As the last bottle caps and tasting glasses are picked up from the hundreds of venues throughout Tampa Bay, I’m reflective (and ecstatic for the most part) about the success of the third annual Tampa Bay Beer Week (TBBW.)
I confess that I am on the TBBW Board of Directors and have been part of the overall planning and volunteer coordination for TBBW 2014. I also confess that I am a craft beer aficionado. (Sidenote: someone overheard me say this in a bar and asked what is a “craft beer Fish Animal?” LOL…)
Now that the week is over, I feel like I do when the Olympics are over (except with a craft beer slant):
I feel happy that our newest breweries and tasting rooms were filled to capacity during their first ever Tampa Bay Beer Week.
I feel gratified to hear so many happy stories from volunteers, festival attendees and Tampa Bay citizens whose first or thousandth craft beer happened during TBBW.
I feel excited about the energy and collaboration in and around our growing brewing economy.
I feel refreshed (and a bit tired) after visiting so many events and meeting so many great people.
And, I feel sad to know that our community has grown to the point where we now have a criminal element and greed trumping some of the good intentions and planning from within our own ranks.
I’m also a bit embarrassed at the ongoing rhetoric and behaviors of our fellow craft beer citizens that will allow outsiders to malign the good we do in our community. There are always those who will criticize the brewing industry as being a haven for drunkenness and debauchery, and I’m sad that through the short-sightedness of a minority, our industry has tarnished itself. We can regain our reputation as an innovative, cooperative, fun-loving, honest, and inspiring community, but it’s going to take some work.
On this last point, perhaps I was naive to believe that our craft beer community was better than society and we were unique today in espousing the values of our forefathers – supporting local business, giving neighbors the benefit of the doubt, paying an honest dollar for a days work, celebrating great successes within our ranks, and being grateful for the wonders of a free life. Reminiscent of Olympics past, this Tampa Bay Beer Week was a mix of highs, lows, winners and losers, and sadly, the emergence of both a criminal element and an alcohol-infused “entitlement attitude” that I’ve not seen before.
The great people and great ideas that inspired the growth and vibrancy of the first two Tampa Bay Beer Weeks (2012 and 2013) are still a big part of the week, however, it may be time to accept the fact that with grand success comes those who don’t want to play by the rules, those who feel entitled to lie, cheat, steal and malign to get ahead.
Yes, I was naive to believe that everyone in craft beer is noble (wouldn’t that be nice?) while the rest of the world deals with such everyday chaos. Sometimes ignorance is bliss, but once exposed you can’t be ignorant anymore.
Let’s start by talking about the elephant in the room that has dominated the social media airwaves for the past 48 hours:
The “Disaster/Failure/Chaos/Disappointment” (call it what you like) of Cigar City’s Hunahpu’s Day on March 8, 2014.
The day started out like the perfect day in Tampa Bay – not too hot, rain free, a northerner’s dream… perfect for an outdoor beer fest. Cigar City posted pics on Facebook showing the pre-festival grounds; the mood was optimistic that ticketed attendees (capped at 3500 invitees) would be calm, semi-sober and at last, manageable – nothing like the overcrowded chaos of the past.
In fact, March 8 was intended to be a fun-filled, stellar day of tastings and celebration to mark Cigar City Brewing’s 5 year anniversary and it seemed, from the outside at least, that even the Mayan gods were smiling.
But, as history repeatedly shows, when things look too good to be true, they probably are. By the end of the day, the army of employees, volunteers and a few policemen were barely enough to control the mob of drunken and disturbed ‘alcohol personalities’ that emerged. Mob behavior is curious enough, but when you mix in high gravity brews, sun-baked drinkers, lines snaking around the block, supplies dedicated to ticketed attendees, and a sudden doubling or tripling of attendees through duplicate/counterfeit tickets, it results in behaviors unacceptable in civilized society.
