Funky Buddha Brewery has been a Palm Beach and Broward county craft beer juggernaut since they started brewing in 2010. I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Funky Buddha’s owner and brewer, Ryan Sentz.
What is your background before you got into craft beer?
I graduated from UCF with a degree in psychology. I went for my masters at Nova, but then decided this isn’t what I wanted to do for a career, so I left. I did some HR work after than that, and then worked for the Sun Sentinel selling ads in their alternative newspaper. It was a lot like Miami New Times. I wanted to own my own business, though. I was selling ads to a guy that owned a place called R & R Tea Bar and Funky Buddha Lounge, a small place, that I ended up purchasing.
Why did you decide to brew your own beers instead of just selling other ones?
I was a homebrewer for 10-15 years and I thought it was going to be fun. We moved in and the lounge had a room with a big glass window. We thought, “Wouldn’t this be a great place to brew beer?” We ended up not brewing in that room, but the idea stuck.
What beers got you interested in craft beer?
Specifically Newcastle and Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. Newcastle was the first beer I had that wasn’t like malt liquor. It was better than Bud Light and the other stuff we were drinking in college.
Funky Buddha has made a name for itself with bold flavors. Why did you decide to make that a signature for your beers?
I don’t think it was intentional, we didn’t go out for a specific style or focus. I had a home brewer’s focus. We just tried to push the envelope and see what could be done. I’m just as proud of our hefeweizen. It’s just a fun thing for me to do.
What is the process for deciding what beers to brew next?
I at least try everything on the 1-barrel lounge system or the small brewery system.
Is there anything that’s just been too far?
We’ve definitely had beers that didn’t work out. I test out every beer before we make it. We never make a beer that’s weird for the sake of being weird.
What are your favorite Florida beers (other than Funky Buddha)?
There’s too many to single out. I love a well made pilsner; Wynwood Brewing did a good one not too long ago. I like sours, lighter beers, especially since it’s hot. There’s not a shortage of good breweries here.
I recently tried a great jackfruit sour from Tequesta Brewing.
Yeah, that one’s fantastic. They use a lot of local jackfruit in that beer. They sent us some for our anniversary and it went fast.
You’ve named one of your beers for the city you brew in (O.P. Porter). How does Florida inspire you and your beers?
We try to use local ingredients. I am mostly inspired by what we want to drink now, especially with the weather. We just did our Crusher (Single Hop Session IPA) to do a beer with big hop flavor but not have it be like 7% (abv).
Are there any other breweries you’d like to collaborate with?
Collaborations? Wow, Wicked Weed, The Bruery, let’s see. What is He’Brew now? Schmaltz. Them, too. As for Florida breweries, probably a lot of our friends like 7venth Sun.
What is the Funky Buddha brew you’re most proud of?
I probably would have to say Maple Bacon Porter because it got the most attention, it’s the one that got us the most attention. That and No Crusts, beers like that gave us the culinary edge.
You’ve expanded your brewery floor, and you’re opening a line for, what is it? Bottles or cans?
Why bottles? There are a lot of Florida breweries that decided to distribute in cans.
People’s exposure to good beers are beers that happened to be in bottles. Most people still think beer in cans are an inferior beer. That’s a battle we didn’t want to get into. I love cans and there are good things about them, we just thought that we didn’t want to get into that. If we do things right, we will have a really good product, bottle or can.
As Funky Buddha expands, more people are trying your brews for the first time. What would you give to a first-time Funky Buddha drinker?
It all depends on what kind of beer drinker they are. If they are just getting into craft beer, it’s give them something a little more culinary, something that is a little sweeter. If they are craft beer drinkers already, I’d give them something like our Double IPA or Belgian Tripel.
I love that tripel.
Thank you, that means a lot. It’s harder to brew a beer that people have tried before. No one really knows what their favorite Pina Colada beer is, because there aren’t a lot of Pina Colada beers. But a lot of people have tried a tripel before coming to us.
I have to ask this since I and two of my friends are huge Back to the Future fans. Is Doc Brown Ale a Back to the Future Reference?
(Laughs) Definitely. We have a lot of 80’s movie references. That one was such an easy reference to make since it’s a brown ale. It was originally called Doc Brown’s 1.21 Gigawatt Ale, but that name was way too long.
Yeah. If you look at the tap handle in our lounge in Boca, it’s painted like a glowing flux capacitor. Our artist did that.
I’ve spoken to other brewers, and they said one of the hardest things they have to do right now is naming new beers.
Yeah. We talked to our marketing team today. One of our beer names is actually taken. There are so many wineries and breweries that any name you think of has been done. It’s become a really hard deal. Last Snow was originally called Snowbird, because of all the snowbirds in the area. We looked it up, and Cigar City already did it.
Is it harder to brew a brand new beer, or a standard that’s been brewed many times before?
Definitely the new ones. The standard ones are hard, because there are people that can pick up small differences. The unique beers are harder because you’re putting yourself out there and hoping people like it.
How do you feel about the future of craft beer in Florida?
You look some years ago and, not counting brewpubs, there were no major production breweries in South Florida other than Tequesta Brewing. Everyone here’s drinking domestics because there hasn’t been exposure to breweries. Once people are exposed to craft brews, that’s good for the industry and for everyone.
I spoke with a distributor once that said there are too many breweries in the area now.
Too many breweries? I disagree. Look at Asheville (North Carolina), there are a lot of breweries there, and not a lot of people. There are few breweries in South Florida, but with a ton of population. There’s a lot of room for growth here.
As craft beer booms, many people are interested in getting hired as brewers themselves. What advice would you have for these people?
Advice for new breweries? I would say make sure you have the money. It costs a lot more than what you think. It’s easy to underfund yourself.
As for brewers, do one of two things. First, go and get an education, places like Siebel or UC Davis. With so many places opening up, there are a lot of jobs. If you don’t get an education, go and volunteer at these places. It’s hard to get in when there are so many people wanting a job.
A lot of breweries are willing to have people come in and cleaned kegs. I know a lot of people that have gotten in that way. As long as the breweries have some sort of waiver, the people are getting free training and the breweries are getting free labor. Sometimes they may get paid.
You have to love it. (Craft brewing) is at least 90% cleaning. People are kinda shocked to hear that.
It’s funny you say 90%. I read an article that once that said brewing is 90% sanitation and 10% paperwork.
(Laughs). That’s 100% correct.
Where would you like to see Funky Buddha in the near future, say, 5 years?
I would certainly like to see it as a regional brewery, which is 15 or 20 thousand barrels, I think. Enough to get Funky Buddha all over Florida. But I really don’t have a specific goal. We just want to get our processes down and focus on making good beers.
Drink Florida Craft,
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