This past weekend was a busy one for craft beer fans in South Florida as the Funky Buddha Brewery celebrated its first year as a production brewery, and the Funky Buddha Lounge joined in with some brotherly love. Each event was testament to the diversity of experiences to be found with the Funky Buddha.
Starting on Friday night, the Lounge offered up a pre-festival celebration featuring a selection of specialty beer brewed for the occasion.
At the original lounge in Boca Raton Friday night, an enthusiastic crowd had spilled out of the doors and onto the surrounding walkways. Inside, as the band was setting up to begin their set, the conversational cacophony rang about the space. I approached the bar, ordered a Rich Uncle Pennybags Porter (with Chocolate Cherries soaked in Malbec), and quickly made my way to the much quieter homebrew side, where actual conversation could be made.
Rich Uncle Pennybags Porter falls into the category of what I consider to be a quintessential Funky Buddha beer: a culinary inspired brew that does exactly what it says it will. It's a jet black beer, with the unmistakable aroma of chocolate covered cherries. It opens on the palate with bakers chocolate, and maintains a low carbonation which fits well with the vinous and wine character at the end. Overall, it's exactly what you expect from the name.
Next up was the Barrel Aged Berliner. Their regular Berliner offerings are pretty on point, with the Hoppy Berliner being a notable favorite, so I was pretty stoked to sample something as off centered as a barrel aged low alcohol beer (at only 5% abv).
Ryan Sentz made his way over through the crowd, talking to patrons and thanking them for coming out. We were chatting about the preparations for the next day, and the Wednesday night comedy show including the talents of members of the Sick Puppies Comedy troupe, when the Berliner came back.
In an unfortunate turn of events, the Berliner reeked of nail polish remover, or acetone, a huge off flavor in high concentrations. I can only imagine that oxidation was the culprit. Ryan apologized and admitted that there were some off flavors, but that people were generally enjoying it, and promptly offered to replace the beer with something else.
I ordered the Rum Raisin Imperial Stout, which was a godly 14.5% abv beer. My appetite for the sour was destroyed that night. It, unlike its predecessor, was an enjoyably sturdy and malty beer, bursting forth with plum and dark fruit flavors and keeping a moderate mouthfeel. The massive alcohol presence was fairly balanced and only crept out at the end with flavors of port wine.
Feeling it a perfect night cap, I went home to sleep and get prepared for the next day down in Oakland Park.
Saturday was a completely different experience. At the Funky Buddha Brewery in Oakland Park, 'out' were usual comfortable couches and the bar-like atmosphere, and 'in' were the masses of sweaty people and lines for timed releases. Though I might shine a light on some issues, Buddha runs a fairly well organized event considering the amount of people that participate.
As is usual with a large beer festival, parking was a fun mini-game to partake in, though not impossible to find a spot. After that, maneuvering throughout the brewery grounds could be a challenge, especially in the minutes before and after a scheduled beer release. Throngs of sweaty people -- it was the last day of May in South Florida -- packed in to the taproom space grasping their drink tickets like they were sales invoices at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. Eventually, if you waited in line and smartly maneuvered through the masses, you could procure your sought-after beer and be on your merry way.
Out of the dozen or so beers consumed and shared that day, a few stuck out, both in the good category and the not-so-good one.
For the good, there was the Baklava Braggot, a mead and beer hybrid style that was treated with walnuts, cinnamon, and some other goodies that came out super decadent and delicious. I also was surprised with the balance to Fire in Your Hole, an raspberry infused red ale with habenero peppers, of which the malt balanced out the heat to kick your senses and bring you back to earth. I'm not normally a huge fan of pepper beers, but this one wasn't too bad.
Overall the beers were on point, the crowd was favorable and behaved itself. With a more refined layout and crowd management tactics over Maple Bacon Coffee Day and their Opening Day celebrations, Funky Buddha is getting to become experts themselves at throwing a bash. Unfortunately the better they get, the more people show up, and the enjoyability factor starts to go down.
As long as the beer is good, dealing with a large crowd is worth it.
Doug Fairall is a craft beer blogger who focuses on Florida beers and has been a homebrewer since 2010. For beer things in your Twitter feed, follow him @DougFairall and find the latest beer pics on Instagram.
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