The scene was one out of Woodstock – raised fists, angry words, pushing and shoving – in fact, I’m surprised that no one was hurt or trampled in the chaos – and I, for one was embarrassed by my fellow craft beer lovers.
Certainly, in retrospect, a larger security force, a professional event planning company, trained volunteers, 8 foot fences, strict processes, and a no-nonsense business attitude would have handled the duplicate tickets (sorry, you bought counterfeit tickets – you lose, goodbye!), the fence jumpers (you are under arrest, sir!), the bottle pickups (Disney style lines with strict adherence to roped off areas), and the adhoc campground (sorry, no folding chairs or umbrellas) – but get real, this is not Budweiser (thank goodness) or Walmart!
Hunahpu’s day was never intended to be a pro-sport – and that was it’s beauty!
Hunahpu’s Day celebrated small town America — honesty, values, neighborly love and great beers all mixed together – and that’s what we all loved. Things could have been better planned (as outlined) – but give me a break, there was no sinister, conspiratorial mal intent on the part of Cigar City Brewing in the first place.
(Sidenote to some of the comments floating around about conspiratorial intent: I can say that having been a part of both the planning and executing of the Halfway There TBBW Rare Beer Fest in September, we stocked triple the glassware and triple the wristband supplies that we needed, because it’s cheaper to buy bulk and have way too much on hand than to run out…. things happen that are unanticipated!)
I am appalled at the ongoing vitriolic rhetoric on the part of disgruntled attendees, who owner Joey Redner tried to appease through refunds, free beer, and special batch brewing – it is simply cruel and vindictive.
Just because one of our own community makes it big doesn’t mean that everyone else is entitled to display their bad alcohol-personalities (what I call people who are angry drunks) or feel entitled to inventory. Think about it, when Walgreen’s or Target has a sale and they run out – you get a rain check (optimistically) or you just walk away. No mob scene, no angry demands, no “xxx SUCKS!” chants.
What has happened to us that we feel entitled that every promise (for beer no less) should be fulfilled? What gives us the right to disparage volunteers who gave up their day so that we could enjoy a tropical beer fest and bottle exchange just because everything didn’t turn out the way we planned? No wonder Hunahpu’s Day is no more… and I, for one, am sad that TBBW will never be the same.
That’s my opinion, and I’m sticking to it.
TBBW 2014 – a Year of Firsts
- Both St Peterburg City Council and Tampa City Council issued proclamations officially recognizing Tampa Bay Beer Week;
- We piloted the TBBW “Passport” – a 50+ page passport featuring coupons good for free beer, growlers, and other deals at the beginning of TBBW. Even now, after beer week is officially over, there are over half the offers still valid through to December 31, 2014 (there are still some available for purchase for only $10.);
- TBBW formally became a not-for-profit incorporated entity;
- We hosted our first ever event as an organization – Halfway There – A Rare Beer Festival, in September 2013 and received Creative Loafing’s best inaugural beerfest award;
- The number of new breweries in the Tampa Bay area nearly doubled since TBBW 2013;
- Once an oddity, the upscale beer-paired dinners became a regular featured event during the week;
- Collaboration events (involving multiple breweries) were commonplace;
- Criminal activity (duplicate/counterfeit tickets) coupled with unexpected outcomes (double the ticketed attendance) and some poor advance planning resulted in a mob mentality, scarcity of resources and supplies, and ultimately resulted in financial losses for a mainstay brewery in our industry.
Overall, there were grand victories, learning experiences, disappointments and crowds. After herculean efforts on the part of hundreds of people: brewers, restauranteurs, bar owners, volunteers and thousands of craft beer drinkers throughout the area, the week ended with mixture of emotions and promises, no deaths, few injuries, and we can all look towards an even better TBBW 2015.
My next Post will Cover the Highlights of TBBW 2014 (from Carol’s Perspective)… stay tuned
p.s., Don’t forget to vote for my beer blog entry (I’m the only one from Florida) at https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/5J9SPP7 – Please and thankyou!
Have a great week!
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