When Alan Espino was studying biology as an undergraduate at Florida International University, one of his favorite moments was when he learned about anaerobic respiration in microbiology class.
"I remember thinking, How cool. So this is how alcohol is made. Looking back, it was one of the first things to spark my soon-to-be obsession with beer," Espino tells New Times.
Call it fate when, years later, that inspirational moment from a class helped to carve the FIU '07 alumni's future career as co-owner of Miami's Beat Culture brewery.
The local brewer has taken his inspiration one step further, collaborating with FIU to craft a new beer — and beer style — with a purpose.
The FIU Sunblazer golden ale is a project nearly two years in the making, first dreamed up during the FIU's annual Brew Miami, the craft beer festival organized by university staff and the Miami Brewers Alliance.
According to Espino, the beer represents a unique branding opportunity for the university and his Miami-based small business.
"For FIU, this beer is about finding a creative way to support and promote the school's alumni base, the city, and its philanthropic endeavors, as well as highlight the various departments," says Espino.
The beer, which made its official debut at the 2023 South Beach Wine & Food Festival, is named for FIU's first mascot, the Sunblazer, and offers a taste profile designed to represent the university's diverse student population of more than 58,000 and 290,000 Panther alumni.
Beat Culture team worked to create a wholly unique beer, which he calls a "hybrid ale-lager" that offers the complexity of an ale with the smooth, quaffable body of a lager. The resulting beer is golden in color, has a pillowy foam, and has an aroma of light grain with citrus notes from the herbal hops.
"It's a light beer that's easy to drink but extremely flavorful, and there's really nothing quite like it on the market," shares Espino.
This month, the beer will be available at Vicky Café and Chili's locations, FIU's Modesto A. Maidique Campus, and the university's baseball, basketball, and football home games.
And, of course, you can find it at Beat Culture, where it's currently on draft in the Miami taproom and for sale for $14 in four packs of 16-ounce cans. Moving forward, Espino hopes to see it become one of Beat Culture's year-round offerings. It will soon be available at local retailers and restaurants across Miami-Dade and Broward counties while supplies last.
"This is a beer for anyone who believes in seizing opportunity and hustling hard to make it happen," sums up Espino. "FIU plays a huge role in Miami's culture and economic development, and this ale is now part of that story."
Beat Culture Brewery & Kitchen. 7250 NW 11th St., Miami; 786-431-5642; beatculture.com.