No one was ever going to designate a moody little hookah bar brewing beer out back as historic.
Still, to South Florida craft beer lovers, the Funky Buddha Lounge & Brewery was a landmark.
From the outside, it was a blink-and-miss-it end cap to a strip mall in Boca Raton. But inside, brewing 30-gallon batches of beer at a time, Ryan Sentz became a local success story, learning to brew the craft beer he would eventually sell off to Corona-maker Constellation Brands for about $80 million.
And now, pour one out for the birthplace of Funky Buddha Brewery. Sentz, who resisted selling the lounge as part of the Constellation deal in August, has sold it to another upstart, Robot Brewing Company.
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But fear not, he tells craft beer lovers. Sentz, 41, is keeping a minority stake in the sale to a longtime friend, Allen Steen, a fellow craft beer maker and former home brewer with whom he collaborate at the prestigious Great American Beer Festival in Colorado. The lounge he opened in 2008 gets passed on to another young brewer with a dream, he said.
“I’m busier than I’ve ever been, and I couldn’t give it the attention it deserves,” Sentz said. “All of the stuff we couldn’t do as absentee owners, he can do now.”
Their vision for the lounge remains: a funky, low-lit hangout where local and national bands play as Robot brews experimental beers. They will renovate the building over the next two months, but it will remain open during construction.
“We’ll put a little shine on it, but not a lot is going to change because the vibe is so cool,” Steen said.
More importantly, their vision for the beer is in line. Funky Buddha brews culinary-inspired beers that uncannily resemble their inspiration. Their Maple Bacon Coffee Porter, which became one of the most talked-about beers in the world, tastes like a boozy, smoky cup of coffee redolent with maple syrup. They’ve made beers that taste like guava pastelitos, blueberry cobbler and apple pie, the flavors eerily on the mark.
Robot Brewing, which will retain the entire staff including the head brewer for the last year, will continue the tradition. A pineapple-jalapeño ale and a pickle gose (a tart, cucumber and dill ale) were on tap this week.
Steen said he will add more French- and Belgian-style farmhouse ales, which have a wild yeast flavor, such as saisons, the crisp beer that is the pino grigio of the beer world. They will also continue developing sour beers like berliners, which are refreshing and suited to hot Florida summers. He says he will look to Sentz for guidance.
The soul of the lounge, he says, will remain funky.
“We’re stoked, we’re excited and we’re not looking back,” Steen said.