Miami’s craft breweries

David Lanster with his project advisor Cristina Favretto, head of Special Collections for UM Libraries. 

By Barbara Gutierrez

David Lanster with his project advisor Cristina Favretto, head of Special Collections for UM Libraries. 

Miami’s craft breweries

By Barbara Gutierrez
Senior David Lanster, a research scholar at UM Libraries, gathered information on the history of breweries in Miami for a special collection.

When you think of ordering a Miami drink at a bar what comes to mind?

A minty mojito?

What about an ice-cold beer?

Yes, beer.

Miami is becoming one of the fastest growing cities in setting up craft breweries. And that is what University of Miami senior David Lanster has been studying and documenting for the past academic year as part of his project as a UM Library Research Scholar. The Research Scholar program, established in 2015, provides students an immersive experience with the library.

“It gave me a great excuse for drinking beer for the past six months,” the 22-year-old joked to a group of students and faculty gathered at the Otto G. Richter Library on Tuesday. Lanster was one of four scholars who presented their projects; two were Adobe Scholars who concentrated on creating audiovisual and/or multimedia projects.

Lanster’s project, "Miami Craft Brewery Collection," is now part of the Libraries’ Special Collections. Working under the tutelage of Cristina Favretto, head of Special Collections, Lanster, a biochemistry and molecular biology major, conducted research to collect materials, papers, original recipes, bottles, and other paraphernalia from the breweries in the area. 

The idea for the project came from his own experimentation with wild strains of yeast that are capable of generating beers with new and interesting flavors, he said.  

Favretto said that the addition of the Miami Craft Brewery Collection to the Special Collections was important because it recorded “the history of our community so that future researchers will have access to not only the ‘great’ events, but also get the flavor of everyday life.” 

“What we do in our leisure time is definitely part of our cultural identity,” she continued. “I think that craft beers are here to stay, and David was spot-on in recording this movement at its inception.” 

Favretto said Lanster is “one of the most impressive students with whom I’ve worked, but also one of the most humble, respectful, and creative persons I’ve met throughout my career.”

Lanster’s initial research took him back to ancient times since beer is one of the oldest recipes in the world. During the presentation, he showed a slide of artifacts taken from Egyptian times when urns and pots held residue of their brews. Although beer was a “ubiquitous” drink throughout the world, each region had distinctions in the ingredients and the methods used, he said.

The history of beer in America also goes back to Colonial times. George Washington had a brewery, as did William Penn, Quaker and founder of the Province of Pennsylvania. Beer production continued to thrive until Prohibition in the 1920s and 1930s, Lanster said.

In South Florida, the first breweries were Titanic and Abbey Brewing Company in Miami Beach, both opened in 1995. Since then there has been a huge spike in the growth of craft breweries in the area, following a national trend. There are presently 15 local breweries spanning the area from Miami Beach to Doral.

Miami beers also have some distinct properties that speak to our warm weather and tropical location. Wynwood Brewing Company’s award-winning “Pop’s Porter” was developed to have a lighter mouthfeel without the clinging-heaviness of more traditional porters to make it better suited for warm weather.

Other breweries also produce beers with tropical fruits, which speaks to Miami, he said.

Lanster sees his collection as “objects that speak to the intricacies and cohesion of our community in a very unique way.”

“What I hoped my presentation would convey was that drinking beer is a worthwhile activity when taken within the context of the history of all civilizations, and as we zoom in on Miami’s craft beer culture we can see that while it fits into this extended history of beer, something unique is also starting to emerge that I hoped to capture.”

For more information on the Miami Craft Brewery Collection, visit: