Last year's South Florida Brew Bus tour

(Brown Distributing Company/Courtesy / January 17, 2014)

Beer drinkers will take to the streets of South Florida Sunday morning, when they'll board the South Florida Brew Bus outside of Funky Buddha Brewery in Oakland Park. They'll visit Due South Brewing in Boynton Beach and Brewzzi brewpub in Boca Raton, receiving a free pint at each stop.

Five years ago, a South Florida brewery tour would have been impossible. Breweries here didn't exist.

But Funky Buddha, which opened its Oakland Park brewery in June, is now serving some 25,000 pints of beer per month at its tap room. At the end of December, Saltwater Brewery in Boynton Beach started serving its signature Sea Cow Milk Stout. And while Wynwood Brewing Company in Miami only opened its tap room last fall, it's already replaced its brew master.

Beer mavens are the new foodies. But instead of rare local ingredients and pop-up restaurants, beer folks are all about limited releases, hop pedigrees and such obscure brewing terms as turbidity. That's the sediment that make a beer appear cloudy or hazy.


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No wonder we're set to celebrate the third annual South Florida Beer Week, which starts Saturday, Jan. 18, with events taking place from the Keys to Jupiter. Beer Week has grown to more than 50 events. It started three years ago with just 16.

Cigar City Brewing is coming to Alaska Coffee Roasting in North Miami on Tuesday, when chefs Jeremy Gamble and Michael Rolon will prepare a $70 per person four-course dinner with selections from the Tampa brewer's portfolio.

At Greenacres Bowl, bowlers can channel Jeff "The Dude" Lebowski all week long — not with White Russians, but with specially priced Funky Buddha selections.

For the second year in a row, Hollywood will host a beer crawl. Four downtown bars will be featured Thursday, Jan. 23, with limited beers from Florida breweries, including Funky Buddha, Cigar City and Holy Mackerel. Holy Mackerel is based in Fort Lauderdale, but brewed in Greenville, S.C. Its owners experiment with small batches at its nano brewery Mack House on State Road 84.

Why all the interest in beer?

Ian Salzberg, of Brown Distributing Company, organizer of the week, says beer has changed along with many things we consume.

"You have a huge growth of artisan industries," he says. "You've got local coffee roasters. You've got wineries that have done a great job, and you've got artisan cheese companies that are showing there can be a personality in these products that were once seen as a commodity."

People just turning 21, Salzberg says, saw their grandfathers drink Coors and Bud Light. Their fathers upgraded to Sierra Nevada and Anchor Steam, and these new beer drinkers are looking to be able to shake the hand of the guy who makes their IPA or Belgian brown. You can do that any day of the week at any South Florida breweries.

At 6 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 19, Due South will offer a free screening of "Beer Hunter," a 2013 documentary tribute to beer and whiskey expert Michael Jackson. Jackson hosted a beer TV series in 1993, was the first writer to categorize every beer style made and helped to shape the craft-brewing revolution.

Beer Week's finale is the eighth annual Jupiter Craft Brewers Festival, set for Jan. 25 at Roger Dean Stadium with more than 50 brewers and 175 craft beers. A $31 ticket ($35 at the door) gets you unlimited samples of just about every beer brewed in South Florida.

If the world of beer sounds complicated, John Linn of Funky Buddha says it doesn't have to be. "A very large percentage of our customer base — as much as 70 percent — had never been to a brewery or knew anything about craft beer," he says.

These beer converts, Linn says, are drawn to craft beer for the same reason they are drawn to quality foods made with local ingredients.

"People want goods that are manufactured locally, because they know they have integrity. They can have an emotional connection to it. There's no emotional connection to Budweiser," he says. "I think it's about knowing where a product came from, and knowing the people who made it care about quality."

By this time next year, there will be even more local breweries. M.I.A. Brewing Co. is set to open this fall in Doral. Gravity Brewlab and J. Wakefield Brewing are coming to Miami.

Add if you include brewpubs such as Big Bear Brewing Company in Coral Springs, Titanic Brewing Company in Coral Gables and Brewzzi in Boca Raton and West Palm Beach, South Florida's beer options seems bottomless.

For a complete list of South Florida Beer Week events, go to SouthFloridaBeerWeek.com.

jtanasychuk@SouthFlorida.com or 954-356-4632