This past Saturday, September 28th, the Funky Buddha Lounge and Brewery saw their epic third anniversary party, complete with waffles, Peruvian dishes, and a host of amazing beer releases. The crowd was full of founders and supporters, beer nerds and beer newbies.
Below is the experiences of this humbled writer, finished off with an interview with the Lounge's head brewer Morgan Pierce.
It's a journal of beers, of only one of the hundreds of possibilities of combinations to be had. The permutations were seemingly endless. This is ours.
See also: Ten Best South Florida Craft Beers
I arrive to the Lounge a couple of minutes after 4 p.m., when the first of the long list of beers was to be tapped. An impressive line up awaits me and the dozens upon dozens of beer enthusiasts who made the trek to the white stucco'd plaza on US-1 in Boca Raton.
I begin the night light, hoping to build my way through a series of beers that would allow Funky Buddha to be showcased in a way that highlighted their ability to put together some of the most unique combinations in the area. Thusly, the afternoon begins with a snifter full of the bright pink and sour-nosed Raspberry Berliner. It is a fitting start, with the heat of the day winding down, and this beer acting as an aperitif to whip my palate into submission. The sharp sour tones of this wheat-based beer were mellowed by a mild sweetness from the fruity, yet tart, addition of raspberries.
Next, there is a sampling of the Sex Panther Black IPA, a beer that makes itself known through the flavors of a hop-laden porter -- with a slashed claw of bitterness that gives way to a mild purr of roasted malt, coffee and floral hop flavors. The body might have been on the medium-low side, but the bitter and roast character make this quite sexy indeed.
As the clock approaches 5 p.m., the crowd begins to swell, anticipating the first of the major timed releases. For now, I take a run at the Sweet Potato Casserole, a 9.5% reddish-orange vegetable beer that would be at home at any Thanksgiving dinner. Mild spices like cinnamon and nutmeg mixed with hints of brown sugar greet the nose, while toasted marshmallow, those same spices, and a body of sweet potato arrive on the flavor. Creative, highly drinkable, and one of those beers that, if others do correctly, could overtake pumpkin as a major fall seasonal flavor.
Next up is the Stupid Sexy Flanders Red, the Lounge's take on a Flanders red ale; that Belgian-styled slightly sour and casked beer, most known through labels like Duchesse De Bourgogne or Rodenbach Grand Cru. Buddha's Stupid Sexy Flanders Red brings a hint of the sour, but not overpowering, a mild woodiness and cider-like sweetness.
To finish up this round, I order a Brown Barleywine, the Tequesta Brewing / Funky Buddha collaboration beer that has been aged for two years, and presented again this night. It is presented with a full brown color and mild tan head, but emerges victoriously through the aromas of dark fruit, plum, jam, booze, and English chocolate. The flavor is a taste-gasm of light oak, toffee, toasted malts, brown sugar, golden syrup, and some floral hop bitterness to keep it tamed (even if just for a bit). The caramel flavors emerge heavily as it warms, and sipping this one over a bit of conversation is a welcomed activity.
In fact, it's when mingling with the crowd that continues to pile in, and overflow into both the outdoor space and the adjoining homebrew show, that I strike up a conversation with Neil Reiman. Hailing from Boynton Beach, Neil has begun his craft beer journey, and feels like events like this are some of the best places to experience the new and unexpected. "It's expanding my palate," he says of the Funky Buddha and their collection of brews, "and gives me the opportunity to try new beers that I'd otherwise never get a hold of. I've also noticed a sense of community surrounding craft beer, there's something more than just the beverage."
It's almost time for the next release. Over the sound system comes, Europe's "Final Countdown." I check my phone. 6:58. Clever.
Hailing a bartender is, understandably, as frustrating as hailing a New York City cab can be in certain Hollywood movies. They move swift, and their system seems to work, as once the new kegs are tapped it's only a matter of seconds before everyone starts churning through their orders and smiling beer drinkers lift their glasses high above the crowd and attempt to move slowly upstream towards seating and their waiting parties.
I order a Maple Bacon Coffee Porter, and am again blown away at its complexity and deliciousness. A wonderful freshly roasted coffee aroma emanates from the dark black liquid, beckoning you to just drink it already. The flavor is modestly bitter coffee with maple sugar flavors and a slightly salty finish. It is complemented with a full and rich mouthfeel.
Anticipation and whispers fill the crowd (yes, whispers, it seemed, even through live music), for this was when the highly coveted Cigar City Brandy Barrel Aged Hunahpu keg was to be tapped. Through some form of black magic, the Lounge managed to secure a keg of this highly sought after elixir from Tampa-based Cigar City.
The talk was all of 'hunahpu', with bodies crammed so close, it could be thought this beer was infused with gold flakes or held the miracle of youthfulness (not that anyone here needed it).
It felt odd to order a 'foreign' beer on this night, a night of celebration, but I should not have. Craft brewers, through each and every encounter, show their true faces of brotherhood and solidarity to one another. This was CCB's tribute to Funky Buddha, a gift from one Florida brewery to another, to dispense to their loyal fans, and show that craft beer in Florida is something to behold.
The aged Hunahpu is a masterful beer. Full of dark chocolate, boozy vanilla, and a back-end spice from the peppers, its medium body belies the powerful punch that it packs. The spices open out of it as it warms, and is a fantastic beer to have had the opportunity to imbibe.
At the same time is released Morning Wood; a rich, dark, black as night beer that is their Wide Awake It's Morning (an Imperial stout) aged in a whiskey barrel. This beer kills it. And by 'it', I should point to my expectations as to what these brewers can do with a bit of grain, hops, and yeast. On the nose, this 11.2% beer shows only slight hints of peanuts and coffee, It has a sweet and creamy body, with chocolate, maple, and syrup. The alcohol heat that might be present, is blended very well into the structure of this beer.
It's about time for a nightcap, so what could be better than an Old Fashioned in beer form. The Old Fashioned Imperial Brown is the perfect end to an amazing night, showing hints of orange liquor and cocktail-like heat that are allowed to escape.
As to what can be expected to come out of the Funky Buddha Lounge now that the Oakland Park facility is open, head brewer Morgan Pierce is planning on keeping the future funky.
"As far as the direction of the beers at the Lounge, the ideas and standards taught to me by first being the assistant brewer here are ingrained in me." he explained. "I don't plan on changing the direction of the beers.
"I still plan on making crazy culinary-inspired beers as well as drinkable session beers, sours, and barrel aged beers. If it sounds like it'll be good, I'll make it. We like to be open minded. We get our ideas anywhere we can. We are a very collaborative establishment. I'm the head brewer, and I have the final say, but I have an assistant that helps with work and ideas. Also, we get ideas from our bartenders, managers, etc. If an idea is interesting, we'll use it.
"Often times, even mistakes end up being a great surprise, and we thrive off these experiments.
"We are excited to be able to expand on our ideas, continue to go through trial and error, and finally success, which is our focus here at the Lounge. Above all, we enjoy seeing people come in and enjoy beers that we think are delicious. We are happy to see the joy in our customers as they taste beers that blow them away with intense flavors and high quality ingredients."
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