If you’ve ever been to the release event for a highly hyped, highly sought-after beer from a very small craft brewery, then the odds are good that you’ve seen some craziness unfolding. Ever since Three Floyds gave birth to the modern concept of the “rare beer release” via Dark Lord Day, these releases have tended to be problematic. But when the brewery in question is truly small in stature, and the crowds are more ravenous than ever, real disasters can unfold.
That’s what seems to have happened this week at Tampa’s Angry Chair Brewing. The brewery, well known for its big, boozy “pastry stouts” (one of only a few styles that tends to attract crazy release lines, along with NE-IPAs and select sours), attempted to release a sought-after new beer called “Barrel-Aged Imperial German Chocolate Cupcake.” What they didn’t count on was the massive crowds that descended on the brewery in anticipation of the release, with lines forming the night before the Thursday noon release and camping out on the sidewalks throughout the local neighborhood. Neighbors, suffice to say, were pretty pissed off at the whole ordeal, from the blocked streets to the loud and raucous crowds.
The problem of the crowds was only exacerbated by the fact that the event was falling during Tampa Bay Beer Week, which attracts a large number of beer tourists to the area. Some of these people, it must be said, are real assholes, and their behavior forced the brewery to make numerous apologies via Facebook. Some people were even reportedly paying homeless Tampa residents to stand in line for them overnight—a degrading tactic to secure a bottle for resale if there ever was one. As the line grew, photos proliferated on Facebook of homeless Tampa residents sleeping on the sidewalks in line, and stories circulated of Angry Chair bottles being immediately resold in the parking lot for 8 times face value. It was, in short, a bad scene. The brewery’s response makes this plain:
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. You can tell us we don’t care about the neighborhood, but we do. We WILL move this off site in the future. We WILL adjust how this is handled. At this point, please do not fill the comments with suggestions on how to run our business, please. WE ARE SORRY. We’re sorry. We suck.
On one hand, you have to feel for the brewers, who are caught up in a situation where their special releases are deemed so desirable (and so re-sellable) that people are willing to go to absurd lengths to get them, which makes the brewery look bad to its neighbors. On the other hand, though, this is a situation that Angry Chair should be more familiar with than most, being based in Tampa. The city is also the home to Cigar City Brewing Co., whose own Hunaphu’s Day beer release event helped establish the mold for mega-crowded beer releases. In response to a particularly botched release in 2014, Cigar City moved the Hunaphu’s Day release off-site, away from its brewery, with great success. Angry Chair now pledges to do the same, but one questions whether it should have taken a mess of this magnitude to make what seems like an obvious decision.
One thing is certain, though: If you’re a beer tourist who is paying a drug addict a pittance to stand in line overnight for you so you can sell a bottle of imperial stout on eBay, then you are officially the worst kind of beer geek there is.