Birthdays rock. It's one of the few days when people go out of their way to be nice to you, give you well wishes, and shower you with presents. But when a brewery has a birthday, it makes a boatload of beers to share with friends and loyal patrons. So I guess that makes them hobbits?
This past Saturday, the Funky Buddha Lounge and Brewery celebrated four years of making experimental brews by throwing a party chock-full of of its innovative specialty beers. With both sides of the bar open (the traditional lounge space and the roomy/quieter homebrew store area), there was room for around a hundred people, and it slowly filled up over the course of the evening.
From staple, highly rated beers such as the white chocolate and coconut Last Snow and the indomitable smokey and savory Maple Bacon Coffee Porter to newer experimental fare like the cherry and limeade Giraffe Juice and the caramel- and almond-forward Italian Cookie brown ale, there was plenty to choose from to make the evening an exploratory journey into what makes Funky Buddha so funky.
Personal favorites included the Chardonnay-barrel-aged Handsome Devil barleywine, which took the already impressive base barleywine and added a woody and slightly drying character to the beer. Guava Honeysuckle Berliner weisse brought to mind the most satisfyingly tart and acidic citrus breakfast drink imaginable... enjoyable over mimosas any day.
For the most part, the vast majority of beers either met or exceeded expectations, but there were a few that missed the mark. The Rice Crispy Treat ale, for example, which has shown success in the past, felt weaker on flavor and lacked that subtle nuance of complexity that made it enjoyable. If only a number that can be counted on one hand were only decent, it goes to show the skill of the brewers.
Head brewer Morgan Pierce, who puts together the brews at the lounge, worked tirelessly for months getting the more than 40 beers together for the event. "We have some popular beers that end up only coming out on the anniversary events... It's not on purpose; it just happens that's when we brew them," he said, in reference to big and popular beers like Morning Wood, the whiskey-barrel-aged version of an imperial Maple Bacon Coffee Porter. At 9.9 percent, it's like breakfast in Valhalla.
If you made it out on Saturday, kudos to you. If not, there may still be some of the limited-release offerings on tap. It's doubtful, but it never hurts to try. Otherwise, it is common for new beers to be released on Thursdays at the lounge. It's a good way to see what's going on at the cutting edge of the Buddha's brews.
Doug Fairall is a craft beer blogger who focuses on Florida beers and has been a homebrewer since 2010. For beer things in your Twitter feed, follow him @DougFairall and find the latest beer pics on Instagram.