Greetings! It has been a while, hasn’t it? My apologies for being such an anti-prolific blogger, but why focus on that? There’s no time like the present to jump back into things. What better way to reboot, than to take a look at one of the most infamous beers ever produced in the state of Florida? I am referring to none other than Maple Bacon Coffee Porter, from the pride of Oakland Park, the Funky Buddha.
The Buddha needs no further introduction – at this point, the place isn’t much of a secret. Whenever I make it up to Broward, the brewery is typically one of my favored stops, and I can attest that it is rarely lacking for patrons, boasting healthy crowds at almost all hours of the day. Maple Bacon Coffee, a dark beer featuring flavors of, well, maple, bacon and coffee, is probably the Buddha’s most-sought-after beer. It is released only once per year, in January, in conjunction with “Maple Bacon Day,” a massive day-long blowout of a beer festival held at the brewery. To date, this beer has been bottled in mass quantities twice, in 2014 and 2015.
I say “in mass quantities,” because the first “bottling” of Maple Bacon actually occurred several years prior to the opening of the Buddha’s Oakland Park brewery. It was bottled, in an extremely limited quantity, at the original Funky Buddha Lounge in Boca Raton. The bottles had a very plain black and white label, fashioned to look like a doctor’s Rx on a prescription drug container. To answer your inevitable question, no, I do not have one of these. At the time, I wouldn’t have known whose leg I would have had to rub up against in order to get one of those bottles. I did, however, get to try some of the earlier batches of Maple Bacon at the Lounge, well before ground was ever broken at the Oakland Park location. Even then, there was a ton of hype surrounding this beer, but the hype back then tended to be confined more to the hardcore beer geek community. Ten thousand people didn’t descend upon the Lounge whenever this beer was tapped. Instead, you had South Florida’s earliest beer fans begging and pleading for bottles or growlers of this stuff to be sent out around the country for trade. They always denied me – nicely, but no dice. Still, many of these bottles must have been sent out, somehow….because once the country’s beer cognoscenti tasted (or even heard of) “MBCP,” the tracks for the Buddha’s hype train had been laid….a train that is still barreling along a few years later.
On to the beer itself. Is it still worth the hype? I would give a qualified “yes.” In today’s American brewing scene, where it seems that almost every combination of style and adjunct under the sun has been tried many times over, there are still comparatively few “maple, bacon, coffee” beers, and still fewer that are anywhere near as satisfying as the Buddha’s groundbreaking iteration of breakfast-in-a-glass. I don’t quite like the 2015 batch as much as I liked prior batches, for one reason on which I’ll elaborate further, but it is still a highly enjoyable beer. Let’s drink:
Per the back label on the bottle, chill this to around 50 degrees, and pour it into a snifter. The knee-jerk reaction I had is that 50 degrees seems a little cold, but then again, at just over 6% ABV, this is not a terribly “strong” or chewy beer that would benefit from much warming. It seems to me that drinking it colder leads to a more angular, crisp flavor, whereas at 60+ degrees, it becomes a little runny and thin. With some beers, you want to let them warm up because doing so unlocks more desirable aromas and flavors – letting them “open up.” Maple Bacon doesn’t seem to need this. Chill it, pour it, and it’s fine right off the bat.
Aroma is most obviously acrid coffee, something reminiscent of a glass of cold brew. There’s a touch of “cigarette,” but not nearly enough to be unpleasant. Rounding out the aroma is French toast, generally, but more of a French toast if one was to cook said toast in duck fat – a little meaty smell, though I wouldn’t immediately identify it as bacon.
Having had this beer on Maple Bacon Day, I thought it tasted very coffee-forward, much more so than in years past. A friend I was talking with then made the good point that the coffee will probably calm down a little in a month or two, and give the other flavors more of a chance. Here we are, a little over a month after release day, and I have to say, he was absolutely right. The flavors are melding better than they had initially. It is still very much dominated by coffee, in my opinion, but I am getting more of the sweet maple and some of the smoke that represents bacon. Occasionally, every fourth sip or so, I’m getting the slightest aftertaste hint of sweet red licorice.
I do think that this is better than it was upon release. However, I still think that the batches from prior years were better. At first, I just chalked it up to “too much coffee?” but then I realized that the flavor profile of this beer was always driven by coffee, so I don’t think that’s my main issue – it just seems that the particular coffee character this year is more acrid and muddy than it had been. Again, this is just one point of criticism – this is still one of the best beers of its type out there.
Drink up within the next few months, if you have bottles – based on the 2014 bottling, this beer is still drinkable at 6 months to a year out, but it won’t be anywhere near as good as it is right now. It’s not much of an aging candidate, so don’t hoard it. Drink it now.
The Funky Buddha has been aggressive in getting its beers out to bars and restaurants throughout South and now Central Florida all the way up to Orlando….so if you missed Maple Bacon Day, don’t worry, it is still possible to catch this beer on tour. Follow your favorite beer-centric bars and restaurants on social media, and be vigilant as to what’s being tapped – you might get your chance.
Until next time….see you at the Buddha!