Beer is fun: drinking it with your buddies, making it with your buddies, laughing over a pint of it when your buddies decorate a bar tap at their brewery with a picture of the most embarrassing moment of your life, a very public fail that became a recurring ESPN and Internet GIF sensation, and then name the beer after your high-profile humiliation. Beer is fun.
But beer also is serious: found in the passionate meticulousness of its preparation among brewers at home and at South Florida’s myriad craft breweries, but also as the glue for a community that can be counted on to gather for a good cause.
On Sunday, the Funky Buddha Brewery in Oakland Park will debut a beer called Turtle Power, the centerpiece of a daylong fundraiser for 2-year-old James Edwards, who continues to recover after nearly drowning at his Coral Springs home on May 30. The name of the beer is a salute to James’ heroes, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Among those on hand will be home brewer Brandon Fields, the All-Pro Miami Dolphins punter well known for his charitable instincts. It was shortly after Fields visited James in his Broward Health hospital room (accompanied by wife Katie and Dolphins John Denney, Ryan Tannehill and Brian Hartline) that the idea sprouted of using his beermaking skills to help James’ parents cover the costs of his recovery.
“It was a rough experience, seeing what they are going through,” Fields says. “Myself, just having a baby girl [now 7 months old]. It struck a nerve.”
A couple of days later, Fields was with pals Ryan and K.C. Sentz, owners of the Funky Buddha Brewery, and his description of his experience at the hospital, James’ room decorated with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle images, inspired the three to create the fundraiser around a beer called Turtle Power. The beer is an English milk porter flavored like the candy, with elements of chocolate, caramel and pecans.
“Maybe it is because many of us at the brewery grew up in Coral Springs,” says John Linn, the brewery’s brand director, in a statement, “or because our staff is currently going through baby fever with new kids popping out daily. Or maybe it’s because this awesome kid loves the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles -- who doesn't? Either way, it hit home, and we are trying to help the best way we know how, with beer.”
K.C. and Ryan Sentz grew up in Coral Springs; K.C.’s wife had a baby five months ago, and Ryan’s wife is due any day now. Linn’s wife had a baby last week.
“We are extremely fortunate to be a year into a business and be in a position to give back,” says K.C. Sentz, whose wife, Melissa, first alerted him to James Edwards’ story. “We’re all fathers from the local area, and this had an immediate impact. We had to do something.”
The fundraiser will begin at noon, with 100 percent of the proceeds going to the Edwards family.
K.C. Sentz says he and his brother have fielded numerous requests from customers about how to help, many offering to bring toys and items to be auctioned. He expects a large crowd on Sunday.
“It’s mandatory for all staff to be here. We even have volunteers coming in to help pour,” he says.
Fields has been brewing beer for about six years, and says he was hands-on in helping Funky Buddha brewer Pip in creating Turtle Power, from monitoring the mash tun to sweeping the floor. Fields calls his own beer Brando’s Brew, with family and teammates favoring his raspberry wheat, a citrus double IPA and a chocolate-coffee stout.
Ryan Sentz is now helping Fields convert to an all-grain brewing system in his garage, where he has been set up after “a few laundry room mishaps.”
“You come home and see foamy beer all over the place. … My wife has a problem with that,” Fields says.
This is not the first time Fields has helped create a beer with Ryan and K.C. Sentz. Among his favorite Funky Buddha beers is one spiked with ingredients he suggested: lemongrass, cilantro and chilies.
As a brotherly elbow to the ribs, the brewery called it Snap in the Face, named for the play in which Fields took a ball off his head while holding for a field goal attempt in a 2013 game against the New England Patriots. Bartenders affixed a freeze-frame picture of the humiliating moment on the tap at the brewery.
“Yeah, they got a good laugh out of it,” Fields says. “But I remind everybody that we won the game, so it’s OK.”
IF YOU GO
The Turtle Power for James Edwards fundraiser will begin noon Sunday at the Funky Buddha Brewery, 1201 NE 38th St., in Oakland Park. Call 954-440-0046 or go to Facebook.com/FunkyBuddhaBrewery and Facebook.com/TurtlePowerForJamesEdwards.