Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Cigar City Hunahpu's Day 2014

So I've been to Hunahpu's Day in 2012 and 2013. The first two years I went it was a non-ticketed event, first come, first serve style fest in the parking lot of their brewery. We were in line around 6 AM each year and each year we got farther and farther back in line due to the increasing demand. Once inside, you bought $5 tokens which could be exchanged for beers at the fest (8-12 oz pours depending on the beer). I had great experiences both times, my only fault being that in 2013 it was obviously way too busy but getting there so early and leaving as late as possible, there really was only a 1-2 hour window where things were uncomfortably busy and during these hours I tended to go to my cooler with my friends and open bottles to share.

This year Cigar City sold what we were told was 3500 $50 tickets to get into the fest where it was a beer fest style event. When you walked in they scanned your ticket, checked your ID and gave you a band, then gave you a separate band for Hunahpu bottle sales. You also got a glass 5oz sampler at the entrance, each brewery had a tent/jockey box and they poured you a 2-4 oz taste. It was essentially all you can drink from 11-5. From 11-4 you could pick up 3 bottles of Hunahpu at $20 a pop at a designated station where they would cut off your band and from 4-5 you could get up to a case.

We were told by multiple CCB employees this year not to show up early as they would be setting up, plus there was no benefit because you couldn’t even bottle share before 11 or they would kick you out. With that being said, my group got antsy and our cab came quicker than expected so we were there around 10:15. We walked up to the gate, waited ~5 minutes and got scanned/banded and were in. People were already there and the line for Toppling Goliath was already 100 people deep. We got set up and hopped in a line around 10:50 and started getting pours at 11. Around 11:30 we looked outside and there was a line of people waiting to get in at least 500 people deep. This line didn’t let up until ~2PM. Around 1, it began to get very hard to move and if you wanted beers near the entrance (we were set up near the back), it could take ~10 minutes of fighting through crowds to get up there. Around 2:45 I noticed the Hunahpu bottle sale line was long and hopped in it with 2 friends. You can see the photo I took from the back of the bottle line below but we fought our way through an absolute sea of people, with no apparent line (just a mass of people in front of the sales tables). 45 minutes later we were at the front and got our whole allotment, went back and enjoyed the rest of the fest. 

It wasn’t until I got home that I was reading online of extra ticket sales and forged tickets making the event estimated at 6000 people, some people waiting 1.5 hours in the line to get in and missing out of a lot of beers, at 4 when they opened the bottle sales up to get a case, a large amount of people weren’t able to get bottles and were literally shut out (they closed the warehouse door in peoples faces), fights breaking out in lines and general chaos. Now they are refunding everyone their $50 entry fee, making another batch for the people that were shut out and cancelling Hunahpu’s Day forever. 

I personally had a great time, I went with 9 other people who had a great time and we tasted a lot of great beer with my highlights being:

Toppling Goliath KingSue and Mornin’ Delight (maple syrupy stout goodness)
J Wakefield Kryptoweisse (Berliner with Kiwi, clean lacto sour)
Burnt Hickory Red Velvet Cake (Huge cherry)
Westbrook Gozu and Mexican Cake
Cigar City Rum Barrel Aged Penultimate Push
Perennial Abraxas and La Boheme (Abraxas tapped at the end of the fest when a lot of people had left. There was no line for this beer, I just kept going back for more and more. Great beer)
Cigar City Pancake Brown (Pancakes with maple syrup. Couldn't have much but spot on flavor)

Terrapin MooHoo with Raspberries
Arizona Wilderness Pappy Barleywine

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Asheville Trip

I went up to Asheville this past weekend as a bit of a vacation as SWMBO has a cabin in nearby Waynesville, NC.  We got to Waynesville on Friday and stopped by Frog Level and Tipping Point breweries.  Frog Level had a surprisingly awesome space with a back porch complete with a running creek next to it.  It was a little too cold outside, but on a nice day with the mountains in the background it would have been an awesome place to get a pint.  The beer was solid and I tried the Bug Eyed Stout, Catcher in the Rye Ale, Nutty Brown, and Salamander Slam IPA.  

We also visited Tipping Point brewing that night for another pint and shared a pint of the Hiking Viking Blonde and Punch In The Face IPA.  Both were very average.

The real trip began by arriving in Asheville around noon the next day.  Wicked Weed was a new brewery I had heard good things about in the past and it just so happened they were releasing their GABF Gold medal winning Brett beer, Serenity, for the first time.  We hopped in line to get some bottles and got to taste a few beers also.  We had Freak of Nature DIPA and a sour called Malice.  I had one sip of Freak of Nature and knew Wicked Weed was legit.  It is like a slightly bigger flavor Pliny with a similar cleanliness and bright hop profile.  More on Wicked Weed in a bit.

We grabbed our allotment and went on a little brewery tour.  First up was Wedge which has an awesome outdoor space, but their tap list was lacking.  I had an Oatmeal Stout and half of an Iron Rail IPA before leaving.  Our next destination was Burial Brewing.  This place is a tiny operation, maybe only 2 BBL, but they had some neat beers on tap.  Their Donut Stout was an awesome sweet stout and was served with a donut hole on the side.  I enjoyed their beers and this was probably my second favorite brewery I had during this Asheville trip.  

Our next stop was Hi-Wire brewing, a newer operation.  It was packed but we got a seat and a flight.  This brewery's beers are the definition of forgettable.  They're solid examples of classic styles, but you're never going to remember them or recommend them in a town like Asheville.  One cool thing about their brewery that I saw was that I believe they're using old dairy equipment to brew their beer.  They seemed to have a big mash tun and some fermenters that were previously dairy equipment if I'm not mistaken.

All we could keep thinking about when we were at these breweries was that we needed to get back to Wicked Weed to try all of their stuff. Our first impression was so good that we dropped our dogs off at the hotel and beelined to Wicked Weed.  We sat down at the bar around 6 PM and didn't leave until we had tried every beer (something we regretted the next day).

Wicked Weed specializes in west coast IPAs, Belgians and Sours.  I have to say that every beer I had was excellent but Freak of Nature, French Toast Stout (Vanilla, spiced sweet stout), Black Ruffian Black IPA, Saison V (liquid raspberries), Black Angel Sour and  Genesis Grand Cru were some of our favorites.  It's really quite amazing that a brewery as new as them can have such good sours at their age, but they pulled it off.  I haven't even mentioned the atmosphere and decor, but picture inside being accented with wood and stone and then an upstairs and outside outside area complete with tables, firepits and more wood.  The only place I'd rather get a pint is Stone Escondido and I consider that beer paradise.  I can't say enough about Wicked Weed between their beer, service, decor and atmosphere.  I would move to Ashville just for them.  

That completed my trip (aside from another trip to Wicked Weed in the morning to fight a hangover/drink more great beer) and it was another successful visit in the books.  Can't wait to go back and hopefully it doesn't take 5 years this time.