Joey Redner on Hunahpu's Day: "I just don't want to deal with it"

The Cigar City Brewing founder puts an end to a tradition.

Posted by Tom Scherberger on Mon, Mar 10, 2014 at 1:45 PM

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Cigar City Brewing owner Joey Redner felt sick over the Hunahpu’s Day debacle.

“It made me physically ill,’’ said Redner.

Hunahpu’s Day was supposed to be the joyous capstone of Tampa Bay Beer Week and a way for Cigar City Brewing to celebrate its 5th anniversary.

Instead, it turned out out to be the worst day in the short history of Florida’s most highly regarded brewery.

A two-hour wait to get in. Long lines for beers that kicked early. Sardine-can crowds. Another two-hour wait to buy $20 bottles of the beer everyone was there for, Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout. Anyone who bought a $50 ticket was guaranteed up to three bottles, but hundreds left empty-handed when the the last of the 16,200 bottles was distributed.

When the door slammed shut, the crowd turned ugly, booing and chanting “Cigar City Sucks, Cigar City Sucks.” Police moved in to calm things down and Redner started taking steps to make amends, beginning with a mea culpa posted on the CCB Facebook page:

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.

The 3,500 attendance limit that was supposed to bring order to the chaos of last year’s annual release — when some 9,000 people showed up — didn’t work.

Redner said duplicate tickets were the main problem. “We figured out that was happening” pretty quickly, Redner said, because his staff was scanning bar codes on the tickets people had printed out. “We were sure we had a lot of duplicate tickets,” Redner said. “There’s going to be some scamming but how many could there be? It turned out there was a lot.”

So many people caught with duplicate tickets were claiming their tickets were original that eventually Redner’s people stopped scanning and just collected tickets to avoid ugly confrontations and to move things along. But that meant a lot more people were let into the tight confines of the brewery. How many? No one really knows, but Redner said all 6,000 glasses were gone by day’s end. So there were at least that many people.

Redner quickly decided to offer free beer all day Sunday at the brewery’s tasting room — which turned out to be a good move, Redner said, without any ugliness or mob scenes. Then he decided to refund everyone’s money, at a cost of $175,000 to CCB. (The brewery still raked in $324,000 in sales.)

And then he decided never to do Hunahpu’s Day again. Next year the brewery’s most highly coveted beer will simply be released into distribution like all of its other seasonal beers.

“I just don’t want to deal with it,’’ Redner said. And it’s not really necessary any more, since Cigar City has built a national reputation for quality craft beer and doesn't need to rely on the higher profit margins a beer release day brings.

The biggest issue that concerns Redner is the ugliness that emerged during the past couple of years. “We used to say we liked the craft beer scene because it was 99 percent asshole-free, but I don’t think you can say that anymore,” he said. “I had never seen the ugliness I’ve seen in the last couple of years.”

Part of it may stem from the scarcity, which led to people selling bottles online for five times or more the face value of the beer. Some people even showed up at the brewery on Sunday trying to sell bottles of Hunahpu’s at prices well above the $20 they paid for it the day before. The brewery staff ran them off.

CCB had never run out of bottles of Hunahpu on Hunahpu’s Day — until this year.

Redner has decided to make another batch of Hunahpu’s to compensate those who left empty-handed. It will take a month or more before the batch can be bottled. “We know we’re going to be rewarding a lot of people who participated in the asshole behavior,’’ he said. But it’s the only way he can make up for Saturday’s debacle.

It’s a shame the way things turned out because this fifth batch of Hunahpu’s may have been the best yet — rich, complex, balanced, with a distinct flavor of cinnamon. Head brewer Wayne Wambles said he thought it was the best yet.

This was the first year Cigar City capped attendance and charged a flat fee to get in, allowing participants to sample top-flight beers from around Florida and the country — perhaps the best tap list ever put on by a craft beer festival around Tampa Bay.

One of the longest lines of the day was for Toppling Goliath, a small, highly regarded Iowa brewery making its Florida debut. “I was so honored and awed” at the reaction to their beers, said Toppling Goliath owner Clark Lewey. “We knew we had a lot of fans in Florida but I couldn't believe how many.’’ So many people were in line before they began to pour that Lewey went down the line thanking people. “They were lined up an hour early,’’ he said. “That made it worth it to come to Florida.”


Comments (21)

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Tom,

A great writeup on Hunahpu Day, and I agree with Joey Redner's assertion that the craft beer industry used to be 99% asshole free. Unfortunately, there is always the rogue element of people who scam the system or get greedy just to make money (rather than honestly working for it) - counterfeiting, duplicating, sneaking in to paid events, hogging scarce supplies just to scalp the product later for profit.

Eventbrite checkins prevent duplicate tickets - but after waiting in line in the sun, I have to applaud Cigar City employees for believing that people bought tickets legitimately and allowing people in and believing that it was a minority of duplicate tickets. Incredible to think there was such a high amount of dishonesty and greed in the mix. (I hate paying real dollars for tickets and getting scammed!)

