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Angry Chair angers some Tampa neighbors with giant beer-seeking crowds for Beer Week

By Christopher Spata
By Howard Altman
Published: March 8, 2018 Updated: March 8, 2018 at 04:57 PM
Ryan Dowdle, 39, co-owner of Angry Chair brewery, was overwhelmed by the response to the offer a special brew for Tampa Beer Week. So were his neighbors as the sheer volume of customers tied up traffic Thursday morning in Seminole Heights. [HOWARD ALTMAN | Times]

TAMPA — By high noon, the Angry Chair beermageddon was over. It began about eight hours earlier, as fans of the Seminole Heights craft brewery started lining up to purchase newly released bottles of barrel-aged Imperial German Chocolate Cupcake Stout for $35 each.

Sales were not supposed to start until noon Thursday, said co-owner Ryan Dowdle. But when a crowd of about 1,000 customers showed up for more bottles than were available, an afternoon delight was the yeast of anyone’s worries.

It was, Dowdle said, all fueled by Tampa Bay Beer Week.

"We had people coming from around the country," he said, adding that the event is a big plus for the local tourism industry.

The overwhelming crowd stopped traffic and angered some neighbors, who intoned outrage at being awakened before dawn to the sounds of beer-seekers.

Some arrived as early as Wednesday evening.

People waited so long that local restaurants started delivering food to the line.

Dowdle said his best laid plans to deal with the situation went awry.

"We hired people to patrol the streets and had paid for 20 parking spots at a business nearby that hasn’t opened yet," he said.

By 7:30 a.m. Angry Chair was posting on Facebook that "We ABSOLUTELY NEED to get the bodies out of this neighborhood now," and that there weren’t enough bottles for everyone in line.

The post was aimed at both disappointed customers and angry neighborhood residents.

"We never told anyone to come this early. We never told anyone to line up over night. You can think all you want that we planned this ... but we did not," it read. "You can tell us we don’t care about the neighborhood, but we do. At this point, please do not fill the comments with suggestions on how to run our business, please. WE ARE SORRY."

Next year, Dowdle said, the event will take place off site.

It wouldn’t be the first time a Tampa beer event outgrew its brewery. In 2014, Cigar City Brewing’s wildly popular Hunahpu’s Day event saw rowdy, overwhelming crowds that far surpassed the supply of Hunahpu Imperial Stout bottles cause chaos. That event has since been moved to Raymond James Stadium.

Angry Chair has made efforts to corral crowds who show up for its popular beer. They even have a "don’t park on Fern" t-shirt, a reference to nearby residential Fern Street. But anger flowed in a Facebook group for Seminole Heights residents.

"Will all you ---holes standing in line for beer at 4:45 a.m. in front of my house shut ... up. Get a job!" wrote one woman.

"Just thought I’d add that the people parking in front of my house for beer have actually been far less annoying than those who park there every day to drop off/pick up their kids from school," wrote another.

Dowdle posted in that group on Wednesday, even before the Cupcake beer crowd, apologizing for other crowd-drawing beer releases earlier in the week and asking for patience.

Others were amazed that beer could draw such a big crowd.

"If Angry Chair Brewing ever sells stock, I’m in!" wrote one man who described the line stretching east into his neighborhood a full block on Fern Street, then going circling around on Branch Avenue before heading back toward Florida Avenue on Fern. "Next year, if they’re still doing it here, I’m sellin’ donuts."

An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the barrel-aged Fionn was released on Thursday. That beer was released on Monday.

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