The weather turned out great, though a bit warm at times, and definitely helped (coupled with the copious amounts of beer) to keep everyone in high spirits.
The most palpable atmosphere was during the odd-numbered-hour beer releases. Crowded around the bar, with one minute to go, each individual seeking one of the few rare or uncommon offerings to be tapped, crept closer to the bar, bartenders smiling in anticipation. Ten, nine, eight... the crowd raising their arms and beginning the New Year's countdown chants, until finally, three, two, one... a rousing cheer and the beginning of the most courteous session of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange in existence had begun. Tickets thrust outwards; it was a bidding war for the attention of whoever could bring you the beer you sought, else in less than 20 minutes the kegs were kicked and you missed out.
Though beer was the main event, socialization is a major aspect of these types of beer festivals. Running into an old acquaintance or meeting someone new is what keeps the craft beer community alive and well. We are a surprisingly kind and sharing folk, with the propensity to strike up a conversation or offer up one's small six- to ten-ounce pour to those we've recently befriended for a taste. Sharing is the name of the game, and it's not just for preschoolers anymore. There is a sense of "we're all in this together," with the waiting and lines and crowds and all of the rest. Something that makes you proud to be a part of. Something different from the bucket specials and the keg stands. Something different from the overly fancy wine dinners or the complex cocktails.
"Funky Buddha embraces the celebration of craft beer as a community," Neil Reiman, a fellow festivalgoer, told us. "It's one of the many reasons, besides the beers, that they're great."
So what's next from the Funky Buddha Brewery? Besides an ever-changing lineup of culinary inspired beers, South Florida Beer Week begins this Saturday, with a disc golf classic at Easterlin Park, followed by a week of amazing beer events featuring the Buddha and every other brewery in the South Florida area. Beyond that? John Linn was excited to say that once the proper bottling line gets installed this summer, they're "hoping to do bottle releases every month," though probably not with a festival like this. I think that would burn out everyone, staff and beer drinker alike.
Doug Fairall is a craft beer blogger that focuses on Florida beers and has been a homebrewer since 2010. For beer things in your Twitter feed, follow me @DougFairall and find the latest beer pics on Clean Plate's Instagram.