Craft beer fans from Miami-Dade to Palm Beach counties will be up early Saturday, lining up outside Oakland Park’s Funky Buddha Brewery to buy a coveted, cult-classic brew.
The Maple Bacon Coffee Porter, a more-or-less annual release, popularized the brand throughout the United States three years ago, when Funky Buddha was just a cramped beer-and-hookah lounge in Boca Raton.
The beer will be available in bottles for the first time Saturday, and the Buddha is throwing its darling a huge party.
“It’s an important beer for us,” says brand manager John Linn. “The name resonates to people. … Maple Bacon Coffee Porter is the first one — the catalyst that got the lounge notoriety outside the South Florida area.”
Owner Ryan Sentz brewed the first batch of MBCP in spring 2011. Local beer zealots sold growlers — refillable glass bottles — of the porter online to beer geeks across the country, Linn says, for as much as $250 each.
“Kind of overnight, it shot up to a very well-rated beer on rating websites and a really sought-after beer because there was so little of it,” he says.
At last year’s Great American Beer Festival in Colorado, Linn says, Funky Buddha’s tasting lines were among the longest. He attributes that to the rich porter.
The Maple Bacon Coffee Porter’s craft-culture appeal suggests its release party may resemble rare-beer releases at other breweries. In Tampa, Cigar City Brewing’s annual Hunahpu’s Day lures beer collectors from around the world eager to purchase a stout available only at the party.
But Linn says the Funky Buddha beer appeals to casual drinkers, as well.
“Our regulars are mostly people who maybe never went to a brewery before we opened, and maybe never had a craft beer,” he says.
Of the brew’s three marquee ingredients, Linn is sure which is the biggest draw.
“I think it’s the fascination with bacon. ‘Bacon’ is a provocative term to use in a beverage,” he says. “Sometimes I’ll hear people say it sounds weird but I think it propels people to try it.”
The flavor profile is an expresion of Funky Buddha’s mission to recreate “culinary memories.”
“The idea was to make a beer that tasted like a complete breakfast at some roadhouse waffle house,” Linn says.
And yet the porter is vegetarian-friendly: The bacon flavor comes from a blend of roasted malts and other traditional brewing ingredients.
The Buddha also brews No Crusts peanut-butter and Bonita Applebum apple-pie ales. Even palates new to craft beers are receptive to the comfort-food notes.
“Are people outside the beer community paying attention to us? Yeah, absolutely,” Linn says. “I think [their acceptance] is a testament to how ready South Florida is for craft beer.”