In the latest issue of DRAFT, we spotlighted Funky Buddha as our current Brewery to Watch—but not everything from an interview makes it to print. Here are a few bonus bits of info from my chat with up-and-comer Funky Buddha owner Ryan Sentz.
Before the Buddha
The location that eventually became Sentz’s Funky Buddha Lounge & Brewery was originally just a local hookah bar that he often frequented as a customer. When he heard the owner wanted to sell the place, he jumped at the chance to turn it into his dream bar. Upon purchasing the spot, Sentz said he “had no delusions of brewing.” That changed.
Credit the hookah
“People gravitate towards us that have a similar mindset. If it wasn’t for keeping on the hookahs, I don’t think Funky Buddha would be here today. It was so hard to sell craft beer back then [in 2007]. It was such a battle and, thankfully, having the hookah, tea and entertainment—that’s what kept the place open. We just kept riding the wave until we got more attention for the beer.”
Inspiration for the weird
Sentz describes himself as a “frustrated chef” with a homebrewer’s mentality, and it shows in some of the crazy beers he’s concocted, or even considered. But where he gets his ideas gives a bit of insight into how he operates. There’s the No Crusts PB&J Ale, inspired by his daughter’s love for the sandwich. The brewery’s Bonita Applebum (an apple pie ale) came to him while chewing a piece of apple gum. Sweet Potato Casserole is his anti-pumpkin beer statement. Employees pitch ideas, too: Both “steak-and-cheese beer” and “strawberry-basil vinaigrette beer” have been (briefly) considered.
“We definteiy realize our roots and why we got attention—for having these cultinary beers. But we also want to be known for having a great IPA and hefe.” Look for both the IPA and hefeweizen in bottles soon (see below).
A future Maple Bacon Coffee Porter Day?
The first official bottling of Funky Buddha’s celebrated Maple Bacon Coffee Porter happened in January in a limited run. Could the beer eventually have its own fest-day? “We have an imperial version, and [its release] could be a day like Kate the Great. We don’t necessarily know yet. We would like to have days like Hunahpu Day or Dark Lord Day. It would really blow my mind—I’m sill the guy that likes to go to those.”
Tip of the hat
Here’s Sentz’s humble response to how Funky Buddha fits into Florida’s craft beer landscape: “It seems like a lot of other breweries are taking a culinary approach, starting with Cigar City. They are what, thankfully, has gotten attention for Florida, and for good reason. They opened the door and we just want to be a part of it.”
The very latest news from Funky Buddha
Sentz got in touch last Friday and updated me on some new developments that should excite Florida beer geeks (and beer traders). The brewery just added two more 120-barrel fermenters, which doubles its current capacity. Even bigger news? The bottling line has been ordered and is being built right now.