TAMPA - Of all the current events to get riled about — Russians in Ukraine, civil unrest in Venezuela, revolution in Syria — it took a sputtering keg tap and an empty cooler to bring a bunch of craft beer geeks to their feet and start a mini riot outside Cigar City Brewing over the weekend.
In a scene vaguely reminiscent of the anti-war protests in the 1960s, where “the whole world is watching” chant became the rallying cry of the protesters, “Cigar City Sucks” was the mantra outside the popular craft brewery on Spruce Street.
“We're carrying on,” said Joey Redner, Cigar City Brewing founder, Monday afternoon. “It made me physically ill, what happened. I didn't sleep until late Sunday night. I got into this business because I have a passion for beer and most people who come here have that same passion. But, there was an ugliness this year.”
The occasion was the one-day-a-year offering of the award-winning Hunahpu, a much sought after imperial stout that beer afficionados drool over. They came to the brewery from as far away as North Carolina and Wisconsin. The brewery printed up 3,500 tickets, each costing $50, that would allow the holder to taste the stout and to take a few bottles home. Tickets available to the public in January sold out within an hour.
Enter, the ticket counterfeiters, who fouled up the admission and distribution systems, resulting in many legitimate ticket buying beer lovers not getting their Hanahpu fix, thus leaving bad tastes on unquenched palates.
Redner said tickets were scanned, then some showed up with tickets that the scanners read as already having been admitted. People argued in line, so they were allowed in, said Redner, who was determined to keep the event fun for everyone who showed up.
“We bit the bullet on that,” he said. “We had enough of a buffer of beer. We could have been more adamant about not letting people in whose tickets didn't scan, but once things were set in motion, there was no way to fix it.”
A video posted on the website Beerpulse.com shows angry customers chanting outside the brewery as the door came down cutting the crowd off from the inner workings of the brewery. One irate customer stands in front of the door hoisting a middle-finger salute.
The hubbub at the pub escalated and police came. No one was injured or arrested. The angst-ridden event discouraged Redner from holding it next year.
“We may still do some sort of fest,” Redner said. “We will just be offering the beer. We won't have the bottle release component.”
Cigar City Brewing announced on its Facebook page that it would offer refunds to smooth over the hard feelings.
The brewery made another peace offering: On Sunday, beers were poured all day free of charge in the brewery's tasting room.
Cigar City on Saturday posted this on its Facebook page: “We're completely sorry for all issues that happened ... 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.”
TBO.com producer Carl Lisciandrello contributed to this report.