All in all, the entire Tampa Bay Beer Week - including Hunahpu Day - was an awesome coming together of good people, great brewers, homebrew clubs, distributors, retailers, the community (both St Petersburg and Tampa city councils issued proclamations), and craft beer lovers from near and far.

Let's rally behind one of our own, Cigar City Brewing, who have done so much for craft beer and the local Tampa Bay economy, and continue to support and honor the innovation, imagination, fine craftsmanship, and wondrous flavors of craft beer brewed locally. When any one of us suffers financially, our entire community suffers.

Let's buy local, drink local, and support the our Tampa Bay area brewers and the industry by frequenting the tasting rooms, buying the brews, going out to local events, dining out at craft inspired restaurants, drinking at the taprooms and choosing local brewpubs. Our local brewer and restauranteurs work to bring us great brews, and ought to be as busy everyday as they were during Tampa Bay Beer Week.

I never intended this to be a monologue but I'm a bit passionate when it comes to craft beer and the great people who dedicate their lives to the cause. In the words of Dennis Miller - "of course, that's just my opinion. I could be wrong..."

Carol

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Posted by CarolDekkers on 03/10/2014 at 2:49 PM

Always sucks when the minority make it unbearable for the majority. Time to go with something like brown paper tickets and checking ID's so beer sold only goes to those whose names match the order.

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Posted by BeerJesus on 03/10/2014 at 3:13 PM

Why were you selling "rare" beers BY THE CASE if you didn't want people to be greedy? Take some responsibility for how poorly planned everything was instead of blaming everyone else.

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Posted by BeerFred on 03/10/2014 at 3:15 PM

agreed. we saw people walking out with cases early in the day, way before 4 pm. I don't blame people for getting pissed off for paying $50 to get the opportunity to get their 3 bottles and getting the door shut in their face.

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Posted by ccbbeerlover on 03/10/2014 at 3:30 PM

Read the article before you post. They're a brewery not event planners. A few bad eggs spoiled the event for sincere beer fans. I'm glad they stepped up and are doing everything they can to fix things. Still a fantastic brewery in my opinion.

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Posted by Beerfan on 03/10/2014 at 3:33 PM

For years and years and years I've heard people complain that "people were leaving with cases", and while that's true for some, most people are carrying other people's beer (wives, girlfriends, boyfriends) in a cardboard brewery box. I've done it dozens of times, while buying the correct allotment.

Joey's comments on the duplicate tickets are the most important. Rather than turn away everyone who had a duplicate scan, they let them in. If they had not let them in, those duplicates would have caused such a scene that it would have shut down before it even started. Maybe that was the better thing to do, maybe not, but what it did was cement in Joey's mind that the day will not happen again.

I agree with him. I sold my tickets in advance (and did not attend), because I saw the writing on the wall.

It's 80% assholes now.

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Posted by The 20% on 03/10/2014 at 3:46 PM

I am not justifying the way some of the people acted on Saturday but there were a LOT of failures at Hunahpu's Day that added to people's frustrations. You couldn't friggin' move, much less walk there. Redner and CCB may have been nice enough to apologize, give out free beer and refund tickets but I think they're putting too much blame on the fact that 1% of 7,000 people got pissed off and acted stupid.

I keep hearing about these duplicate tickets but if they expected 3,500 why the hell did they have 7,000+ wrisbands? They were understaffed at the sales of the DB Huna and swag, 2 people moving at a snail's pace with thousands of people in line. Many people walked away with cases while many others got nothing. At they started selling those super rare beers when most of the attendees were still in line to get in.

CCB needs to realize what people did to get to this festival. Many people are trivializing this as people getting pissed because they are not getting beer. What the truth of the matter is here is that people came to THEIR festival as a vacation. Took time off from work, drove for hours or spent money on plane tickets, motels, meals, etc. I came down from Atlanta and the weekend cost me about $700 and 20% of my vacation days for the year. So when people put all this effort in to joining you for your festival they expect to have a good time... they didn't. And the dirty cherry on top of the shit cake was you running out of Hunahpu and shutting the door in people's faces. Everyone had held it together pretty well and that just caused a few people to snap after having a shitty day. It wasn't about not getting some beer, it was about making sacrifices because promises were made and then CCB not delivering on those promises.

I'm not sure what to think about it right now. I'm sure not going to do like CCB and just write it all off after 24 hours. I had a miserable time on Saturday but I had a great time there on Sunday. The employee's there were a bit rude on Sunday but I write that off to the trainwreck that everyone went through on Saturday. I also appreciate the refund that they're issuing, but I don't like the fact they jumped to cancel so quickly and they keep talking about the small percentage of people that got rowdy. I'll wait to see what goes on for a bit for now.

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Posted by itsme_timd on 03/10/2014 at 4:40 PM

So they had 6,000 glasses for a 3,500 person event? That seems fishy.

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Posted by CCSUCKS on 03/10/2014 at 7:37 PM

You're going to judge their intentions based on how much custom glassware they had on hand? laughable.

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Posted by The 20% on 03/10/2014 at 8:01 PM

The Nightmare on Spruce Street was 100% CCB's fault. It became so the second they decided to allow the duplicate ticket holders through the gate. That in conjunction with piss poor planning and execution gave us the shit show that ensued.

