Beer is kind of big deal in South Florida.
Craft beer: even more so.
With South Florida Beer Week coming to a close, we figured it was time to catch up with one of the biggest names in the Broward and Palm Beach scene, Ryan Sentz of Funky Buddha Brewery.
With just eight months into expanded production, the Broward brewery recently got into bottling on its own -- the release of its Maple Bacon Coffee Porter had fans camping out hours before it opened its door.
We chatted with Sentz about his craft brew start, Funky Buddha at the Jupiter Craft Brewer Fest, and more.
Clean Plate Charlie: You've recently become one of the most well-known players in the South Florida craft scene. When did you get into microbrew yourself?
Sentz: I was moderately into beer in college. I had a good friend who got me into Sierra Nevada, Leffe, and other Belgian beers. I was also brewing beer at the time, myself. By the time I opened Funky Buddha Lounge I loved craft beer, and I really just wanted a place that I thought was cool to hang out. I didn't start with any illusions of like, "I want to eventually brew beer." I didn't even think the place was going to be successful; it was just a place I wanted to work.
How did your early attempts of brewing beer go over?
I thought it was good, but it was probably bad knowing what I know now. I thought it was drinkable.
How did you get into commercial brewing?
I was still homebrewing as a hobby while running Funky Buddha. We started outgrowing the space -- it was originally just 750 feet -- I wanted to be able to bring in more musical acts. We looked at another place in the plaza with a room behind glass, and I thought "This would be cool to brew beer." It was the location that got us going -- it was really just a glorified home-brew system. The thought was more "This will be fun," not "Let's make a lot of money." I think a lot of our success was because we didn't set these high standard for production expectations or intentions of scaling up. It was no pressure.
You just successfully issued your first bottle release. What's next?
We'd like to do at least one small-scale release every month. What we just did with the Maple Bacon Coffee Porter, we'll probably do once a year. We just signed the papers for a new bottling line, which we'll get in June or July. In the meantime, we're planning on a Nib Smuggler release with 200 to 300 bottles -- we did 3,000 for the Maple Bacon -- and we'll do barrel-aged releases.
You're involved with the Jupiter Craft Brewers Fest this weekend. What do you have in store?
It's one of the best beer events in Florida; mostly because it's run by a brewer -- it's not a get-drunk fest. Fran Andrewlevich, the owner, tries to bring in mostly craft beer. We're planning on bringing the Maple Bacon, the No Crust PB&J, Bonita Applebaum Brown, Hop Gun, Floridian, and three specials; the Last Snow will be one.
Jupiter Craft Brewers Festival is Saturday from 1 to 5 p.m. at Roger Dean Stadium, located at 4751 Main St. in Jupiter. Tickets can be purchased at the door for $35, cash only. Price includes unlimited beer samples. For more information, visit jupitercraftbrewersfestival.com.
Follow Sara Ventiera on Twitter, @saraventiera.
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