Lasciate ogni sparanza, voi ch’entrate.
-Dante, La Commedia, Canto III
With those words etched in a stone above the Gate to Hell, Dante and Virgil begin their descent to Hell. Loosely translated it means, “Abandon all hope, you who enter here.”
This would not have been out of place hanging above the entrance at Cigar City’s Hunahpu Day 2014. What started as something that could have been amazing (akin to Dark Lord Day 2013) turned into something from the 8th circle of Hell.
What follows are only my experiences at the festival and what I saw. Rumors and other events will be addressed at the end, along with viability/validity of said rumor.
Even after getting texts from friends saying they were letting people in early, my buddy and I still decided to arrive near the suggested 11 AM start time. So we headed out to Target to get some snacks and water, regrouped at the hotel, and grabbed our festival gear and walked over to Cigar City. Upon arrival at approximately 10:40 (about the time I wanted to get there anyways), we got in a somewhat long line. Even though we were on the street parallel to the brewery, the line moved quickly. We approached the entry gate, got our tickets scanned (it even didn’t take the first time and he had to scan it again), got our orange re-entry wristband, our silver bottle allotment wristband, tap list and locations and taster glass and headed in.
Our first order of business was to find our group, which had come earlier to get a spot. They thankfully got a spot under the tent, saving everyone from massive sunburn. With our bags placed, I decided to head up to the merchandise booth to get that out of the way (I like glassware and it’s usually one of the first things to go at events like this). Inquiring as to its location, my group said it was near the entrance to the fest, in front of the tap room, so off I headed.
While walking back, I noticed lines had already formed (and were quite long) for both Toppling Goliath and J. Wakefield. Little did I know this was to be a theme.
I made it up front, saw a line, and got in it. When I asked a volunteer if it was the merchandise line, she replied that I was in the special bottle sales line; the merchandise line was to my right. Given this new development, I stayed in the special bottle sales line.
After about 10 minutes of waiting in line, they put up the for sale list. Illuminating the Path, Good Gourd Almighty, Don Gavino’s Big Guava, and Forgotten Island were all $25 per bottle, no limit. But the real oddity was the final one on the list.
Double Barrel Hunahpu’s. Limit 12. (I initially read 1 because, hell, it’s DB Huna, but looking closer it was clearly 12).
I quickly texted friends in the group to get down by me (which they did). Cash and space restrictions necessitated me splitting the case multiple ways, but I was still able to buy a case, somehow. Yes, I will admit this was complete luck.
We all walked out with whatever we bought to bring it back to the car parked across the street. Upon returning, we looked at an ever increasing line, much longer than the one I had been in at 10:40.
I now decided it was time to try some taps. I really wanted to try some of J. Wakefield’s beers, so I lined up. After a moderate wait, I got the Hazelnut Master Blaster and got back in a much longer J. Wakefield line. After a slightly longer wait, I got a pour of Tootsie Roll Brown (Miami Madness and DFPF were timed tappings). I decided to next try Funky Buddha’s Maple Bacon Coffee Porter, but the line for it was already the width of the festival, so I passed, hoping to wait it out until the line was shorter (big mistake). I proceeded to spend a majority of the next 1-2 hours bottle sharing and venturing out to try and get pours, only to realize ALL the taps had long lines. Something started seeming off at this point.
At some point during that time, I decided to get my allotment. Two people were ahead of me. I waited the 10 seconds, paid my $60, and walked away with my 3 bottles of Hunahpu. I didn’t check my phone, but it wasn’t later than 12:30. We once again made the trip to the car to drop off the bottles, and once again noticed the line was even longer than the last time we went to the car. Uh-oh.
Now the 1 PM tapping were imminent. Ghost of Hunahpu, Double Barrel Hunahpu, Final Push, Rum BA Penultimate Push, Hunahpoopoo and Double Barrel Hunahpoopoo were all being tapped at 1 PM. And you know what that meant.
Long lines of people at each of the tapping areas at least an hour before tapping, clogging up what was already a nightmare to navigate through.
I luckily had a friend who was more than happy to get me a pour of Penultimate Push (their Marshal Zhukov imperial stout with coffee), but that was it for me for the 1 PM tappings. I then headed over to the J. Wakefield line for the 2PM DFPF (Dragon Fruit Passion Fruit berliner weisse) tapping.