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Posted by John H on 03/10/2014 at 10:25 PM

Good for Joey. It's more fair to simply put the beer put through normal distribution channels. That's the only way to make it fair for everyone. I've never had Hunapuh, and I a have been drinking craft beer for a long time. Far longer then these Seminole Heights hipsters that want to get in on the new "cool" thing to be into. I thought about going to the release this year, but boy am I glad I did not.

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Posted by cohibaman on 03/11/2014 at 7:33 AM

I disagree that cases were being sold before the appointed time, I think what people saw were, for instance in our case, three of us were together, we each purchased our three bottles, and since we were together, they then handed us a case with 9 bottles total. I then walked back to the car by myself with the case while my friends stayed in. So no, I did not purchase what appeared to be a case, and I do believe that was what people were seeing and not individual case purchases.

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Posted by Jeff Black on 03/11/2014 at 7:41 AM

So... they fucked up. And for once in American business, the owner stepped up. I don't know the man, couldn't care less about CCB or Humpawumpawhatever day. But it looks to me like he handled his fuckup the way we wish every company would.

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Posted by Ned on 03/11/2014 at 9:51 AM

Someone, maybe many, tried to game the system. Scanning a ticket allows only one of each code in. If your duplicate gets scanned first in you go. The legitimate ticket is now not allowed. It causes a disaster like this. Letting duplicates in was a gesture so they didn't disallow the actual purchaser from entering. But then you have so many interlopers stressing the capacity and eating up the limited run that was rightfully someone else's product. The guys at CCB are great guys and have been dealt a bad deal by some greedy characters. You Know Who You Are! You should hang your head in shame.

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Posted by David Hundley on 03/11/2014 at 10:37 AM

IMHO - an event of this magnitude (I.E. 220 fantastic guest beers and 6 Homebrew clubs) plus a special beer release is just too much for the parking lot of CCB. Can this event be done properly? Yes. But not in the CCB parking lot. I had a great time talking with beer geeks and tasting beers I've never had the opportunity to taste, DESPITE the issues. What would really disappoint me is if this GREAT event were discontinued. Release Hunahpu's in distribution. Keep the event and hire an experienced event coordinator to fix the issues. CCB should focus on making great beer. Not herding cats.

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Posted by TR on 03/11/2014 at 10:53 AM

Blaming the scammers for this fiasco is a lazy excuse. And saying that the decision to let them in was so that they "didn't disallow the actual purchaser from entering" is ridiculous on it's face. How could there be a duplicate of the actual purchaser's ticket if they hadn't made it themselves? This disaster is 100% on CCB and I'm thankful nobody got hurt due to their incompetence.

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Posted by John H on 03/11/2014 at 11:29 AM

I really hope this isn't truly The End for Hunahpu's Day.

Maybe take a year off, evaluate, and come back better than ever.

I think the "Hunaphu's Day Music Festival presented by Cigar City Brewing" at Curtis Hixon Park has a nice ring to it!

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Posted by A.J. on 03/11/2014 at 2:48 PM

CCB needs to hire a professional event planner, rent out the state fairgrounds or another real venue and go through a real ticket agent like ticketmaster. they have the money to do it right. they still have that "we are a mom and pop company" that needs to change and someone should get fired over this and to learn from their mistake if they are to be considered a professional entity.

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Posted by tom.gold.90 on 03/11/2014 at 3:05 PM

Well, I was there and it was madness. Seemed worse than last year which was crazy as well. I waited in line for an hour to get in, and people who got there later waited as much as two hours or more.

In the years past when the event was free, they had a finite amount of wristbands with which to purchase the coveted Hunahpu. People lined up early in the morning to guarantee themselves a bottle (up to three). After the wristbands were expended, no more Hunahpu was sold until after the event.

This year the event was supposed to capped to 3500 people plus around 500 CCB/vendor employess. So, why was there the estimated 9000+ people there? 5000+ people copied their tickets in hopes they could scam their way in? That seems doubtful. And why weren't the wristbands limited? Why would you buy 9000+ wristbands when you only need 4000? I think they oversold the event, plus some unscrupulous people scammed their way in.

They could easily fix this, but instead decided to call it quits. That's some serious weak sauce IMO.

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Posted by Matt Miller on 03/11/2014 at 4:01 PM

Why is this event hosted at Cigar City? Tampa has better venues and Joe Redner has more then enough money to hire an event organizer. Beer week has become an important event for Tampa Bay and Redner should be proud to host the grand finale. Sounds like he's giving up to me. It's a small event. It's not rocket science to organize.

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Posted by Damara Wychor on 03/11/2014 at 4:49 PM

How about people just stop bitching? We all get it. If you traveled there for the event you wasted your money like everyone else, if you waited in line for long periods of time we get that too (your at a beer festival if it was only the 3500 people there you still would of had to wait in line.) let's move on, they've heard it all and bitching isn't going to change everything. All it's done is cause no more hunapu day so move on from it - if you wanna bitch do it somewhere other than online.

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Posted by Samantha Hallman on 03/11/2014 at 6:48 PM
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