What does it mean, in the beer world, to be called one of the best breweries “of the decade”? The 2010s have been a period of such rapid change; of such tumultuous growth and then turmoil, that the beginning of the decade hardly seems connected at all in some respects to where we are today. When the 2010s began, craft “gose” in the U.S. wasn’t a thing. Sour styles in general were still on the niche side of the equation. “IPA” implied a bone dry, massively bitter style, a far cry from today’s saccharine juice bombs. And your average brewery was still aspiring, more or less, to grow as fast as possible into a regional powerhouse.
When we call 2010 a decade in which beer gimmicks tended to run amok, we usually don’t mean it as a compliment. Funky Buddha, however, is one of the few breweries that has ever managed to take a “gimmick”-heavy portfolio and make something transcendent from it. For years, we’ve been referring to these guys as the masters of “flavored” beer, and it’s honestly been the brewery’s biggest contribution over the last decade to the overall scene. They’re not without the inevitable misfires, but no brewery does kooky flavor concepts more deftly than these guys.
Take, for instance, the now classic Maple Bacon Coffee Porter (or the barrel-aged version, Morning Wood), a concept that could go so wrong in the hands of so many other breweries, but which Funky Buddha handles with immaculate balance. Is it smoky? A touch. Roasty? Just enough. Rich? Certainly, without being cloying. It’s the best case example for what “maple bacon coffee porter” could reasonably be expected to be, and the fact that they regularly pull off these kinds of combinations is remarkable. Not to be lost, of course, is a solid complement of core beers, especially the year-round hefeweizen Floridian, which finished at #5 in one of our wheat beer blind tastings. But when we think of Funky Buddha, we think of fearless experimentation and improbable successes, as with this year’s cocktail-inspired Manhattan Double Rye Ale. You can always count on them to push the envelope.