This line had problems. One end of the line was merging into what was becoming the Hunahpu bottle sale mob, and there was another line the opposite of that one that merged into the Wakefield line, slowing everything down. After about at least an hour (if not an hour and a half), I got my pour of DFPF.
That was my last pour of the fest. I had had enough.
I headed back to my group under the tent and bottle shared the rest of the fest. I walked in the tap room twice (it was now open) to check it out, then headed back to my group. Around 3:30 I headed over to see what the status was of the case Hunahpu sales. What I was met with was something that was scary and, most importantly, downright dangerous.
A mob had formed around the bottle sales area. Within this mob were two types – those trying to get their promised 3 bottles and those waiting for 4PM for the case sales. I likened it to a mosh pit at a concert – pushing, swaying, with sometimes vain and sometimes successful attempts at letting people out of it. Thankfully, I had left before the real shit went down.
Making my way back to my group, I continued to bottle share. I kept getting texts from friends back home reporting a riot. My buddy returned from the area with his silver allotment wristband and no bottles. They had sold out, doing case sales before taking care of those with a guaranteed allotment. Well, there’s the supposed riot.
After about a half hour, my buddy and I headed up to the tap room to see if anything was to be done about the lack of bottles.
But the tap room was closed. Odd, since it was open earlier in the day and Cigar City stated it would be open after the fest.
We went back to our group and bottle shared until a police officer asked if we were heading out. We said yes, he gave us the thumbs up and said told us to move out. With that we headed back to our hotel rooms.
I’m well aware my experiences were very different than most people’s at the festival (definitely for the better), but I still agree it was a poorly run and extremely dangerous festival that needs some major overhaul if it is ever to be held again. (Cigar City has said, “No,” to this, but time – and the prospect of making money – tend to change things a bit).
So what the hell happened?
RUMOR 1: Too many people in the festival.
Probably the easiest to solve and control, there were many theories as to what happened here. There was no doubt more than the “hard” 3,500 people. Cigar City says too many fakes made it in; a friend of mine says they sold 3,500 El Catador tickets, 6,000 regular tickets, and 500 comped. Given the fact that they had AND WERE GIVING OUT a silver allotment wristband to everyone in attendance, I’m inclined to believe the latter, but until the truth comes out no one will know.
RUMOR 2: They stopped scanning tickets.
Totally true. They did. Very ill-advised and dangerous thing to do.
RUMOR 3: They sold the El Catador bottles to those that got in early or those that had an inside tip.
I arrived at 10:40, which was after I knew I could get in earlier. That was my target time regardless. Early enough to line up, but not too early to be a burden. I still got El Catador bottles; I just asked the volunteer. And, yes, luck played a big role as well. No secrets here.
RUMOR 4: The tap room closed because of people throwing empty 750s at employees.
This appears to be true, as I have had at least 2 people, when asked, say this happened. Makes sense as to why the tap room was closed after the bottles sold out.
RUMOR 5: There were fist fights.
True again, from multiple sources. What the hell people? This is why security is needed at every event; there are dumb people everywhere, especially at an event where alcohol is being served.
From a logistics standpoint, the fest really needed to take over the lot and street to the east of the brewery to be safer and more roomy. Also, the time tappings needed to go. Those always create dumb lines of people lining up hours ahead of time to get the pours. Surprise people by just putting it on at some random time and then have the line form. I hate timed tappings. They need to go.
The positives were few. The bathroom lines were non-existent; virtually no wait. The bottle sharing. My god the bottle sharing. Without this, it would have been one of the worst events of any kind I would have attended. But it was there, and really made it fun and entertaining. And, of course, meeting all the great beer fans from across the country will never get old. The people doing the bottle sharing in the tent made this event, bar none.
Cigar City has said they are going to refund all Hunahpu Day ticket sales, as well as brew more Hunahpu for those who missed out (at the very least). It’s a step in the right direction, but an apology, accepting some (or all) of the blame (instead of blaming scalpers and their customers), and a serious retooling if they plan to host this event ever again is needed before I think of attending solely for this purpose.