of beer lovers wanting to go to the event.
So of course, people are lining up outside the brewery and this line turns into the longest line ever. I personally waited an hour and a half to get in. I was upset at first but, I mean, what can you expect when thousands of people arrive somewhere at the same time? I can tell you, that line.
But for some reason it was taking a little longer than you would expect to get in. Come to find out, those poor people who bought counterfeited tickets were holding up the line. Their tickets were not scanning properly and the CCB employees were dealing with outraged and upset customers. In hopes of not causing a scene or upsetting their adoring fans, they decided to let them in. Two-thousand ‘adoring fans’ later, there was an insane amount of people in the event. Yeah, the lines were long to get beer but there was still less people than last year, I was still able to drink all I wanted, and I tried all of the beers that were on my list.
Highlight of the day: Angry Chair‘s Three Little Birds.
Whenever I got sick of lines I just went over to the home brewers. For some reason no one was lining up for those beers and the people who weren’t, were fools. I had some really amazing beers in that area and home brewers are always excited to share their beer.
The bottle release chaos:
The rule was, once you got into the event you received a silver bracelet. That bracelet gave you the opportunity to purchase three bottles of Hunahpu. You could do so from 11am – 4pm. Once 4pm came around you could get back in line and purchase extra bottles. There was a 1 case limit (12 bottles). So if you didn’t buy your bottles before 4pm you were risking the chance that they might sell out. Which they did. I was hanging out with a few CCB employees who were done volunteering for the day, when 4pm came around.
This is what the chaos looked like from inside the packaging facility:
Around 4:45 the Hunahpu bottles were sold out and people were not happy. Okay, I get it, you wanted to take a few bottles home and the day didn’t go exactly how you planned it. I read one blog, Beer for the Daddy, and he could not have said it better. He wrote, ” If you fly down from Ohio to visit Disney World, and it rains the whole time you are here, are you going to sue Disney and ask them to refund your hotel and meals? Of course not. If you get inside the park and Pirates of the Caribbean breaks down just as you are about to get on after waiting in line for two hours, are you going to start a Facebook page about how Disney “screwed” you? Bad things happen. Plans sometimes go awry.” I understand people were upset but I don’t think it was enough to physically push employees, threaten to burn down the brewery, and scream about how this amazing company sucks (I witnessed all those things happen). Put your big boy pants on and walk away.
End of this long story, Joey Redner, owner of CCB, refunded everyone their tickets (losing around $175,000) and the next day, all the beer in the tasting room was free. The staff was there all day apologizing for the event, they will be brewing more Hunahpu to sell, and they have canceled the event for the future. Way to go angry 40-year old men.
Do I think Hunahpu day is really over? I hope not. I think that CCB knows how amazing this beer festival is and hopefully in the future they treat it as just that, a beer fest. By taking the bottle sales out of the equation, I think they have an amazing opportunity to still have the best TTBW event. I would still recommend Hunahpu’s day to any lover of craft beer. Like I said before, I definitely drank my $50 worth and was able to be around everyone in the area that cherishes what this brewery has done for not only craft beer within the community but also local businesses.
So here’s to another amazing TBBW! Check out the website to see other events that happened this year and check back for next year’s events!