Gather round friends, and let me tell you the tale of that great whale1 of a beer, Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout.
First released in 2009, the 11 percent ABV imperial stout from Cigar City Brewing incorporates cocoa nibs, cinnamon, Madagascar vanilla beans and ancho and pasilla chilies.
The Cigar City website explains the origin of the name:
In Mayan mythology, Hun Hunahpu was the father of the Mayan hero twins Hunahpu and Xbalanque. Hun Hunahpu, along with his brother Vucub Hunahpu, was tricked by the Dark Lords of the underworld and slain. Hun Hunahpu’s corpse morphed into a cacao tree, his head becoming a cacao pod, which in typically awesome mythology fashion, spit upon the hand of a young maiden named Xiquic who promptly became pregnant with the hero twins. The twins would ultimately grow up to avenge their father and uncle and defeat the Dark Lords and ascend to the heavens to become the moon and sun.
It is packaged exclusively in 750ml bottles and sells for $20. In addition, there is a bourbon barrel aged variant named Double Barrel Hunahpu’s imperial stout (11 percent ABV) that takes the base beer and ages it in rum and bourbon barrels before blending everything together for the final product.
Since the first year it was released, the beer has only been available for purchase during Hunahpu’s Day, an annual festival at the Tampa, Fla.-based brewery that draws craft beer fans from all over the world, not only to purchase bottles of Hunahpu’s, but also to try all of the different beers from various other breweries.
While earlier events went off relatively smoothly, in 2013 over 9,000 people showed up for the admission-free release party, forcing organizers to limit the number for the March 8, 2014 festival by selling 3,500 tickets. The problem was that there were apparently quite a few fake tickets that people used to gain entry, pushing the total number of people well past the 3,500 that were supposed to be there. This caused problems with the distribution of bottles, with a number of people who were “guaranteed” bottles by purchasing tickets reportedly going home empty handed after they were sold to people who were not supposed to be there in the first place.
As a result of the issues, Cigar City refunded each legitimate ticket holder to the tune of $50, or $175,000 total for all 3,500 people. In addition, the Sunday after the event, Cigar City opened its tasting room for free for the entire day, pouring more than $9,000 worth of beer for no charge. In the immediate aftermath of the issues, Redner announced that there would be no more Hunahpu’s Days going forward, and that the beer would be distributed in the future.
However, Cigar City announced in September of last year that there would be another Hunahpu’s Day that will be taking place on March 14, 2015 at the brewery. Seemingly learning from past mistakes, the event is ticketed, and each ticket will have a name on it that must match the person trying to get in. Each ticket was $200, and includes four bottles of Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout, food, samples of beer from over 60 other breweries, a branded tote bag and a branded glass.
Cigar City Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout pours a pitch black color, with no light getting through at all and features about a finger of tan-colored head that sticks around for quite a while. A thin tan-colored lacing is left and aroma from the glass is a combination of strong chili, sweet chocolate, coffee, oak, vanilla and fruit.
From the first sip, I knew that the Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout would live up to the hype. The flavors of dark chocolate, bitter espresso, oak, cinnamon, chilies and black licorice are distinct and extremely well balanced. The finish has a wonderful combination of sweet mocha and chilies, with each complementing the other instead of competing. Just a little heat from the chill on the finish, just enough to know it is there without taking away anything from the rest of the profile. The beer has an astounding luscious, creamy mouthfeel, and the carbonation is right in line with where it should be.