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The Funky Buddha opens in Oakland Park -- finally

Sure, we've had Tequesta Brewing Company for a few years, and Due South and Schnebly's Miami brewing companies for roughly one year, but somehow, the Funky Buddha brewpub in Boca Raton branching into a production brewery seems like a bigger league.

Fans have been abuzz since the plans were announced last November, and the Buddha opened June 1 in Oakland Park. (See photos from the opening party above.)

Because owner and head brewer Ryan Sentz's Maple Bacon Coffee Porter was popular in some out-of-state festivals, the Funky Buddha Brewery is almost South Florida's equivalent to Tampa's Cigar City Brewing Company. Both breweries are known outside their home turf, and both put out a few fan favorites. Both have also gotten together to make some small-batch brews.

Sentz said in May that he Maple Bacon's succees surprised him.

"It blew up," he recalled. "At festivals, people line up for bacon."

The porter was featured in Rachael Ray Magazine, adding to the buzz around it. Sentz says sometimes he worries about seeming like a "novelty brewer," making only bacon beers, peanut-butter beers and the like.

"But I know we're not going to get invited to festivals for our Floridian [Hefeweizen wheat ale]," he says.

The quirkier of Sentz's beers are flavored with foods that remind him of childhood. His brand manager John Linn, formerly of Brown Distributing, says that's why Buddha beers "stretch across" different palates, "outside of beer geeks."

The No Crusts peanut-butter brown ale will conjure lunchbox memories for anyone. The Bonita Applebum apple-pie brown ale feels like end-of-year homecoming at grandma's.

So the slight worries about his image as a brewer don't affect Sentz's business model much. His brewery's become South Florida's beer sweetheart for staying true to his creative impulses.

"We don't want to change the way we brew," Sentz says. "Brewing beer is like writing music. As long as you make music you love, you'll be fine."

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