This week, one of South Florida's original craft beer hangouts will become a new brewery when the Boca Raton-based Funky Buddha Lounge makes the transition to Robot Brewing Co. & Quixotic Lounge.
Last week, Funky Buddha founders Ryan and Giani Sentz announced the sale of the craft beer bar they founded in 2006 to husband-and-wife team Allen Steen and Natalia Vallejos.
Considered one of South Florida's first breweries, Funky Buddha opened in 2006 as a hookah lounge and craft beer bar, a 700-square-foot space best known for hosting regular open-mike nights, comedy shows, and dozens of local acts. In 2009, the Sentzes began brewing beer using a one-barrel system, the same one Robot Brewing Co will use. Today the establishment is one of four breweries in Boca Raton, along with Barrel of Monks, Prosperity Brewing, and the planned brewhouse inside American Craft Aleworks.
When Funky Buddha Brewery was sold to Constellation in August 2017, Ryan says he was adamant the lounge would not be part of the deal. Last year, he and Giani celebrated the establishment's seventh anniversary.
At the time, Ryan said he hoped the sale of the Oakland Park-based Funky Buddha Brewery would make it easier to reinvest his time in the lounge. "We weren't sure if we wanted to continue with something on our own or find someone new to come in and take over the space. We wanted to see it continue but just weren't active enough to make it as successful as it could be. Allen has the passion and the energy to do that."
Steen, a self-described beer geek and family friend, is an active homebrewer who teamed up with Ryan to create a saison for the Pro-Am Competition featured at the 2017 Great American Beer Festival. Originally from the Gainesville area, he began homebrewing with a Mr. Beer kit in college and has been brewing professionally for the past five years.
"If people come here and are expecting a typical brewery, we want people to know that's not what this will be," says Steen, who recently left his job in nuclear medicine to open Robot Brewing. "The idea 'quixotic' sums up what I'm doing: leaving a solid career to follow your dreams."
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Former Funky Buddha Lounge brewers Scott Chadwick and AJ Spagnola will remain onboard to create new brews alongside Steen, who plans to concentrate on saisons and other farmhouse-style beers. Together, the trio will collaborate on a rotating lineup that will operate with the same mission statement as the original Funky Buddha Lounge to offer new and experimental styles.
"We want to continue what's been going on at the lounge for years; that won't change too much," Steen says. "I want the guys to have the freedom do a lot of fun things, and the small system gives us the flexibility to do that. We plan to offer our own core lineup, beers that will be on tap more frequently, but we'll be doing a lot of fun, bizarre beers too."
Robot Brewing Co. and the homebrew portion of the business will continue to operate during regular posted hours. Talks about a crossover event celebrating the transformation of the lounge to its new identity are set for this summer. Stay tuned to the official Robot Brewing Co. Facebook page for event details.
Robot Brewing Co. & Quixotic Lounge. 2621 N. Federal Hwy., Boca Raton; 561-368-4643; robotbrewingco.com.