FIU's South Florida Brewfest comes to the university's Chaplin School of Hospitality this Saturday, November 22 and, although South Florida has a host of beer-related events (including Miami New Times' own Brew at the Zoo), FIU's is markedly different.
The festival, now in its third year, started as a way for students involved in the university's brewing science program to share their knowledge. Dean of FIU's Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management, Mike Hampton, explains. "There was a core of students who decided to invite a group of craft beer makers to the campus to share ideas and sample the beers. The first year, it was a very small group."
Much like South Florida's craft beer scene, Brewfest has grown, with more than 30 of Florida's craft breweries and home brewers serving up beer and sharing information. Of course, since this is a university event, there's a learning aspect, with workshops that will appeal to even the first-time home brewer, according to Hampton. "We'll explain how you can engage in home brewing and, at the same time, expose them to different kinds of beer. That way the individual can not only can enjoy all varieties of brew, they can use it as a learning tool, as well."
Dean Hampton also noted that proceeds from Brewfest go back to help fund various programs at the Chaplin School, including the state-of-the-art brewing science lab where students, under the guidance of professor Barry Gump, learn the science (and art) of brewing beer. "We have students come up with some interesting formulations. That's a big part of the program. We're graduating students that are going directly into the local craft beer market. It's one of those things that's building the momentum of the program."
Dean Hampton sees the demand for knowledgeable and well rounded beer professionals growing. "Major companies like Carnival Cruise Lines are working with microbreweries. They realize that the craft beer the main industry focus for years to come. How do you integrate craft beers into a major hospitality chain? How do you make sure you're augmenting a brand? That's the approach we're taking. Making beer is fun. but at the same time, we're building managers who have critical thinking skills."
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And if beer making is fun, beer drinking is even more fun..and educational! "If someone hasn't had exposure to the wide range of taste experiences in the world of craft beer, this will be a lightbulb experience and they will ask questions. That's what gives me goosebumps. Energizing the quest for knowledge."
FIU's third annual Brewfest is Saturday, November 22 from noon - 4 p.m. at FIU's Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management. Tickets are $30 for advance purchase general admission; $40 at the door. Now, go drink beer in the name of science.