"You are not going to start calling me names if I order the Raspberry Berliner?" my friend asked, in a rather deadpan manner. We were evaluating the options written on the chalkboard behind the bar in the Boca Raton craft beer haven Funky Buddha.
I could not judge him considering that I was seriously contemplating ordering the Mango Berliner. Perhaps we were both feeling fruity for the Boca Raton Craft Beer Crawl and Funky Buddha Beer Release this past Saturday. To celebrate the end of Craft Beer Week, the Funky Buddha brought
back several of its popular specialty beers and switched up taps every few hours with a bevy of hand-crafted wheat, barley, and malt options.
My friend's Raspberry Berliner came out in a glass that looked like it was intended for drinking cognacs, not microbeers. Its cloudy, pink color reminded him of cherry Kool-Aid from childhood. I took a sip, and the beer's instant tartness startled my pallet.
"It's like eating raw raspberries, right?" my friend asked.
Then out came my Mango Berliner. This very light-bodied, 4 percent beer was overwhelming with its mango-ness. The fact that it had little to no head, slight carbonation, and a dainty character brought to mind those Seagrams Wine Coolers so popular with the ladies back in college.
My other friend chose the Vanilla Cream Ale for her first choice of the night. It proved to be a heartier and well-balanced option, with a defined head and moderate vanilla and licorice notes. It was the favorite of the three options: the only one I'd order on a regular basis and not for a novelty experience.
For our second round, we opted for choices off the "guest draft" selection. Southern Tier's Pumking was a refreshing switch. Normally, I'd reserve pumpkin-flavored beers for fall benders, but this beverage's soothing, spicy allure made me seriously reconsider my seasonal percipience. Pumking is an invigorating pour; this caramel malt ale packed with the perfect amount of pumpkin and cinnamon can just as easily be enjoyed on a hot Florida summer night.
Cigar City Bone Valley Brown was my friend's choice. It was a multiple-personality beer, containing a considerable amount of hops for an ale that was significantly brown. Perhaps an offspring of the union of a moderately bitter IPA and mild chocolate porter. It also contained a wonderful, lingering roasted almond finish. I have yet to try a Cigar City beer that I did not love instantly.
The Funky Buddha was switching up kegs every couple of hours with different choices. Due up later were my personal favorites: No Crusts, a savory peanut butter and jelly flavored American brown ale, and the Maple Bacon Coffee Porter, which is exactly like a self-contained breakfast in a robust beer.
Then began the crawl aspect of the night. The bus that took participants from bar to bar was like South Beach on wheels, with pulsating strobe lights, blaring boom-tis house music, and a stripper pole. Besides the Funky Buddha, other stops included the Lion & Eagle, Irish taproom O'Brian's, and German bar Biergarten.
Our next crawl destination was Biergarten. Our arrival to this mammoth watering hole in Royal Palm Plaza brought on a deluge of German Weisse beers. Nothing is more refreshing on a hot night than a frothy and hazy German wheat beer. Hacker Pschorr was my starter; its dependable, velvety, light-bodied wheat and pear accents were a delight. The bitterness is almost nonexistent in this exquisite product out of Munich, even though it has a considerable amount of lemon zing on the finish.
I followed that one up with a Franziskaner Hefe-Weisse. Some perfumer should bottle up this wheat beer's aromas. With hints of banana, citrus, and clove, it would make for an excellent men's cologne. Franziskaner also has a nice spicy bite to round it off, and it was a fantastic one-two wheat punch.
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My friend wasn't feeling as German. His only choice at Biergarten was Dogfish Head's Midas Touch. Said to be made from ingredients found in 2,700-year-old drinking vessels from the tomb of King Midas, Midas Touch isn't really even a "beer" in the traditional sense. It's more of a historical mead, perhaps. I warned him that it was not a common, everyday brew as we waited for his beverage to arrive, but he seemed game. Its 9 percent alcohol is walloping, and so is its significant overpowering grape and raisin accents that hit your palate immediately on first sip.
"I've never tasted anything quite like this; I think I'm just going to order a beer that tastes like beer next," said my craft beer colleague.
That's exactly what we did upon our return to the Funky Buddha, where a round of Red Dawns satisfied everyone. This Irish red ale made at Funky Buddha is, arguably, one of its easiest drinking. Despite its rather dark-reddish hue, its maltiness is not overbearing. Containing an approachable caramel character, everyone in our party was content to end the crawl with this thinking man's Killian's Red.
Alas, we never did get to try the PB&J ale that I had talked up all evening, as it was quickly consumed shortly after being tapped at 9 p.m. Despite that bummer, the three of us left the Funky Buddha pleased with the taste bud barley, malt, and hops excursion we had embarked on.