Oakland Park Culinary Arts District Bets on the Funky Buddha
In a serious case of if-you-build-it-they-will-come, more than 4,000 people turned out Saturday for the grand opening of the Funky Buddha Brewery -- the first commercial craft brewery in Broward County. Not only did they come; they drank almost all the beer.
Monica McGivern Opening night inside the Funky Buddha Brewery's tap room.
As 6 p.m. neared, hundreds inched closer to the bar, fidgeting and checking the time until the moment bartenders tapped the special releases: Blueberry Cobbler Ale and Nib Smuggler Chocolate Porter. By closing time, owners were saying they'd almost run out of all the beers from two dozen taps -- from a smooth yet pungent Hop Gun India Pale Ale to a citrusy, easy-drinking Florida Hefeweizen.
The Funky Buddha brand started out six years ago with a cozy lounge in Boca Raton with dim lighting, comfy couches, hookah pipes, and live music and comedy -- and a small microbrewery operation. After runaway success with the beer-making -- flavors became a hit at national beer festivals and among beer bloggers -- the Funky Buddha decided to aim higher. The intention now is to mass-produce and distribute kegs, first to restaurants around the state, then the Southeast.
Bottles and six-packs may follow one day, but for now, drinkers can sample the Buddha's beers in the brewery's tap room, which is the size of a high school gym and looks almost the same. Simple black industrial lights hang from a high ceiling, and five flat-screen TVs list the beers on offer. Rows of growlers are etched with the silhouette of a meditating Buddha, and dozens of glass goblets bear the names of those who pay $50 annually to be part of the brewery's Snifter Club. In a side room, people can play bocce ball and cornhole. Viewable through eight-foot-by-four-foot windows from the tap room are the stars of the operation: four stainless-steel fermenting vats.
If this seems like a perfect ending to a beautiful dream, wait.
Now imagine this culinary fantasy: After you've downed a few beers, you step out of the brewery and stroll to neighboring, locally owned restaurants to grab a bite. You take only a few steps to a 30,000-square-foot green market where South Florida farmers sell bright, sweet tomatoes in the winter and succulent mangoes and lychees in the summer. Attached is a bakery that every morning puts out hot, crusty loaves for the average joe and sends nearby restaurants their daily supplies.
It sounds incredible because it might be. This isn't Seattle or Austin. It's Oakland Park, Fort Lauderdale's homely neighbor.