Alumni Spotlight

Architect of craft beer Eddie Leon ’96, MAA ’98 is ready for 2019 NoMi BrewFest

Eddie Leon '96, MAA '98 at the bar inside M.I.A. Beer Company

–By David Drucker for FIU News

Eddie Leon ’96, MAA ’98 wanted to be an inventor as a kid. Now, he has his laboratory: a 21,000-square-foot brewery in Doral.

Inside the warehouse of M.I.A. Beer Company, blue and pink neon lights—reminiscent of Miami Vice—splash onto the long walls. A sprawling chalkboard offers more than 50 types of craft beer: “Baby Got Brut” and “305” are M.I.A.’s creations, while “Hopstilavista” and “Social Club IPA” hail from other local breweries. Beyond the taproom, in the offices in the back, it smells like marijuana; but it’s really hemp being tested in a new brew. Polished silver barrels perfect the recipe.

Safe to say, Leon’s lab has come a long way from the home brewing kit that inspired the business.

“I call it ‘liquid architecture.’ I like coming up with ideas,” Leon said.

The abbreviation “M.I.A.” could stand for several things: missing in action, Miami International Airport or simply Miami. For Leon and his company, it stands for “Miami-Inspired Ales.”

Leon was not a beverage management major. The Miamian studied architecture at FIU, earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees. While working on his master’s, he was given a home brewing kit by his wife. The graduate student began experimenting with craft beer.

“After a while, you kind of get bored of drinking Budweiser,” Leon said.

Upon graduating, Leon went on to start an architecture company. But he saw that Miami’s real estate market was volatile, and didn’t want to have all his investments in that one business. He and his two business partners moved to create M.I.A. Beer Company.

“Beer is something that people are going to drink whether times are good or bad. They may not buy the same type of beer, but they are still going to drink,” Leon said.

While transitioning between businesses, Leon’s knowledge from architecture didn’t go to waste. He and his partners designed the brewery’s taproom themselves.

“Architecture is a really good base for a career. It taught me how to solve problems, how to visualize ideas and execute on them. It wasn’t a hard transition for me,” Leon said.

Today, M.I.A. Brewing Company exports beer around the United States, but Leon still makes time to experiment. In November, Leon and his fellow brewers will unveil their newest beers at the 2019 North Miami BrewFest.

Leon has three tips for NoMi BrewFest attendees: Eat light and often, drink plenty of water and start with the lighter beers: “When you haven’t had a beer yet, and you drink it for the first time, you’re going to get a lot more aroma out of it. After a few double IPAs and stouts, you may not perceive some of the subtleties of the beer.”

The NoMi BrewFest invites master brewers and casual beer fans alike to dive into the flavors of Florida’s craft beer scene. Local South Florida breweries are preparing more than 200 different beers, including several brand-new tastes; so every attendee can try something new.

Leon has participated in the festival since its beginning.

“There will be beer that you’ve never tried before, I’m sure. Even people who think they know a little bit about beer, they will always be surprised by something different,” Leon said.

At the Festival, brewers will be pouring their beers themselves. This is a unique opportunity for both the consumers and the brewers, Leon said.

“It’s great because you get to bring out your experimental stuff, have people try it and get feedback on it.”

The North Miami BrewFest will take place on Nov. 16 at Moca Plaza. Proceeds from NoMi BrewFest support the Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management. Tickets are available now.

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