Florida International University uses microbrewery to brew jobs
By Rachel Tannenbaum
Florida International University's new microbrewery, on tap to open near year's end on its North Miami Beach campus, will make the hospitality school's students better candidates for the global job market, says the college's dean.
Mike Hampton, dean of the Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management, said his mission is to produce the best possible graduates and this new research program will further students' expertise.
Most hospitality programs, he said, don't have any kind of brewery like the one now chugging ahead at FIU.
"This program will help students appreciate the research and developmental side of hospitality," Dr. Hampton said. "We aren't just offering services but also a technical side, which will help them become better rounded."
The college already had brewing science classes in its curriculum, he said, so the new microbrewery will replace the former laboratory and classrooms.
"The new facility will replace the older, basic facility with a new set of equipment. It will be more organized," Dr. Hampton said.
Years ago, Dr. Hampton said, the college's leaders sat down to see how they could take hospitality to next level. With the program then focused more on the curriculum, almost exclusively on the service aspect, he said, the college wanted to broaden students' education.
"This lab will help students as they move into the marketplace," he said.
Funded by Miami-based Southern Wine & Sprits of America, Florida's largest alcoholic drinks distributor, the project is expected to cost up to $6 million.
"This will raise the caliber of scientific study for our students," Dr. Hampton said. "This will give us a better understanding of nutritional values and the chemical makeup."
The microbrewery will give students better knowledge of how to brew beer to satisfy commercial needs, said Dr. Barry Gump, professor of beverage management.
"It will help to make them better entrepreneurs," he said.
The project has broken ground, Dr. Gump said, and the old equipment has been ripped out with hopes the facility will be ready by the end of the fall semester.
Besides the academic side of brewing, he said, brewing is something students can continue as a hobby, because the new lab will be able to further their studies.
"The equipment is very advanced, with automatic computer control," Dr. Gump.
The state-of-the-art facility, Dr. Hampton said, will enable students to experiment with different grains and yeast.
"They will be able to experiment with different flavorings to see what makes a beer a beer," he said. "This facility will give them the environment to experiment."
With eateries that brew their own beers, like Titanic Restaurant and Brewery in Coral Gables, Dr. Hampton said, program graduates will have the experience to manage not only the restaurant side but also the brewing side.
"If Titanic wanted to grow, where would they find managers that could look after both?"
he asked. "No one is really satisfying that need, and we want our students to be able to."
Beverage specialization is a major part of what is taught in the college, he said, and he's excited about the new microbrewery.
"There is nothing really like this in South Florida. It will be a new resource for education," Dr. Hampton said. "This will be significant for a wide range of people."
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