We were invited to take a ride on the Miami Brew Bus for the Hopping to Hops Tour Sunday and got a behind-the-scenes look at two South Florida breweries.
The tour, geared towards tourists and locals alike, starts and ends at Lokal Burgers & Beer in Coconut Grove. Attendees meet up around 11 a.m., an hour before the Brew Bus arrives.
While waiting, Cici Barmon, who manages the tours and also was our guide on Sunday, passed out rounds of beer to the early arrivals.
Once the bus arrives, the actual 'tour' begins. First stop on Sunday was the Funky Buddha Brewery in Fort Lauderdale. Yes, we know, it's called the Miami Brew Bus, but trust us, Funky Buddha brew is worth venturing into the 954 for. We tried the OP porter, hop gun, and the brewery's flagship India pale ale, the Floridian. All were tasty, but we completely understand why the Floridian is Buddha's signature IPA -- it was light and very flavorful.
Paul and Kerrie Houchens were hanging out at Funky Buddha and showed off their beer socks for us.
The local brewery is also home to the maple bacon coffee porter, a beer that made its way to the number one spot on the Beer Advocate's list, making it the "best porter in the world." Buddha was sold out of the stuff on our visit, but the porter is said to have notes of maple syrup, smoked bacon, and roasted coffee.
We received an in-depth tour of the brewing facility from Funky Buddha's Sean Curran. He was quick with the quips, but also quite expansive. After his tour, we felt we had graduated from Beer 101.
One of the bonuses of the Miami Brew Bus is flexibility. While at Funky Buddha everyone was asked if we preferred to skip our third scheduled stop at Titanic Brewery in Coral Gables so that we could spend more time at Funky Buddha and at our second scheduled stop, Wynwood Brewery. It was a unanimous yes, so after some more tap time at Buddha, we hopped on the bus and headed to Wynwood.
David Rodriguez off Wynwood Brewery explains that they keep around their original home brewing equipment to remind them where they came from.
At the Wynwood Brewery there was a very limited selection and we went with the local brewery's American blonde, La Rubia. Everyone grabbed their free pints and made their way to the tap room for a short course in brewing from Wynwood's David Rodriguez. After our second lesson in sud school, we had time to mingle and drink some more.
Food isn't served at any of the locations we stopped at except for Lokal, but there were food trucks at both Funky Buddha and Wynwood Brewery. Plus, Cici brought along chips and bottled water for the ride. And with the bus making its way back to Lokal around 5 or 6 p.m., you can have dinner while continuing to drink local craft beers.
Robert Billany, of the Miami Area Society of Homebrewers, was on hand to answer questions, with his wife Rachel.
After taking the tour, we agree with Robert Billany, president of the Miami Area Society of Homebrewers, and occassional Brew Bus tour guide: "Great for all levels of beer geekdom. Great for building the craft beer community. Brewers are very accessible and open to questions." And maybe most importanly, "Don't have to drive."
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Tickets cost $60 per person. Visit miamibrewbus.com.
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