"We were born and raised with it," Espino says. "It had a permanent space in our refrigerator. Even today, my grandmother still keeps a can of it queued up for when I visit her. As a kid, we used to joke around saying we were drinking beer. I'm sure I'm not alone there."
That's why, years later, Espino was inspired to pay homage to the beer of his childhood at his Miami-based brewery.
Ironbeer — pronounced "eer-ohn-behr" — is not the boozy kind of beer. The nonalcoholic, carbonated beverage has its origins in Cuba. When Castro's regime began nationalizing entities, dozens of companies fled the country. Bacardi is one of the best known, reestablishing itself in Puerto Rico, and Ironbeer chose to set up shop in Miami.
"It's already hard enough to open a business. Now imagine having to pick up, do it all over again, but now in a different country and in a different language," Espino says. "That is the story of a lot of people down here. That is the story of my family."
Ironbeer survived the transition and continued. Much has changed over the years, but the flavor has not. Described as a "fruitier Dr. Pepper," it's the epitome of comfort food, but with an amazing story behind it.
"The idea for Beat Culture's rendition is very much rooted in our childhood naiveté," Espino says. "This brewery is a friends-and-family affair. We are all Miami-born-and-raised. Aside from making beer, our goal is to be able to celebrate all things great and unique about this city. And aside from being a fan of the product, I also admire the fact that they are a local, family-owned company."
Espino and Beat Culture head brewer and cofounder Erik Durr reached out to the owners of Ironbeer. They met to discuss the idea, shared a few pints, and received the family’s vote of confidence to make a beer that pays homage to the company's legacy.
Espino and Durr spent countless hours taste-testing, brainstorming, and designing the recipe to be "just right" — something that represents the brand while adding Beat Culture's reimagined touch. Durr describes the final iteration — which they've named Iron Bier — as an island-spiced brown ale.
You can say Coke and Pepsi, Sprite and Sierra Mist, or Sunkist and Crush taste similar, but nothing tastes quite like Ironbeer, Espino says.
Try the new brew Saturday, October 19, when the limited release goes on tap at their Miami brewery. It will also be available in 12-ounce bottles, just as Ironbeer was once packaged. Plus, the brewery’s kitchen will serve Cuban-inspired fare all day.
Beat Culture Brewery & Kitchen. 7250 NW 11th St., Miami; beatculture.com.