Wakefield leads the South FL Pack at Hunahpu’s Day 2016
It was one of those mornings where you hear the theme from 2001: Space Odyssey in your head; promise, trepidation, and excitement all rolled into one emotion. Last weekend, Cigar City Brewing hosted their 7th Annual Hunahpu’s Day, and it definitely lived up to the massive amounts of hype that surrounds it.
Held for the first time off-site from the brewery at Cotanchobee Fort Brooke Park in Downtown Tampa, by 9:30am the line extended for well over a block despite the fact that gates didn’t open til 11am. While the event started off relatively low key in 2010 with attendees in the hundreds enjoying the release in the brewery’s tap room, Hunahpu’s received tons of critical accolades at competitions that year and it wasn’t long before in 2013 an estimated 9,000 people flowed through the gates to get a taste. Thankfully after some growing pains, this year with the total attendance capped at 3,500 people it was big enough to feel crowded, but in the new larger venue you didn’t feel overwhelmed either.
“Having attended previous years it was great to see the growth and camaraderie of the brewing industry within Florida” commented Alex Gutierrez from J Wakefield Brewing. Hunahpu’s Day, which celebrates the annual release of its namesake Imperial Stout by Cigar City Brewing, in a very short time developed a cult following and mythological aura around it. The event has garnered such a high esteem in part because of the rarity of the unquestionably delicious beer being released itself, which is only available on that day and a short period after in extremely limited quantities from the brewery. Beyond that, it’s also become a who’s who of the best breweries not only from Florida and the US but internationally.
With over 140 breweries from all over the world pouring a total of over 215 different beers, you couldn’t avoid trying some amazing ones. Out of the tons of booths some got more attention throughout the day, including South Florida’s own J Wakefield Brewing and Funky Buddha Brewery, with lines that numbered well over 50 people at a time. Most of these were due to cult followings grown organically through word of mouth and winning competitions around the country, and they didn’t disappoint.
Highlights from Funky included their Heaven Hills Bourbon Barrel Aged French Toast, a syrupy double brown ale with notes of cinnamon and vanilla. J Wakefield brought their always coveted DFPF (Dragon Fruit Passion Fruit) FL weisse and Han Shot First, an exceptional Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stout with vanilla beans, cacao nibs and smoked ghost peppers. Some other South Florida breweries weren’t as well known to outsiders, but none the less served up some amazing beer, for example Saltwater Brewery’s Confused In The Morning Belgian tripel (aged on waffles, maple syrup, and coffee) and Macadamia Nut Coffee Imperial Porter.
Some of the breweries tapped out early around 12pm due to their acclaim, and the staff got some grumbles from disappointed attendees; but you couldn’t throw a rock in there without hitting something innovative and delicious, so the squeaky wheels were definitely the minority. What was really exciting was how many South Florida breweries were in attendance, given that Miami is kind of late to the craft beer party. J Wakefield in particular put in a good showing, winning a silver plaque for People’s Choice of second best brewery for the day. But as Gutierrez shared, “What’s important to us are not the medals or plaques, but the recognition that Miami is putting out some pretty stellar beers. It helps shine light in our home town and we’re proud to be contributing to our city’s growth.”
Hopefully the Florida beer scene will continue to thrive and grow through collaboration and support among the breweries. Cigar City has created this amazing platform for so many up and coming breweries to showcase the best they have to offer, and as more companies get on their level, there’ll only be more of the same across the state.
Check out our album from the event here