I always struggle to explain how enthusiastic beer geeks are about the beers they love. Yes, it's like being passionate about any other hobby: Craft beer is a community in which beer-obsessed people, myself included, get excited to befriend others who share their favorite breweries.
But the devotion of craft-beer fans still always surprises me.
At the first anniversary of the Funky Buddha Brewery last Saturday, I spotted a handful of familiar faces, Scott Rain among them. He's one of the usual suspects at these craft-beer events. Usually, he's with his friend Jeff Davis.
"I do a lot of beer trading. ... [Jeff] brews his own beer," Scott says, "so we get the best of both worlds."
Scott and Jeff are part of the Funky Buddha Founders Club. It's a group of 155 beer fanatics that paid $150 before the brewery opened -- and $125 a year thereafter -- to get early access to special-release brews, and some other perks. Scott is also part of a similar club at Wynwood Brewing Company.
He and Jeff follow local beer almost like sport. They live in southern Miami-Dade County, but they got hotel rooms and made the roughly 60-mile trek to Oakland Park for the Funky Buddha's anniversary.
If you're a beer geek in South Florida, chances are you've made at least one such pilgrimage to the area's biggest and best-known microbrewery. The Funky Buddha's opening last June cemented South Florida as a significant craft-beer destination for beer heads nationwide.
"The very first beer that made me fall in love with the Funky Buddha was the Maple Bacon Coffee Porter," Founders Club member Sean Cline told me at the anniversary festival. He's not the only one enticed by the strange concoction.
The Maple Bacon Coffee Porter was first brewed a couple years ago at the Funky Buddha Lounge in Boca Raton. The story is that people filled growlers of it and sold them online to curious (and zealous) beer freaks.
Some of them may have been at the Oakland Park Buddha in January, when owner Ryan Sentz first released MBCP in bottles -- his first bottled brew.
People arrived at 4 a.m. for an 11 a.m. event, and the first bottle wouldn't even be handed out until 3 p.m. In the long line baking under the winter sun, this happened:
That Maple Bacon Coffee Porter, and the brewery's other culinary-inspired beers, created a loyal following for the Funky Buddha.
"After our first encounter with their flavors, we quickly discovered that this is amazing," says Sean Cline, speaking for himself and friend Tom Welly. "Our love of good beer drove us to become members, and the opportunity to be in on the ground floor."
Sean's friend Tom told me he's proud to be part of the Founders Club. I tried asking these guys why they love beer so much -- a difficult question to answer without sounding like a lush. I think Scott had the best answer.
"I think a lot of it is the mentality of the person," he said. "It's a couple different levels: It's a culinary level, based on what these guys are creating -- the flavor profiles that you can get. It's also a community... but you also have an artistic expression."
That's what it is. Beer is the latest form of art to come to South Florida. And the Funky Buddha is the biggest art house.
Click on the top image to see photos from the event and hear the on-air version of this story here: