Brew Your Own Beer: Learn From the Guys at the Funky Buddha Brewery in Boca Raton

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From its humble beginnings as a hookah lounge featuring an awesome craft beer selection, for many this place has now become a sort of beer mecca -- and one of South Florida's only small-scale breweries.

These days, owner Ryan Sentz and brewer Kevin Abbott have moved beyond creating some of the best local microbrews around, and are sharing the love of their craft with others. 

Since opening a small space next door last month -- known simply as Funky Buddha Homebrew -- the two are offering monthly classes to teach people what what they know best: how to brew some damn good beer. 

To learn more about the Funky Buddha, and their homebrew classes, keep reading...

When Sentz and Abbott decided to open the Funky Buddha Lounge in April of 2007, they had no intentions of crafting their own beers. Lucky for us South Floridians, they did.

Sentz, who has been homebrewing for the past 15 years, originally wanted nothing more than a bar with a solid selection of craft beer and a few hookahs. At that time, one of his favorite breweries, Delaware's Dogfish Head, was well-known for using out-of-the-ordinary ingredients. 

"They were being creative," said Sentz, with things like spices, fruits, and unusual ingredients that you wouldn't expect to find brewed into your average beer.

It wasn't long before Funky Buddha was brewing its own -- and equally original -- beers. The output was small at first -- just a few gallons at a time, graduating to today's 42-gallon machine in the back of house. Each week, Sentz and Abbott brew as many as four batches, rotating between five house taps that include the Funky Buddha's own Hop Gun IPA, Piiti Porter, Missionary Blonde Ale, Floridian Hefeweizen and Red Dawn Amber Ale. 

Like Dogfish, they use a variety of specialty ingredients, from bananas and oranges in their Floridian hefeweizen, to fresh-roasted peanuts in the "No Crusts" PB&J brown ale. Or the Nib Smuggler, a medium-bodied dark ale with notes of chocolate, coffee and caramel --appropriately named for its use of cocoa nibs smuggled (yes, really) directly from Brazil.

Every now and then they also throw in a new brew, like well-followed favorites Maple Bacon Porter and "No Crusts." Up next? A Peanut Butter and Chocolate something, said Sentz, who is still experimenting to perfect the recipe.

These days -- when they aren't busy brewing beer -- Sentz and Abbott are looking to create a different kind of following: Teaching locals, regulars and beer-lovers how to brew on their own. Each month, they'll take you through the complete brewing process, demonstrating each step using a 5-gallon system similar to those used by many home-brewers. When the product is done -- usually a week or two later -- participants are welcome to return for a taste of the finished product.

WHAT: The Funky Buddha Homebrew Class ($20 per person)
WHEN: Saturday, August 6 
HOW: For reservations, e-mail phil@funkybuddhabrewery.com
Or call the Funky Buddha Home Brew Store at (561) 245-7657
 (Includes initial home brew supplies. Space is limited to 20 participants)

The Funky Buddha Homebrew store (above) offers everything you need to get started brewing at home, from hops and malt, to grains and yeast -- even starter home-brewing kits. All you need is a love of beer, a little patience, and the ability to "follow instructions," said Sentz.

The Funky Buddha keeps a variety of malts in-house, which they have available for purchase in both large and small mason jars. 

Over a dozen grains are available for purchase, including 2-Row. Would you prefer Black Patent, Honey Malt, or Munich? Or perhaps a nice Roasted Barley? 

Here, a list of step-by-step instructions for home-brewing class participants, compliments of Funky Buddha owner and brewers Ryan Sentz and Kevin Abbott.

The (almost) finished product: A 5-gallon fermenting tank containing an Imperial Red made during the first home-brew class. Looks yeasty now, but we bet it's going to be awesome.

Don't delay: Reservations fill-up quickly, and space is limited to no more than 20 participants.

Follow Clean Plate Charlie Facebook on Twitter: @CleanPlateBPB.

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